Groton mother takes the stand in DCF trial

Waterford — Kirsten Fauquet took the stand in her own defense Wednesday during the trial to terminate her parental rights, and gave the court a window into her everyday life.

She described for the court her more than three-hour daily commute to work as a certified nursing assistant. She leaves the house at 11:40 a.m., takes one bus from Groton to New London, takes another bus to Norwich, and then walks 30 to 40 minutes from the nearest bus stop to work. She works from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. The bus is unavailable when her shift ends, so she has to find an alternative.

The Department of Children and Families is seeking to terminate the parental rights of Fauquet to her five children — ages 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 — and of her partner, John Stratzman, biological father of three of the children. The couple’s 3-year-old son suffered near starvation and abuse in the home of an unlicensed relative after he was removed from the couple’s home.

Wednesday was the seventh day of testimony in the case before Judge John C. Driscoll in Superior Court for Juvenile Matters in Waterford. Fauquet, of Groton, took the witness stand late Wednesday and continues her testimony Thursday.

A DCF supervisor testified that the family failed to regularly attend counseling appointments and was noncompliant with other services. Witnesses may not be identified by name in coverage of the trial under an order by the judge.

The supervisor also said the couple faced eviction twice, including once when the pair had housing support. When the couple sought help to save a housing voucher, DCF declined to provide the money because the couple wasn't complying with services and didn't demonstrate ability to sustain the housing, he said.

To terminate parental rights, the state must show with clear and convincing evidence that it made “reasonable efforts” to reunify the family, that the parents failed to rehabilitate themselves and that terminating their parental rights is in the best interests of the children.

Faquet described how she got to some of the counseling appointments DCF referenced.

She walked to the mental health appointments at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital when she was living in New London, she said. She later walked to the office of a separate mental health provider at Change Inc. in New London. She then took a bus or a taxi to the Change Inc. Groton office, she said. She walks, rides the bus or takes a cab to the grocery store, depending on which one she's going to.

DCF provides Fauquet transportation to visits with her children. Several times the cab didn’t arrive, so she missed visits, she said. The agency also provided transportation to a parenting program and to her parental termination trial last week and this week. One day, the taxi arrived at 7:30 a.m.; doors to the courthouse don't open until 8:30 a.m. On the day it rained, the taxi was an hour late picking her up at the courthouse, which had closed.

Fauquet kept a journal related to her children, which her lawyer presented to the court on Wednesday. She started it at the beginning of the case, writing more often after her 3-year-old son was injured in foster care. Fauquet wrote about the children’s visits, her meetings with DCF, her conversations with the children’s foster parents and their appointments with doctors and other providers, she said.

She kept her appointments in the journal, her work schedule, her notes from parenting classes and a meal plan, safety plan and fire safety plan for her children in case they came home, she said. She wrote love letters to her children, she testified. She identified a stack of letter-sized spiral bound notebooks, and turned them over to the court.

Fauquet also kept a portfolio of documents related to the children, she testified. The portfolio contains the children's birth certificates, medical records, notifications from doctors, notes from foster parents, pay stubs and her various service trainings for work, she said. She showed it to DCF caseworkers from Norwich and to a housing provider, she said.

Trial resumes at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

d.straszheim@theday.com 

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