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In re Natalia M.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 3, 2019

IN RE NATALIA M.[*]

         Argued May 14, 2019

         Appeal from the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, Juvenile Matters, where the matter was tried to the court, Conway, J.

Page 683

          David J. Reich, for the appellant (respondent father).

         Seon A. Bagot, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, Stephen G. Vitelli, assistant attorney general, and Evan O’Roark, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Ingrid Swanson, for the minor child.

         Alvord, Bright and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         [190 Conn.App. 584] The respondent father, Paul R., appeals from the judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to his daughter, Natalia M. (child), pursuant to General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i).[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the Department of Children and Families (department) violated his rights to due process of law by failing to provide adequate visitation with his child, which, he claims, ultimately led the court to terminate his parental rights after erroneously concluding that the department had made reasonable efforts at reunification, pursuant to § 17a-112 (j) (1).[2] The respondent does not claim that the court erred in its conclusion that he was unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts. Because the respondent challenges only one of the two bases [190 Conn.App. 585] for the court’s determination that § 17a-112 (j) (1) had

Page 684

been satisfied, we conclude that the respondent’s appeal is moot.

         The child was born in November, 2016. From the time of her birth, the department was involved in attempting to assist the child and her mother. On December 2, 2016, members of the New Haven Police Department were dispatched to the Three Judges Motel in New Haven (motel) to investigate a stabbing. The child’s mother, the child, and, at times, the respondent were staying at the motel. The boyfriend of the child’s mother came to the motel and was holding the child when the respondent returned to the motel. A scuffle ensued and the boyfriend, who was injured and bleeding, accused the respondent of stabbing him. During their search of the scene, the police found narcotics.[3]

          The petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families (commissioner), took temporary custody of the child and filed a neglect petition. The court issued an order of temporary custody on December 6, 2016. Pursuant to the court’s order, the respondent was given specific steps, including domestic violence and substance abuse treatment, as well as the requirement that he cooperate with service providers. The respondent failed to comply with these steps. The respondent also questioned whether he was the father of the child. The respondent had no contact with the child between December 2, 2016 and April, 2017, when his paternity was confirmed. Even after he knew he was the child’s father, the respondent ignored letters from the department offering him visitation with the child, and he had no contact with her because he was attempting to avoid being served with a warrant for his arrest.

         [190 Conn.App. 586] On May 18, 2017, the court adjudicated the child, who has serious health concerns, neglected, and it committed her to the custody of the commissioner. The court also ordered final specific steps for the respondent, with which he also failed to comply. In August, 2017, the respondent was arrested on charges unrelated to the alleged stabbing and narcotics incident, and, thereafter, he expressed an interest in visiting with the child. On October 5, 2017, a permanency plan, which proposed termination of both parents’ rights and adoption, and to which the respondent objected, was approved by the court. Following this approval, the department met with the respondent to discuss visitation and the child’s medical needs. The department was concerned about the toll it would ...


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