June 5, 2018
by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the
respondent's parental rights with respect to his minor
child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district
of New Britain, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the court,
Hon. Henry S. Cohn, judge trial referee; judgment
terminating the respondent's parental rights, from which
the respondent appealed to this court; thereafter, the court
issued an articulation of its decision. Affirmed.
M. Helmrich, for the appellant (respondent).
Stephen G. Vitelli, assistant attorney general, with whom, on
the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Benjamin
Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee
Alvord, Sheldon and Prescott, Js.
respondent father, Luis V., appeals from the judgment of the
trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to
his minor child, Joheli V. On appeal, the respondent claims
that the court erred when it determined, pursuant to General
Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B), that he had failed to
achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would
encourage the belief that within a reasonable time,
considering the age and needs of Joheli, he could assume a
responsible position in her life, based solely upon the fact
that he is currently incarcerated and awaiting trial for
allegedly sexually assaulting Joheli. We affirm the
judgment of the trial court.
August 6, 2015, the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children
and Families, filed a neglect petition in the interest of
Joheli, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a
wheelchair, alleging that she was neglected in that she was
being permitted to live under conditions injurious to her
well-being. On September 21, 2015, Joheli was adjudicated
neglected and a six month period of protective supervision
with the respondent was ordered. The court further ordered
the respondent to comply with several specific steps to
safely retain custody of Joheli. Those steps directed the
respondent, among other things, to: develop stronger
parenting skills in the areas of supervision, hygiene,
educational support and medical care; increase his
understanding of Joheli's developmental issues; develop a
support system to assist with childcare responsibilities;
maintain a safe, nurturing and sober environment for Joheli;
provide consistently for Joheli's specialized medical
needs; attend recommended treatment consistently and comply
with all aspects of his treatment plans; and develop
strategies to maintain sobriety and establish sober supports.
November 9, 2015, Joheli reported to her school tutor that
she had been sexually assaulted by the respondent. The tutor
reported the incident to Joheli's teacher, who reported
it to the police, who, in turn, contacted the petitioner.
Joheli was temporarily placed in the custody of her maternal
cousin, Rebecca Soto. The court again ordered the respondent
to comply with several specific steps to regain custody of
January 28, 2016, Joheli was committed to the care and
custody of the petitioner until further order of the court.
The court again issued specific steps to the respondent.
April 6, 2016, the respondent was arrested on charges of
sexual assault in the first degree in violation of General
Statutes § 53a-70 (a) (2) and risk of injury to a child
in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (2). He has
been incarcerated, awaiting trial, since that date.
March 15, 2017, the petitioner filed a petition to terminate
the respondent's parental rights. The petitioner alleged
that the Department of Children and Families (department) had
made reasonable efforts to reunify Joheli with the
respondent, but that the respondent was unable or unwilling
to benefit from those reunification efforts. The petitioner
further alleged, in accordance with § 17a-112 (j) (3)
(B), that the respondent had failed to achieve such degree of
personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that
within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of
Joheli, he could assume a responsible position in her life.
The petitioner set forth the following facts in support of
that allegation. ‘‘At the time of
Joheli's removal the presenting problems were [the
respondent's] unaddressed mental health and substance
abuse issues, allegations of sexual abuse by him and his
inability to demonstrate an ability to protect and meet
Joheli's needs on a daily basis.
respondent] has a history of mental health and substance
abuse issues. These concerns appeared to have intensified
around the death of his children's mother . . . . [The
respondent] has a historic inability to provide for the
physical and emotional needs of his children evidenced by
leaving them unsupervised on several occasions while under
the influence. [The respondent's] substance abuse is
evidenced by reports to the department of him being under the
influence. [The respondent] has had criminal charges, which
included breach of peace, stemming from his substance abuse
issue. Based on the department's records, [the
respondent] has participated in a variety of treatment
programs including individual and group therapy with little
benefit or change achieved. A significant barrier to his
ability to make progress toward rehabilitation is his
incarceration based on the allegations of sexual abuse. [The
respondent] has failed to benefit, gain knowledge, and make
positive changes from these services as evidenced by
continuing to abuse substances and failing to address his
mental health. [The respondent] continues to fail to meet the
demands of adulthood, let alone the demands of parenthood.
Additionally, he has failed to appropriately and genuinely
address his mental health [or] substance use despite access
to services to assist him in doing so.''
petitioner noted that Joheli, then eight years old, has
‘‘medically complex issues and requires an
adequate caregiver in order for her to appropriately grow
emotionally, developmentally, medically and physically and
who must meet every aspect of her basic needs.''
petitioner concluded: ‘‘[The respondent] is
unable to meet his own basic needs at this time and therefore
unable to properly care for Joheli, who has severe medical
needs. [The respondent] has been observed to minimize his
substance use and the severity of his mental health concerns.
[The respondent] will not be able to fully resume [the role
of] a responsible party in the life of his child within a
reasonable time period.''
25, 2017, the petitioner moved to amend the termination
petition to include an allegation, pursuant to § 17a-112
(j) (3) (D), that there was no ongoing parent-child
relationship between the respondent and Joheli, which motion
was granted on August 22, 2017.
November 9, 2017, after a trial, the court orally granted the
termination petition. The court found that the department
made reasonable efforts to reunify the respondent with
Joheli, but that the respondent ‘‘did not really
seize upon these opportunities and improve his
situation.'' The court further found, by clear and
convincing evidence: ‘‘[The respondent] had
unaddressed mental health and substance abuse issues. There
was an allegation, not proved yet, of sexual abuse by him of
the child, [he] has a history of mental health and substance
abuse issues and these concerns appear to have intensified
around the death of the child's mother, [he] has a . . .
historic inability to provide for the physical and emotional
needs of his children.
. . . [the respondent] turned down in-home care services. He
also neglected various health issues of the child. She's
got cerebral palsy. She's clearly got to have medical
attention periodically, dental attention, and that was not
shown to have happened.
the idea is that even if he somewhat engaged in these, he did
go to a therapist and he had some sessions with a therapist
and was trying to work on these problems, the statute
requires that . . . there be a second portion of it, that
even if this is going on, that there be a reasonable time
under which this reunification and resolution, rehabilitation
could-the child would and the father would resolve his
problems and take into account the needs of the child. We
don't see that happening here.
the time, he was-at the time of the filing of the termination
petition, he was just not meeting the standards. The child
was reporting trauma due to drinking. The poor kid was trying
to pick up her father [from the floor] and couldn't do it
with her . . . cerebral palsy . . . .'' The court
further found that the respondent was not in compliance with
the specific steps that had been issued, and there was no
evidence that ‘‘the [respondent has] made
realistic and sustained efforts to conform . . . his conduct
to even a minimally accepted parental [standard]. Giving him
additional time will not likely bring his performance . . .
within acceptable standards.'' On the basis of the
foregoing, the court concluded, in accordance with §
17a-112 (j) (3) (B), that the respondent had failed to
achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would
encourage the belief that within a reasonable ...