F.M. v. Commissioner of Children and Families
To base a decision on uninformed or negative inferences relating to a person's religion, national origin, or ancestry is entirely improper; but, for a social worker tasked with a difficult investigation to educate herself so as to better understand the cultural context within which people may conduct themselves is entirely appropriate. The Department of Children and Families substantiated allegations of emotional and physical neglect against the plaintiff father, a 53-year-old professor originally from Iran, with respect to his two minor daughters, born in 1995 and 2003, respectively. The department concluded that the plaintiff exposed his daughters to family violence that had an adverse emotional impact on them and recommended that his name be place on its central registry. Following a requested administrative hearing, the hearing officer found that the department substantiated the allegations and upheld the central registry recommendation. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff's appeal. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the appeal. Sufficient evidence in the record substantiated the allegations of emotional and physical neglect. The investigator's interviews with school personnel and the daughters' statements about fearing the plaintiff and that he was violent toward their mother and the older daughter, constituted the substantial evidence found by the hearing officer. The plaintiff was not substantially prejudiced by challenged hearsay evidence in the investigation protocol. The court did not err in finding substantial evidence supporting the recommendation that the plaintiff's name be placed on the central registry. The court properly determined that the department's decision to sustain the allegations was not arbitrary, unreasonable or illegal by considering the plaintiff's ancestry and national origin. The investigation protocol contained information concerning domestic violence in Iran. The hearing transcript and hearing officer's final decision made clear that the plaintiff's national origin was not a factor in the findings substantiating the allegations. The hearing officer sustained the plaintiff's objection to evidence of his national origin. The plaintiff himself introduced the evidence in cross examining the investigator about an article on domestic violence and Iran in the file. The investigator testified that she included the article in educating herself to understand why the mother was hesitant to come forward with domestic violence allegations. This was found entirely appropriate.