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Courts Rule that “Personal Rehabilitation” Must Be Achieved Within a Reasonably Foreseeable Period of Time

In a recently released decision, the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld the termination of a mother’s parental rights in large part because she failed to achieve a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage a belief that, within a reasonable time, she could assume a responsible position in her child’s life. The trial court record demonstrated that the mother had a very long history of alcohol abuse, which originally led to DCF’s involvement in the case. In fact, the mother was arrested on several occasions for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. On one such occasion, her two children were in the vehicle, which resulted in charges for risk of injury to a minor. Following a subsequent incident in which a DCF worker found the mother intoxicated at a foster home with her two children, the Department invoked a 96-hour hold. Shortly thereafter, the Court adjudicated both children neglected.

Following her release from a term of imprisonment, the mother took significant steps to rehabilitate. She attended a four week program aimed at personal development, employment skills and team building; completed a mental health and substance abuse program; participated in individual counseling at women’s trauma groups; obtained a job with her former employer as a certified nurse’s aide; and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

In reviewing the mother’s claim that her efforts constituted sufficient rehabilitation, the Court explained that under Connecticut law, personal rehabilitation refers to the restoration of a parent to his or her former constructive and useful role as a parent in light of the needs of the particular child. Importantly, sufficient rehabilitation must be foreseeable within a reasonable time. In assessing rehabilitation, the critical issue is not whether the parent has improved her ability to manage her own life, but rather, whether she has gained the ability to care for the particular needs of the child at issue. In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Court noted that the evidence demonstrated the mother would need to remain sober, and seek treatment for several years before she could function independently on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, as one expert testified, the mother would require a period of rehabilitation lasting three years, if not greater, to establish not only the sobriety, but also the personal resources to deal with significant life stressors without decompensating again.

Based on evidence that the mother would need to maintain sobriety for several years before it could be determined with a reasonable level of psychological certainty that she could remain sober, and a reliable parent, the Court held that the trial court did not err in determining the mother failed to achieve personal rehabilitation.

Should you have any questions regarding DCF matters, or family matters generally, please do not hesitate to contact Michael D. DeMeola, Esq. He can be reached by telephone in the firm’s Westport Office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com.
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