Deviation From Agency Policy Upheld Where Foster Placement “Best” Met the Needs of the Children

Superior Court of Connecticut: Post-Judgment Action

In a post-judgment action involving agency policy, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Juvenile Matters at Bridgeport upheld the placement of two minor children by the Department of Children and Families (the Department), despite deviation from administrative policy, as the placement “best” met the children’s needs.

The appellant mother had two minor children, who in the course of one and a half years were twice removed from the mother’s care pursuant to orders of temporary custody filed by the Department. In July 2009, the children were placed in a legal risk foster home – a home licensed for adoption but which provides care for children not legally free to be adopted. However, within two months the children were removed from that location, and in October 2009, they were committed to the care and custody of the Department. At that time, the children were placed in a new legal risk foster home in New Fairfield, Connecticut, consisting of two same gender foster parents.

Case Details

The foster parents at this location supported visitation between the mother and the children, spoke positively to the children about returning to their mother’s care, and the children made positive progress with various behavioral issues. In addition, even though the mother resided in Bridgeport, the Department facilitated her visitation and transportation three times per week. At a final decision of the Department Administrative Hearings Unit in July 2010, the Deputy Commissioner found that the current placement of the children was appropriate to both the children’s needs and problems. The mother appealed this decision on five grounds, with the primary contention that the children were placed in a home at a distance further than what is contemplated by the Department guidelines.

Court Decision

The scope of judicial review regarding the decisions of an administrative agency is very limited: whether there is substantial evidence on the record supporting the agency’s findings, and if the conclusions were reasonable. Thus, a court must determine whether the agency acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, illegally, or in abuse of its discretion when it rendered its decision. Department policy regarding foster care placement states that matches small be made in the least restrictive, most family-like setting and in close proximity to the child’s home. However, exceptions are permitted where if the placement does not conform to these requirements, it will be deemed temporary unless it best meets the child’s needs.

In this case, the court agreed that the Department did not accord fully with their policy with respect to foster care placement, which was located approximately 40 miles away from the mother’s home. However, based on the record, the court determined that it was clear this placement more than appropriately addressed the children’s needs and problems. Indeed, removing the children from the foster home and placing them closer to the mother would be detrimental to their well being. Therefore, the court agreed that this placement “best” met the needs of the children, and because it was not persuaded by the other grounds for appeal made by the mother, the action was dismissed.

Whether advancing or defending a post-judgment motion to modify custody or visitation, a divorced parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.