Children in DCF trial have families willing to adopt them, social worker says

Waterford — A social worker with the Department of Children and Families testified Monday that the foster parents are meeting the needs of the 3-year-old boy who nearly died in a separate Groton foster home after being removed from his parents.

DCF is seeking to terminate the parental rights of Kirsten Fauquet, 25, of Groton to her five children - ages 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1- and to terminate the parental rights of her partner, John Stratzman, the 27-year-old biological father of three of the children. The couple's 3-year-old son suffered near starvation and abuse in the foster home of an unlicensed relative after he was removed from their home.

The couple want their children back but the state is seeking to sever their parental rights. Monday was the fifth day of the trial before Judge John C. Driscoll in Superior Court for Juvenile Matters in Waterford.

A DCF social worker testified that the 3-year-old boy has been in seven placements since he was removed from his parents, is in the care of a foster family who can care for and adopt him and is doing well. Driscoll has ordered that the media may not identify witnesses in coverage of the trial.

The child has trouble with digestion and weight gain, easily becomes ill, has asthma and suffers from seizures when he has a fever, the social worker testified. The child also has developmental delays and is receiving special education services. The foster family, meanwhile, has provided structure for the child and a shows a willingness to keep him connected to his siblings, she said.

The state is arguing that the mother suffers from mental illness that she hasn't addressed and the couple can't provide stable housing for the children who need a permanent home.

All of the children are in homes with foster parents willing to adopt them, the social worker testified.

The defense is arguing the agency held the parents to one standard while holding itself to another, inflicted harm through its decisions, failed to make reasonable efforts to return the children home, and is depriving the parents of the right to raise their own children.

The social worker testified that the parents are facing eviction from the home where they live in the basement of a relative. She said the relative doesn't want them there and an eviction action will occur shortly. The social worker disputed an account that the home has suitable bedrooms for the children. She also said an elderly relative in the home, who suffers from dementia and requires a round-the-clock caregiver, had a prior case involving physical and sexual abuse.

Attorney Lisa Vincent, who represents the mother Fauquet, said the couple doesn't plan to live in the home with the children but wants to get a new apartment. A different, close relative of the couple testified Friday that he offered to move into a new apartment with the parents and split the rent and help with child care, but the agency never contacted him.

Part of Fauquet's defense is that she should be allowed by DCF to use the resources available to her, such as renting an apartment and living with a relative who receives a proper screening, to raise her children. Fauquet works as a certified nursing assistant and Stratzman washes dishes. Both have previously held multiple jobs but have struggled to pay rent.

Vincent also questioned the social worker about the condition of a separate foster home where two of the children lived for almost two years.

DCF was concerned about cleanliness in the foster home, the social worker said. The foster family was dedicated to the children but couldn't follow through and keep the house clean, she said.

The foster mother complained of "nitpicking" by DCF, and later refused to take the children back when they left to attend an extended visit with a sibling, the social worker testified.  The children's belongings were moved from one foster home to another in trash bags, she said.

The social worker confirmed that a 4-year-old boy in the home was found to have nine cavities and needed to be put under anesthesia to have them repaired.

Vincent called two witnesses on behalf of Fauquet. One witness met Fauquet recently at a program to teach parents how to advocate for children in educational settings. The witness said the two became friends and Fauquet never expressed uncontrolled anger at DCF, but was hurt by what it had done and cried.

A second witness, who helped run a trauma conference in Cromwell, testified that Fauquet attended a daylong seminar to learn about the impact of trauma on children. The witness said the group has a network of parents to offer support to other parents, and Fauquet has reached out to them.

The trial resumes Tuesday morning.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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