In Re: Averiella P.
In the 2012 decision of In Re: Jason R., the Connecticut Supreme Court explained that “if it is not otherwise clear from the record that an improper standard was applied, the appellant’s claim will fail on the basis of inadequate support in the record.” The respondent mother appealed from the trial court’s judgment transferring guardianship of her daughter, Averiella P., from the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, to the child’s maternal grandparents. The respondent claimed that the court used an improper standard, namely, potential risk of harm to the child, when determining whether it should grant the motion to transfer guardianship. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment, disagreeing that the court used “potential risk of harm” as the sole basis for its finding that a transfer of guardianship was in Averiella’s best interest. The respondent focused on the court’s statement during the hearing that “[t]he issue for the parents here [is] the unexplained injuries to [another child]. Understand that the law permits adjudication of neglect based on a potential risk of harm, not just actual harm….” Although the court made such a statement regarding the basis for the adjudication of neglect, as explained in Practice Book §35a-12A(a), “[m]otions to transfer guardianship are disposition in nature, based on the prior adjudication.” The court also stated very clearly that “while the interests of all others may be considered in making a decision about the child, it is the best interest of the child that controls the decision.” The court made findings including that Averiella had lived with her grandparents since shortly after birth, thrived in that environment and the grandparents were open to visits by the parents. The court found the grandparents suitable and worthy caretakers and that transfer was in the child’s best interest. There was no support in the record for the respondent’s contention that the court used “potential risk of harm” as the sole basis for its finding that a transfer of guardianship was in Averiella’s best interest.