IN RE MADISON M. ET AL. [*]
September 6, 2018 [**]
by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the
respondents' parental rights with respect to their minor
children, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of New Britain, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the
court, Hon. Stephen F. Fraz-zini, judge trial
referee; judgments terminating the parental rights of the
respondent father, from which the respondent father appealed
to this court. Affirmed.
J. Reich, for the appellant (respondent father).
Cynthia E. Mahon, assistant attorney general, with whom, on
the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, Jane
Rosenberg, solicitor general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant
attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).
DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Flynn, Js.
DiPENTIMA, C. J.
respondent, Donald S., appeals from the judgments of the
trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to
his minor children, Madison M., Deanna S., and Emma Grace
On appeal, the respondent claims that he was not provided the
specific steps mandated by General Statutes § 17a-112
(j) (3) (B) (i) and, consequently, was unable to achieve a
level of rehabilitation that would reasonably encourage a
belief that at some future date he could assume a responsible
position in the lives of his children. Additionally, the
respondent contends that the failure to provide him with the
specific steps did not constitute harmless error. We do not
agree with either argument and, therefore, affirm the
judgments of the trial court.
following factual findings of the trial court, which are not
challenged, and procedural history are relevant to our
consideration of the issues raised on appeal. Prior to the
filing of the neglect petitions, the Department of Children
and Families (department) had received numerous reports that
the respondent and the children's mother were not acting
as responsible parents. In 2011, the department substantiated
separate instances in which the parents had failed to follow
up on important medical appointments for Madison and Deanna.
The next year, the department also substantiated a report
that the parents had cancelled appointments for Emma Grace,
only three months old at the time, against the advice of her
doctor. Then, in 2013, Emma Grace missed multiple
appointments with medical specialists, as well as
appointments with her pediatrician.
parents were arrested in September, 2014, on charges of risk
of injury to a child; see General Statutes § 53-21;
after Deanna, then six years old, was found wandering alone
outside in a dirty and disheveled condition. Several months
later, in April, 2015, the department received a report from
Deanna's school that there was a six inch red mark on her
backside. Deanna told school staff that the respondent had
struck her with a knife and that he sometimes hits her with a
belt. She also told school staff that "it hurts"
when he hits her, but that she was "not afraid to go
home." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Following an
investigation, however, "the department decided not to
substantiate either parent for neglect."
this time, the respondent was cooperative with the
department's investigation. In May, 2015, he informed the
assigned investigative social worker that Madison had been
exhibiting behavioral issues at school and scheduled a
meeting to address her individualized needs. Then, on June 2,
2015, he contacted the department to notify officials that
Emma Grace had been injured when the stroller she was in fell
down a flight of stairs onto pavement. Two days later, on
June 4, 2015, however, the department received reports that
the respondent had been arrested on June 3, 2015, for breach
of peace and interfering with a police officer, stemming from
an incident at the family's home. The department's
follow-up investigation revealed that the respondent had been
drinking and acting "nasty" toward the mother. She
told him to leave, but he refused. He later passed out in the
backyard. When he woke up, he began ringing neighbors'
doorbells and screaming. At some point, the mother called the
police, and he was arrested. In connection with this
incident, a protective order was issued, and the respondent
moved out of the family's home.
next day, June 5, 2015, the respondent attended an evaluation
at Wheeler Clinic for mental health and substance abuse
issues. It was recommended that he enroll in an intensive
outpatient program at its facility. He agreed and
successfully completed the program in July, 2015. The
respondent was then referred to a relapse prevention group.
Shortly after enrolling in this program, however, he was
discharged "unsuccessfully" after he notified
Wheeler Clinic staff that he was moving to New Haven.
August, 2015, the respondent again was arrested, this time on
motor vehicle charges. He failed to appear in court on these
charges, as well as the criminal charges from the June 3,
2015 incident. Then, in October, 2015, police began an
investigation into allegations made by the mother that the
respondent had sexually assaulted Madison. Although the
police eventually concluded that there was insufficient
evidence to charge him, it was at this time that the
respondent's whereabouts became unknown to the
December, 2015, department social worker Brenda Matta was
assigned to the children's case. She attempted to contact
the respondent by using phone numbers that the department had
listed for him but was unsuccessful. She also contacted a
friend of the respondent and left a message for him; her call
was not returned. After searching the state Judicial Branch