Court Upholds Termination of Parental Rights Where Mother Failed to Show any Sense of Urgency to Rehabilitate

The Case

As the following case illustrates, a court may terminate parental rights despite significant progress toward personal rehabilitation. DCF first became involved in the termination of parental rights when the mother was admitted to a rehab program for alcohol abuse.  The hospital filed a neglect report with the Department after the ambulance crew reported unsanitary conditions within the mother’s home.  DCF subsequently removed one of the children because it believed the home was physically unsafe.  Following a subsequent incident in which the mother relapsed and was admitted to a second rehab program, the Department obtained an order of temporary custody, and the child was placed in a foster home.

Trial Court

The trial court found that there were three primary areas of concern that affected the mother’s ability to parent the child properly: 1) her ability to remain sober, 2) her mental health issues, and 3) her ability to provide a safe and appropriate home for the child.  Although the trial court stated it could find no evidence to contradict the mother’s claim that she was clean and sober, it also noted that the mother lacked insight into how her living conditions affected her child.  According to the Department, this suggested she would be unable to recognize and respond to problems that might affect the child in the future.

In reviewing the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Court noted that in order to terminate parental rights, the Department must prove, among other things, that the parent has failed to achieve a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage a belief that within a reasonable period of time, such parent could assume a responsible position in the child’s life.

Appeal

On appeal, the mother argued that she benefited from services meant to reunify her with her daughter, and that she would be able to care for her daughter once she secured appropriate housing.  The Appellate Court found that although the mother did indeed benefit from the Department’s services, the evidence at trial supported the court’s finding that she failed to rehabilitate to a point that she could parent the child within a reasonable amount of time.

For example, the Court noted that, although the mother agreed her father’s home was not an appropriate location for the child, she nevertheless continued to reside there while her daughter remained in foster care. Furthermore, she expended the only resources she had to fix-up the home despite the fact that she knew it had overwhelming problems.  The Court found that the mother simply did not recognize the urgency of the situation, and agreed that she failed to achieve a degree of rehabilitation as would encourage a belief that she could assume the role of parent within a reasonable period of time.

Should you have any questions regarding DCF matters, or family cases generally, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya.  He can be reached by telephone in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com.