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In re Bianca K.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 26, 2019


          Argued January 3, 2019

         Procedural History

         Petition by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the respondents' parental rights with respect to their minor child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, Child Protection Session at Middletown, and tried to the court, Hon. Barbara M. Quinn, judge trial referee; judgment terminating the respondents' parental rights, from which the respondent mother appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Ani A. Desilets, with whom was Lisa M. Vincent, for the appellant (respondent mother).

          Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, former attorney general, and Rachel Catanese, legal intern, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Ellin M. Grenger, with whom, on the brief, was Rosemary J. Dempsey, for the minor child.

          Lavine, Prescott and Bishop, Js.


          BISHOP, J.

         The respondent mother appeals from the judgment of the trial court terminating her parental rights with respect to her minor child, Bianca K.[1] On appeal the respondent claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) by the clear and convincing evidence adduced at the termination hearing, she had failed to achieve sufficient personal rehabilitation within the meaning of General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i), and (2) that the termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The court found the following pertinent facts:[2] "On August 27, 2017, the [Commissioner] of Children and Families [commissioner] . . . filed a petition for the termination of the parental rights of [the respondent] ... to [her] daughter, Bianca. The child was first removed from her parents on an order of temporary custody on July 1, 2014, when she was not yet three years old. She was returned to her mother about a year later under an order of protective supervision on July 30, 2015. She was removed for the second time on March 7, 2016, when testing revealed that her mother was still abusing illegal drugs and was generally noncompliant with the other conditions of protective supervision. Bianca has been in nonrelative foster care since that time. . . .

         "[The respondent] is now twenty-eight years old and Bianca is her only child. She also experienced a dysfunctional family growing up, with [Department of Children and Families (department)] involvement and time spent in relative care during her childhood and teenage years. [The respondent's] mother has struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues. [The respondent's] two adult relationships with intimate partners have involved domestic violence and substance abuse, as well as mental health difficulties for herself and her partners. [The department] and the police have been involved with her at various times since [2014]. During much of this time, she has not been cooperative with [the department], conduct she shares with many children who have rejected [the department] due to the agency's involvement in their earlier lives. [The respondent] has not only been resistant to services, but secretive and quite misleading as to the details of her life.

         "[The respondent] began using alcohol, marijuana and cocaine as a teenager in high school. She failed to graduate, although she believes she did quite well. However, she has not to this date earned her equivalency diploma. After she stopped going to school, she continued her cocaine use. She was arrested, convicted and incarcerated at age nineteen. After her child was born, she did not change her drug-abusing behavior. She broke up with the father of her child soon after Bianca's birth and began a relationship with James P., someone she had known since high school. Bianca sees James as her father. James, like Bianca's biological father, has engaged in domestic violence toward Bianca and her mother and continues to be very heavily involved in drug abuse. He is a convicted felon and has been incarcerated a number of times. . . .

         "[The respondent] and her child came to the attention of [the department] early in Bianca's life. Consistent with the policy of trying to keep families together, Bianca was not immediately removed from [the respondent's] care, yet the neglectful and potentially life threatening incidents did not end. The first event occurred in 2013 when Bianca was eighteen months old. She ingested Klonopin, which she apparently found loose in the back of her mother's car. [The respondent], when questioned, first denied it was her medication but later admitted that it was. Next, there was a police visit to the home where Bianca's grandmother reported that she had a fight with James P. and she was thrown to the ground, while James and [the respondent] held her there. They were all living in her house at that time. All three adults were reported to be intoxicated at that time, while Bianca was in the house. Next, in July of that year, when Bianca was not yet two, her grandmother apparently saw James P. strike Bianca. He was arrested for his conduct.[3] In March, 2014, when Bianca was two and [one-half years old], James was arrested for selling heroin from his car, while Bianca and her mother were in the car with him. [The respondent] admitted at that time to opiate abuse. In June of 2014, James broke into the house and attempted to strangle [the respondent]. . . . [I]n July, 2014, Bianca was treated for an overdose of Suboxone, her mother's pills, which she had found and ingested. She was very lethargic and was hospitalized. It was this last of these many neglectful events which brought about the first order of temporary custody and Bianca's removal from her mother's home and chaotic drug-impacted lifestyle.

         "During the next year, [the respondent] attended programs to which she was referred for treatment of drug addiction, counseling, and domestic violence. She received parenting education and had regular visitation. As she testified [at] trial, [the respondent] did the things she was supposed to do, and said what she had to say in order to have Bianca returned to her care. ...

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