In Re: Elvin G.
A prior order of specific steps to aid in reunification is required for any termination of parental rights grounded in a parent's failure to rehabilitate. The respondent father appealed from the trial court's judgments terminating his parental rights to his minor children, Elvin G. and Kadahfi G. The respondent claimed that the court improperly terminated his parental rights under C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i) based on his failure to rehabilitate because court-ordered specific steps were statutorily required and never provided to him. The majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments. The panel agreed that the trial court's conclusion was legally incorrect that the prior provision of specific steps is not required in termination proceedings based on C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i). The prior provision of specific steps is required in any case in which the commissioner seeks to terminate parental rights based on a parent's failure to rehabilitate, regardless of whether the petition is filed pursuant to C.G.S. §§17a-112(j)(3)(B) (i) or (ii). Nevertheless, under these circumstances, the majority concluded that specific steps would not have made any difference in the respondent's failure to rehabilitate. Due to the respondent's lengthy history of incarceration for drug and firearms offenses, which he began serving at a young age, he had a minimal employment history and no clearly established household. He spent almost no time in the physical company of his children, who were seven and eight years old when the petitions were filed. The department arranged monthly prison visits for 22 months. Thereafter, the respondent's disciplinary violations and transfers among out-of-state federal prisons foreclosed the possibility of interaction. Given the respondent's length of incarceration, disciplinary infractions, history of failing to parent his children and their specialized needs, the provision of specific steps would not have made a difference because the department could not provide the necessary assistance and monitoring and the respondent could not begin to interact regularly with the children and demonstrate the requisite progress, until his release from prison which, when the petitions were filed, still was years away. The trial court properly took into consideration the respondent's long-term and ongoing inability to provide financial, physical and emotional support to his children and did not improperly terminate his parental rights solely based on his incarceration, as claimed. Justice Zarella dissented.