In DCF Proceeding, Court Considers Mother’s Mental Health Issues

Connecticut Trial Court: DCF Proceeding Decision

In a decision involving a DCF proceeding, a Connecticut trial court relied primarily on a mother’s mental health issues in terminating her parental rights.  DCF initially became involved in the matter upon reports that the mother was using marijuana while caring for the child, and was providing inadequate supervision.  After violating the terms of a Safety Plan, the child was removed from the home pursuant to an Order of Temporary Custody.

DCF later filed a petition to terminate parental rights pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 17a-112, alleging that the parents failed to achieve a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable period of time they could assume a responsible position in the child’s life.

Connecticut General Statutes § 17a-112(k)

During the dispositional phase of a petition to terminate parental rights, the court must determine whether termination is in the best interests of the child.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 17a-112(k), in arriving at that decision, the court must consider and make written findings regarding:

(1) the timeliness, nature and extent of services offered, provided and made available to the parent and the child;

(2) whether the Department of Children and Families has made reasonable efforts to reunite the family;

(3) the terms of any applicable court order, and the extent to which the parties have fulfilled their obligations under such order;

(4) the feelings and emotional ties of the child with respect to the child’s parents or guardian;

(5) the age of the child;

(6) the efforts the parent has made to adjust his or her circumstances, conduct, or conditions to make it in the best interest of the child to return home; and

(7) the extent to which a parent has been prevented from maintaining a meaningful relationship with the child.

Case’s Primary Issue 

In this particular case, the Court explained that the number of services provided to the mother was not dispositive; the primary issue concerned her personal mental health.  Indeed, the Court found that, “Unless she first deals with her feelings of inadequacy, her anger, mood swings, low frustration tolerance and feelings of isolation, she cannot make significant progress on other fronts. It is very likely that her failure to obtain employment, despite the diligent efforts described by her case manager, are related to her flat affect and other disabling mental health issues.”

In reviewing the factors set forth above, the Court noted that timely and appropriate services were provided for the mother, including efforts to reunify the family; however, reunification was not feasible unless and until the mother could overcome her mental issues.  With respect to the mother’s compliance with Specific Steps, the Court found that she was in denial as to the extent of her long-standing mental health issues, and did not recognize the impact her sadness, depression and anxiety had on her children.

Likewise, with respect to the mother’s effort to adjust her circumstances to make it in the child’s best interest to return home, the Court found that the mother failed to make sufficient effort to address her mental health issues.  Based on these findings, the Court terminated the mother’s parental rights and appointed DCF the statutory parent of the child for purposes of securing an adoptive family.

Should you have any questions concerning DCF proceedings, or family matters generally, please feel free to contact managing partner Joseph C. Maya to schedule a free initial consultation. He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com.