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In re Briana G.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 25, 2018

IN RE BRIANA G. ET AL.[*]

          Argued May 30 2048

         Procedural History

         Petitions by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the respondent father's parental rights in his minor children, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the court, Ginocchio, J.; judgments terminating the respondent's parental rights, from which the respondent appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          David V. DeRosa, for the appellant (respondent).

          Carolyn A. Signorelli, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Sheldon, Prescott and Bear, J.

          OPINION

          BEAR, JUDGE

         The respondent father, Justin G., [1] appeals from the judgments of the trial court rendered in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families (commissioner), terminating his parental rights with respect to his three minor children, B, L and H.[2] On appeal, the respondent claims that the court (1) prematurely determined that the respondent failed to rehabilitate because the Department of Children and Families (department) did not provide him with sufficient time and resources to do so, and (2) improperly admitted into evidence transcripts of text messages obtained by the police, although a proper chain of custody was not proved prior to their admission. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. On October 2, 2015, the department issued a ninety-six hour administrative hold of newborn baby H after the mother tested positive for use of opiates and marijuana at the time of her birth. On October 6, 2015, the commissioner filed in the Superior Court a neglect petition relating to H, and neglect petitions relating to B and L, who are the two other minor children of the mother and the respondent. In support of her neglect petitions, the commissioner alleged, inter alia, that the parents were using heroin heavily and abusing prescription pills. Additionally, the commissioner filed an ex parte motion for temporary custody of H, which the court granted on that day.

         On February 26, 2016, the commissioner filed ex parte motions for temporary custody of B and L, which the court granted on that day. The department subsequently placed the minor children with their maternal grandparents. The respondent was incarcerated for ninety days, from February 26 through May 13, 2016, after he was found to have violated the terms of his probation and after he was convicted of the offense of evading responsibility involving property damage in violation of General Statutes§ 14-224 (b) (3). While he was incarcerated, on March 13, 2016, the mother unexpectedly passed away due to complications from cardiopulmonary arrest and acute heroin and cocaine intoxication. On March 17, 2016, the court adjudicated the minor children neglected pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-120 (6) (C).[3]

         On March 7, 2017, the commissioner filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of the respondent with respect to each of his three minor children. The sole ground alleged in each of the petitions was General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i), failure to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that he could assume a responsible position in their lives within a reasonable time.[4] A trial on each of the petitions occurred on September 12 and 13, 2017. By a memorandum of decision dated November 8, 2017, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent had failed to rehabilitate pursuant to § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i) and that termination of his parental rights was in the best interest of each of the children, and it, therefore, terminated his parental rights with respect to each of them. This appeal followed.

         Our standard of review is well established. ‘‘A hearing on a termination of parental rights petition consists of two phases, adjudication and disposition. . . . In the adjudicatory phase, the court must determine whether the [commissioner] has proven, by clear and convincing evidence, a proper ground for termination of parental rights. . . . In the dispositional phase, once a ground for termination has been proven, the court must determine whether termination is in the best interest of the child. . . .

         ‘‘Failure of a parent to achieve sufficient personal rehabilitation is one of six statutory grounds on which a court may terminate parental rights pursuant to § 17a-112. . . . That ground exists when a parent of a child whom the court has found to be neglected fails to achieve such a degree of rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child, the parent could assume a responsible position in the life of that child. . . .

         ‘‘Personal rehabilitation as used in [§ 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i)] refers to the restoration of a parent to his or her former constructive and useful role as a parent. . . . The statute does not require [a parent] to prove precisely when [he] will be able to assume a responsible position in [his] child's life. Nor does it require [him] to prove that [he] will be able to assume full responsibility for [his] child, unaided by available support systems. . . . Rather, [§ 17a-112] requires the trial court to analyze the [parent's] rehabilitative status as it relates to the needs of the particular child, and further, that such rehabilitation must be foreseeable within a reasonable time. . . . [The statute] requires the court to find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the level of rehabilitation [the parent] has achieved, if any, falls short of that which would reasonably encourage a belief that at some future date [he] can assume a responsible position in ...


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