Juvenile Matters at Middletown


     Juveniles; Termination of Parental Rights; Whether Trial Court Improperly Shifted Burden of Proof to the Respondent Mother on Issue of Personal Rehabilitation. The department of children and families petitioned for termination of the respondent mother's parental rights as to her children Jason and Fernando.  The trial court granted the petitions, and the respondent appealed from the judgments.  On appeal, the respondent claimed that the trial court improperly placed the burden of proof on her to prove that she had achieved a degree of personal rehabilitation sufficient to encourage the belief that she could assume a responsible position in her children's lives within a reasonable amount of time.  In support of her claim, the respondent pointed to statements by the trial court in its memorandum of decision that she had not made significant progress to persuade the court by clear and convincing evidence that she had met the objectives identified as important for reunification and that she had not established to the court's satisfaction that she was prepared educationally or emotionally to assume the primary role of caring for her children.  The Appellate Court (129 Conn. App. 746) found that such language did not evince an improper shifting of the burden of proof to the respondent on the personal rehabilitation issue and that, when viewed in its entirety, the trial court's memorandum of decision made it clear that the court recognized that the petitioner bore the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence both that the respondent had failed to rehabilitate and that termination was in the best interests of the children. The Appellate Court noted that the challenged statements did not shift the burden of proof but rather were intended to highlight the respondent's insufficient progress in addressing the issues that had led to the children's commitment.  Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the respondent's claim that, in issuing articulations clarifying that it had employed the correct standard, the trial court improperly attempted to change the reason or basis for its decision terminating the respondent's parental rights.  In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court did not shift to the respondent mother the burden of proof on the issue of personal rehabilitation.