IN RE GABRIELLA A., SC 19435

Judicial District of Hartford, Juvenile Matters

 

†††† †Termination of Parental Rights; Whether Trial Court, in Terminating Motherís Parental Rights, Properly Found that Department of Children and Families had made Reasonable Efforts to Reunify Mother with her Child and that Mother was Unable to Benefit from Reunification Efforts.† The Department of Children and Families (department) filed a petition to terminate the respondent motherís parental rights with respect to her minor daughter, Gabriella.† The trial court granted the petition, and the respondent appealed, arguing that the court improperly found that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify her with Gabriella in accordance with General Statutes ß 17a-112 (j) (1).† She specifically claimed that the courtís finding was clearly erroneous in light of the fact that the department had referred her to a social worker, Beverly Coker, who provided her with the wrong type of therapy. †She also maintained that the court improperly determined that she was unable to benefit from reunification efforts.† The Appellate Court (154 Conn. App. 177) disagreed, noting that the trial court did not find that Coker used the wrong type of therapy and that, in fact, the court had stated that Cokerís therapeutic approach helped the respondent make progress.† It added that, in referring the respondent to Coker, the department was merely following the recommendation of another service provider that the respondent required treatment in a more restrictive setting.† It further emphasized that, prior to referring the respondent to Coker, the department had already made significant efforts to provide her with appropriate services.† Accordingly, it concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial courtís determination that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify the respondent with Gabriella.† It then affirmed the trial courtís finding that the respondent was unable to benefit from reunification efforts.† In doing so, it rejected the respondentís claim that the trial court improperly based its finding on the opinion of a psychologist, Derek Franklin, even though Franklinís testimony established that the reason why the respondent was unable to benefit from Cokerís treatment was due to the fact that Cokerís therapeutic approach was inappropriate. †It reasoned that, although Franklin expressed his concerns regarding Cokerís approach, he also indicated that the respondent was unlikely to benefit from treatment because she was generally satisfied with her behavior and saw little reason to change.† It also pointed out that, in addition to its reliance on Franklinís testimony, the trial court further found that (1) the respondent, who is a Jamaican citizen, was unable to provide a safe environment for Gabriella due to her uncertain immigration status; (2) she did not attend individual counseling sessions on a regular basis; and (3) she was not sufficiently concerned with learning how to deal with Gabriellaís problems.† In light of the foregoing, the Appellate Court held that the trial court did not commit clear error in determining that the respondent was unable to benefit from reunification efforts.† The Supreme Court will now decide (1) whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the judgment terminating the respondentís parental rights after finding that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify her with her daughter, and (2) whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial courtís determination that the respondent was unable to benefit from reunification efforts.