April 21, 2021

Connecticut

ABUSE

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

State v. Ernesto P., 41 A.3d 1115 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Individual was properly convicted of employing a minor in an obscene performance though he took photographs of daughter’s friend solely for his own use. Term ‘audience’ in statute could constitute the photographer himself; the legislature could not have intended language to require a public element to the crime or it would condone creating any child pornography for individual use.

RECORDS

State v. Farah, 13 A.3d 1108 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). In criminal trial for sexual assault, trial court properly denied defendant’s request that the court conduct an in-camera review of child welfare agency records where he made only a general assertion that the records might contain exculpatory information; a request for production of confidential child welfare records requires a preliminary showing that records will be material and favorable to the defense.

REGISTRIES

F.M. v. Comm’r of Children & Families, 72 A.3d 1095 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Trial court properly dismissed administrative hearing appeal regarding father’s placement on child abuse and neglect registry for emotional and physical neglect and properly found hearing officer’s reliance on hearsay was proper. The testimony was reliable as it was corroborated by other witnesses’ first hand observations. Further, there was sufficient evidence of father’s violence against mother even without relying on the hearsay showing the introduction was not prejudicial. 

Frank v. Dep’t of Children and Families, 94 A.3d 588 (Conn. 2014). Trial court correctly found there was substantial evidence that minor’s elementary school teacher emotionally abused minor by calling him names and pinching his cheeks or threatening to take away his lunch as punishment. Also, trial court properly placed teacher on central registry of child abusers for such conduct. Because of teacher’s treatment, minor became anxious and afraid to attend school, had trouble sleeping, and his grades dropped.

Gagliardi v. Comm’r Children & Fam., 110 A.3d 512 (Conn. App. Ct. 2015). Teacher was listed on child abuse registry after high school student’s mother obtained transcripts of sexually explicit text messages exchanged between her daughter and the teacher. Teacher’s appeal of listing was insufficient because he only broadly claimed procedural due process violation based on insufficient opportunity to challenge foundation and origin of text messages.

Matthew M. v. Dep’t of Children & Families, 71 A.3d 603 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Hearing officer properly placed father on state registry where he put daughter in his truck unrestrained while his wife was hitting the truck with a baseball bat and drove several miles before putting her in a car seat. Even if his wife was the aggressor in the incident, father placed child in the middle of a dangerous situation, and state did not need to prove actual physical harm for substantiation.

Isabella D. v. Dep’t of Children & Fam., 2016 WL 104063 (Conn.). Alleged victim of child sexual abuse and emotional neglect lacked standing to appeal from final decision of child welfare agency finding alleged perpetrator was not responsible for abuse and neglect and removing his name from central registry. Court disagreed with alleged victim’s assertion of standing based on perpetrator’s use of agency’s decision in collateral family court proceeding to show he had not sexually abused victim, which could increase chance of reunification with victim.

STALKING

State v. Samms, 56 A.3d 755 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Jury verdict finding defendant guilty of stalking was proper. Given the extended period and number of incidents where defendant approached child and her mother and harassed them, the jury could find he committed act of stalking despite fact that his behavior occurred at public places.

TESTIMONY

State v. Daniel, 142 A.3d 265 (Conn. 2016). Defendant was convicted of two counts of sexual assault in first degree and one count of risk of injury to child. Jury was permitted to use constancy of accusation testimony to corroborate fact and timing of victim’s out-of-court statements and to evaluate weight and credibility of victim’s testimony, including reasons for her delay in reporting abuse to police. Testimony could not be used as proof of substance or truthfulness of statements themselves.

State v. Gene C., 57 A.3d 885 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Jury properly convicted father of sexually abusing his daughters even though their testimony was the only evidence. Though father claimed on appeal that some physical evidence was required to corroborate their testimony, no such rule or statute existed in state and vivid detail provided by daughters on the stand was sufficient evidence for jury to conclude the abuse occurred.

DEPENDENCY

CONFIDENTIALITY

In re Jacklyn H., 2016 WL 301077 (Conn. App. Ct.). Statute allowing disclosure of records of dependency cases to employees of judicial branch did not provide employee of juvenile probation department unlimited access to court-ordered psychological evaluation report prepared during parental neglect proceedings without prior notice and hearing. Trial court was required to conduct full hearing before disclosing report to daughter’s juvenile probation officer.

EVIDENCE

In re Natalie J., 83 A.3d 1278 (Conn. App. Ct. 2014). Trial court properly excluded evidence of phone conversation between child and mother at hearing on mother’s motion for reunification. Mother claimed phone conversation contained a discussion she and her daughter with professional about running away from home and mother signing papers with her attorney that she had not read. Information was irrelevant to whether the issues that led to removal had been resolved.

FOSTER PARENTS

In re Joshua S., 14 A.3d 1076 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). Foster parents lacked standing to appeal transfer of guardianship to relative as they possessed no substantial rights affected by the proceeding; because foster parents are entrusted with children only temporarily, they do not have the liberty interest that birth or adoptive parents possess.

INTERSTATE COMPACT ON THE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN

Emoni W., 48 A.3d 1 (Conn. 2012). Where children were removed from mother in Connecticut and out-of-state father sought custody, Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) did not apply. Father was entitled to a constitutional presumption of fitness and the ICPC’s statutory language indicated it covered placements for “foster care or…preliminary to adoption,” which do not include a placement with a parent.

JURISDICTION

In re Jessica M., 11 A.3d 689 (Conn. App. Ct. 2010). Where 17–year-old youth alleged she was dependent, but turned 18 before adjudication, court properly dismissed her petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; statute did not provide for retroactive commitment to the department.

REUNIFICATION

In re Natalie S., 2017 WL 2367429 (Conn.). Connecticut Supreme Court held child welfare agency had no obligation to continue reunification efforts for mother in neglect proceeding after father was awarded temporary custody and guardianship of child. Plain language of governing statute required agency to make reasonable efforts to unify “a parent” with child, and once case entered disposition phase, focus was on best interests of child.

TEMPORARY CUSTODY

In re Chronesca D., 13 A.3d 1106 (Conn. Ct. App. 2011). Trial court improperly granted temporary custody of child to father’s cousin since evidence showed there was no immediate physical danger to child and court explicitly found no such physical danger; before awarding temporary custody of child to anyone other than child’s parents, law requires court to find there is an immediate physical danger to child.

VACCINATIONS

In re Elianah T.-T., 2017 WL 3530856 (Conn.).The Connecticut Supreme Court, using statutory interpretation, held Commissioner of Children and Families is not authorized to vaccinate child placed temporarily in state custody over objection of child’s parents. Court examined statute’s use of “medical treatment” and concluded statute did not intend to authorize preventive medicine, including vaccines.  FULL SUMMARY

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

PROTECTION ORDER

Krystyna W. v. Janusz, 14 A.3d 483 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). Domestic violence protection order was properly entered against father to protect wife and children from continuous threat of physical pain or injury; father threatened revenge against children because they hospitalized him, he was often drunk while threatening them and would forget his conduct when sober, he interrupted children’s sleep with loud behavior, walked around the house with knives, and had called on his son to kill him.

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

In re Elijah C., 2017 WL 3431653 (Conn.). Mother adequately briefed appellate claim challenging trial court’s finding she was unable to benefit from reunification services, because child welfare agency failed to provide services previously determined reasonable given mother’s cognitive deficits. However, evidence supported trial court’s determination she was unable to benefit from reunification efforts. While Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cannot be used as defense to termination of parental rights, ADA applies to reunification services and programs required to meet parents’ specialized needs.

BEST INTERESTS

In re Nevaeh W., 2015 WL 4486392 (Conn.). Although findings about children’s feelings and emotional ties to mother were required by statute, trial court’s determination of children’s best interests would not be overturned based on one factor if determination was factually supported and legally sound. Children had been placed together with family who expressed willingness to adopt both. Court’s finding that they were comfortable, secure, and safe satisfied statutory requirement.

BURDEN OF PROOF
In re Jason R., 51 A.3d 334 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Trial court properly terminated mother’s parental rights despite its misstatement that she failed to show she achieved a proper degree of rehabilitation by clear and convincing evidence. Record in entirety revealed that trial court placed burden on state to prove grounds by clear and convincing evidence, including where it corrected misstatement at reconsideration hearing.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In re Kamora W., 31 A.3d 398 (Conn. Ct. App. 2011). Father’s continued relationship with mother, which was marked by ongoing domestic violence and substance abuse, interfered with the father’s ability to be an effective parent and limited his chances of successfully reunifying with children. Despite agency’s efforts to work with father to end relationship with mother and take steps towards reunification, father failed to take necessary steps. Therefore, the evidence supported termination of his parental rights.

EVIDENCE

In re Harlow P., 78 A.3d 281 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Trial court did not err in admitting agency social study with facts on the child’s best interests regarding termination even though it contained allegations that the child’s attorney made. Father’s due process right to cross-examination was not violated because it contained a section written by the child’s attorney, who could not be cross-examined. Attorney’s allegations were clearly labeled in the report and father had chance to cross-examine the social worker on the allegations. 

FAILURE TO IMPROVE

In re Anvahnay S., 16 A.3d 1244 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). Court properly terminated father’s parental rights based on his failure to improve to where he could obtain custody of his daughter in a reasonable time; father failed to complete services because for all but three months of his daughter’s life he was either incarcerated or on escapee status, he did not notify the agency when the relative caregivers were not providing visits as arranged, and did not let the agency know he was transferred to a halfway house.

In re Dominico M., 2013 WL 978203 (Conn. App. Ct.). Trial court properly terminated father’s parental rights because he was provided reasonable assistance and failed to avail himself of services to provide a safe home. Though father completed some counseling as required, he was discharged unsuccessfully after he failed to disclose his substance abuse and domestic violence history.

In re Gianni C., 19 A.3d 233 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). Trial court properly terminated mother’s rights to her children on failure to improve ground because she was incarcerated for an extended period and there was no strong indication she would quickly be able to assume custody even when released; though mother took advantage of many programs in prison, the psychologist advised that with her lengthy history of difficulties in unstructured environments she would need at least a year on her own to show stability.

In re Jah’Za G., 60 A.3d 392 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Trial court properly terminated mother’s rights where the psychologist reported after years of treatment that there were still serious risks for further abuse. Mother refused to acknowledge the severe physical abuse of the child’s sibling. Though mother maintained her innocence, court’s prior finding that she had committed the abuse, disposed of this issue and supported psychologist’s insistence that she admit abuse to prevent future abusive behaviors.

In re Kasmaesha C., 84 A.3d 1279 (Conn. Ct. App.). Evidence supported terminating mother’s parental rights based on finding that mother failed to achieve personal rehabilitation. Any likelihood that terminating mother’s parental rights was erroneous was small and outweighed by the children’s needs. Evidence also showed mother suffered from a thought disorder affecting her “insight and decision-making abilities,” lived with a convicted felon, lacked income to pay rent, rarely visited children, was hospitalized twice for psychotic behavior, and failed to follow treatment recommendations and outpatient programs upon discharge.

In re Mia M., 14 A.3d 1024 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). Trial court properly terminated mother’s parental rights to her daughter because she failed to improve to where she would be able to parent her child safely; though mother attended services for schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder, she did so inconsistently, was often not compliant with medication, and lost her housing because of her fights with neighbors during period before trial.

GROUNDS

In re Brianna L., 55 A.3d 572 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Court properly found termination of mother’s parental rights in child’s best interests because, contrary to mother’s assertions, there is no age limit for termination. Age limit of seven and under is in statute that provides grounds for simultaneous dependency and termination petitions and did not apply to case as petition to terminate was filed six months after adjudication.

INCARCERATION

In re Carla C., 2016 WL 3974837 (Conn. App. Ct.). Mother who interfered with father’s visitation and relationship with daughter could not establish lack of ongoing parent-child relationship as grounds for termination of parental rights. Mother had not told child about father and obtained order from correctional facility barring father from contacting her or child. Father showed positive feelings for child through continued efforts to maintain contact.

In re Lukas K., 14 A.3d 1024 (Conn. 2011). Father’s right to due process was not violated when trial court denied his request for a continuance and a copy of the transcript when he could not participate in the termination hearing due to being incarcerated out of state; given that father proffered nothing that would tend to rebut the evidence that he had abandoned his son, there was little risk of erroneous deprivation of his rights.

In re Mindy F., 105 A.3d 351 (Conn. App. Ct. 2014). Termination of father’s parental rights was upheld because he failed to achieve sufficient rehabilitation to support reunification within a reasonable time and termination was in child’s best interest. Father initially declined visits while incarcerated, child identified with foster family, and father’s ability to remain sober and abstain from substance use was uncertain.

LEGAL REPRESENTATION

In re Enrico S., 46 A.3d 173 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Although appellate courts may show pro se litigants some latitude, mother’s appeal of termination of parental rights was dismissed because her brief did not cite authority for her claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial or contain any legal analysis.

In re Nyasia H., 76 A.3d 757 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Trial court did not abuse discretion in denying father’s motion to disqualify attorney for the agency at time of termination trial because she had been the state’s chief children’s attorney prior. Disqualification was not required since attorney had supervised attorneys statewide, did not work on children’s case individually, and only correspondence directed to attorney three years earlier had contents that were otherwise contained in the record at termination.

NOTICE

In re Ariana S., 2015 WL 5037929 (Conn. App. Ct.). Denial of father’s motion to reopen termination of parental rights judgment, on basis that notice provided by publication in out-of-state newspaper was insufficient, was not abuse of discretion. Father had lived in different locations while child welfare agency attempted to locate him. Mother did not have address for father. She only knew he was working in Florida, and the Florida newspaper used for publication had the widest circulation. 

In re Jason M., 59 A.3d 902 (Conn. App. Ct. 2013). Mother’s right to notice was not violated where trial court proceeded to terminate parental rights in her absence. Agency social worker spoke with the mother twice in the weeks leading up to trial, arranged transportation for her, and sent her a letter. Mother and her counsel were also in court when the trial date was set.

PARTICIPATION IN TRIAL

In re Zowie N., 41 A.3d 1056 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Trial court did not abuse discretion in not ordering a second competency evaluation before father represented himself in termination trial. Father had a recent competency evaluation in connection with his criminal trial, which noted no concerns about competency and none arose during trial.

PREADOPTIVE HOME

In re Rafael S., 9 A.3d 417 (Conn. App. Ct. 2010). Trial court did not err in terminating parental rights of child despite fact that she did not live in a preadoptive home; though adoption is generally the goal after termination, court could have reasonably found under the circumstances that continuing parental relationship was not in the child’s best interest because mother continued to have contact with man who physically and sexually abused her children.

REASONABLE EFFORTS

In re Egypt E., 2016 WL 3959008 (Conn.). Juvenile court terminated parents’ rights to seven-month-old infant with severe physical injuries and her siblings after finding no reasonable efforts were required. As result of clerical error, parents did not have adequate opportunity to timely appeal trial court’s finding no reunification efforts were required. Parents’ due process rights would be violated if not allowed to appeal.

In re Luis N., 175 Conn. App. 271 (2017). Mother appealed termination of her parental rights to two children. Child welfare agency claimed it made reasonable efforts to locate mother and reunify her with children but that she was unable or unwilling to benefit from such efforts. Evidence supported trial court’s conclusion mother failed to rehabilitate within reasonable time. Mother had history of substance abuse, including use of illegal drugs during termination proceedings, and did not appreciate negative effect marijuana use had on her capacity to meet children’s needs or to keep children safe.

In re Kamal R., 62 A.3d 1177  (Conn. App. Ct. 2013) Trial court properly found agency provided reasonable efforts to reunify child with father. Despite father’s claim that the agency did not provide services while he was incarcerated, finding was supported by fact that he had specific steps to complete when he was released and he did not even maintain visitation.

In re Kylik A., 102 A.3d 141 (Conn. App. Ct. 2014). Evidence supported finding that agency made reasonable efforts to reunify mother with children and that she was unable and unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts. Mother was offered numerous services but was repeatedly discharged from programs for noncompliance, nonattendance, and lack of participation, frequent cancellations of scheduled visits, and limited progress despite years of receiving services.

In re Nioshka A.N., 2015 WL 7442683 (Conn. App. Ct.). Mother appealed termination of her parental rights based on neglect. Evidence supported findings that child welfare agency followed all applicable court orders and made reasonable efforts to reunify mother and child before seeking termination. Even if agency unreasonably failed to implement recommendations of court-appointed psychological evaluator, evidence was sufficient to show termination of mother’s parental rights was in child’s best interests.

In re Unique R., 170 Conn. App. 833 (Ct. App. 2017). Department was not required to identify and investigate potential relative caregivers for child as part of its duty to make reasonable efforts to reunify child with father. State statute addressing reasonable efforts requirement states department must assist the parent to overcome and address the issues that prevent reunification but does not require efforts to identify and investigate relative resources.

RELATIVE PLACEMENT

In re Aziza S.-B., 53 A.3d 1001 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Trial court properly denied father’s request for placement of his children with his sister at time of termination trial. Record supported court’s finding that his request was merely an effort to use his sister as a conduit to regain custody, despite their inability to provide a safe home, rather than a true permanency option.

REPRESENTATION

In re Dylan C., 10 A.3d 100 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011). There was no evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel where mother’s appeal did not argue how she was prejudiced by counsel and evidence of her failure to comply with case plan or complete services showed that termination would have resulted regardless of the level of legal advocacy at trial.

In re Enrico S., 46 A.3d 173 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Although appellate courts may show pro se litigants some latitude, mother’s appeal of termination of parental rights was dismissed because her brief did not cite authority for her claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial or contain any legal analysis.

In re Peter L., 2015 WL 3986144 (Conn. App. Ct.). After divorce, father who once kidnapped mother at gunpoint made minimal efforts to maintain contact with son. Court granted mother’s petition to terminate father’s parental rights, and he appealed. Evidence was sufficient to terminate rights based on abandonment. Father’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was denied because there was no evidence his counsel’s performance fell below standard of reasonable competency or that lack of competency contributed to termination of his rights.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

In re Shane M., 2015 WL 5090106 (Conn.). Clear and convincing evidence supported order terminating father’s parental rights. Despite ample notice of all of court-ordered steps expected of him, father rejected assistance of parental aide during visitation with child, refused to undergo medical assessment by psychiatrist for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and repeatedly stated he attended court-ordered rehabilitation programs only to appease child welfare agency.

TESTIMONY

In re Jason B., 48 A.3d 676 (Conn. App. Ct. 2012). Trial court’s statement that since the mother did not testify “there was no evidence presented to contradict the representations” made by the state, was not an adverse inference about mother’s choice not to testify. Record as a whole indicated that it made no such improper inference but credited the testimony and other evidence of the petitioner in terminating parental rights.

TRAUMA

In re Gabriella A., 2015 WL 7770646 (Conn.). Sufficient evidence supported trial court’s finding that mother was unable to benefit from reunification services as ground for terminating her parental rights. Counseling reports indicated mother’s inability to understand effect her trauma history continued to have on her behavior and emotional health was strong impediment to recovery. She struggled to gain insight into link between her childhood trauma and her current behaviors.