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In re Yolanda V.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

January 13, 2020


         Argued October 17, 2019.

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          Appeal from the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, Juvenile Matters, C. Taylor, J.


          Joshua Michtom, assistant public defender, for the appellant (respondent mother).

          Rosemarie T. Weber, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Stein M. Helmrich, for the minor children.

          DiPentima, C. J., and Elgo and Harper, Js. ELGO, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.


Page 186

         [195 Conn.App. 335] ELGO, J.

         The respondent mother appeals from the judgments of the trial court terminating her parental rights as to Yolanda V., Jennessy V., and Hailey V., her minor children.[1] She contends that the court improperly [195 Conn.App. 336] concluded that (1) she failed to achieve the requisite degree of personal rehabilitation required by General Statutes § 17a-112, and (2) termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the children. [2] We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

          The following facts, which the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence, [3] are relevant to this appeal. The respondent is a convicted felon and drug trafficker who has a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues. She has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorder, and bipolar disorder.

          As the court noted in its memorandum of decision, the Department of Children and Families (department) " has been involved

Page 187

with [the respondent and her family] since 2002, due to issues of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, parenting issues, physical neglect, and physical abuse." In 2002, the respondent's two older children, Malaysha R. and Damion B., were removed from her care following her arrest on drug related charges and subsequent incarceration. Their guardianship ultimately was transferred to a relative, and efforts to reunify them with the respondent were unsuccessful.

         [195 Conn.App. 337] Yolanda was born in 2006, and was twelve years old at the time of trial. She has " significant special needs," having been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Jennessy was eleven years old at the time of trial and suffers from ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple learning disorders. Hailey was ten years old at the time of trial and has been diagnosed with ADHD, multiple learning disorders, and pica. [4]

          On January 25, 2010, Hailey sustained a cut to her forehead. The department received a report from emergency medical technicians who responded to a 911 call, who " did not feel that the coffee table, that [the respondent] reported the child had hit, had sharp enough edges to inflict such injury." Although a subsequent investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations of physical abuse, the case remained open and ongoing services continued.

          On May 24, 2010, the department received a report from a teacher concerned by red sores on Yolanda's hands because Yolanda " had made statements accusing [the respondent of] hitting her." The department ultimately could not substantiate those allegations.

          On February 16, 2011, the department received a report of emotional neglect stemming from a physical and verbal altercation between the respondent and the father, which later was substantiated. As the court recounted in its memorandum of decision: " The caller stated that police went to the home and learned that [the respondent] and [the father] had a physical and verbal altercation. According to the caller, this occurred [195 Conn.App. 338] quite often. The caller stated that there were holes all over the walls and the caller was unsure if they were from both parties. There was spaghetti splattered over the wall. There were numerous items broken in the home from past fights which were never reported. [The father] had injuries. According to the caller, both parties were hitting each other. However, [the respondent] did not have any visible injuries. The children were present but not injured. The caller stated that the children were 'scared out of their minds.' The caller stated that neighbors heard the children screaming. The two older children told the caller that 'mommy and daddy fight all the time.' Both parents were arrested. [The respondent] was charged with assault in the third degree, disorderly conduct, and interfering. [The father] was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering. Both parties remained in police custody. The children remained at the home with a relative. The allegations were substantiated and the case was transferred to ongoing services. The children entered care at this time." [5]

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          The minor children thereafter were adjudicated neglected and committed to the custody of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, on November 10, 2011. At that time, the court issued specific steps for both the respondent and the father. Following the implementation of services by the department, the court returned custody of the children to the ...

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