In a decision involving the Department of Children and Families, a Connecticut trial court granted a maternal aunt’s motions for out-of-state placement and transfer of guardianship. The children were originally removed from the mother’s care pursuant to an Order of Temporary Custody upon allegations that they were being denied proper care and attention, and were living under conditions injurious to their wellbeing. After the children were committed to the care of DCF and placed in a foster residence, their maternal aunt, who lived in New York, filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings to obtain guardianship.
The Court’s Findings
In granting the aunt’s motions, the Court explained that pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-129(j), if a court determines that commitment should be revoked and the child’s guardianship should vest in someone other than his or her parents, or if parental rights are terminated at any time, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that an award of legal guardianship or adoption to a relative who is licensed as a foster parent shall be in the best interests of the child.
That presumption may be rebutted only by a preponderance of the evidence that such an award would not be in the child’s best interests and that such relative is not a suitable and worthy caregiver. In Re Noella A., Superior Court, Judicial District of New London, Docket No. K09CP09011902A (March 24, 2011, Mack, JTR).
Employing the aforementioned standard, the Court found that although the children had progressed well in foster care, there was no showing that the same progress could not be made if they lived with the maternal aunt. The Court also found that in living with the aunt, the children would be with their cousins in an equally secure, safe, caring, and nurturing environment.
The Court further explained that even though the children established a bond with their foster parents, there was nothing to suggest they could not do so with their extended family. Ultimately modifying the permanency plan from termination of parental rights and adoption to transfer of guardianship, the Court stated it could not find that placement with the aunt would not be in the children’s best interests.
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