Attorney General seeks to dismiss claim by New London parents against DCF

Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman in their apartment in New London on Oct. 5 as they talk about their son, "Baby Dylan," who nearly died in a Groton foster home. (Deborah Straszheim/The Day)

New London — The state Office of the Attorney General has filed a motion to dismiss a claim brought by the parents of a New London toddler who suffered broken bones and starved in a Groton foster home.

Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman of New London, the parents of the child identified as "Baby Dylan" in previous reports, sent a request to the State Office of the Claims Commissioner on Nov. 10 to sue the state Department of Children and Families on behalf of their son. Any monies awarded in an eventual lawsuit would not go to the parents but be placed in an account for the child and overseen by the probate court.

The state’s motion to dismiss, filed Jan. 30, argued that the biological parents don’t have legal standing to sue because the child was removed from their custody and they lost guardianship. Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Signorelli filed the motion on behalf of Attorney General George Jepsen.

The motion argued that the parents were responsible for the child’s placement into foster care.

“In the instant case, the biological parents are responsible for (Dylan's) placement into foster care and with her (sic) relative caretaker,” said the motion, which mistakenly referred to the child as “her,” although the child is male. “They had lost custody of their child by court order and have since lost guardianship of (Dylan) through the child protection proceeding against them.”

The commissioner has ruled in the past that it would not grant permission to sue or allow any award “if neglectful or abusive parents would benefit,” the motion said.

“These are exceptional circumstances because their direct involvement in (Dylan's) need for placement outside their home and their loss of guardianship rights renders them improper and unsuitable to prosecute this action on behalf of (Dylan) and to potentially benefit from any award for damages. Thus they lack standing to pursue this claim and the current claim must be dismissed,” the motion said.

New London Attorney Shelley Graves, who is representing the family, said she would file a motion opposing the state's request to dismiss the claim. She declined further comment.

The family needs permission from the Office of the Claims Commissioner to sue because the state, unlike an ordinary citizen, is immune from liability and from suit unless the office determines otherwise.

Lisa Vincent, the lawyer for the mother in the DCF case, has said she will fight a petition by the agency to terminate the parents' parental rights. The parents have said the children were unfairly removed from their care.

The case of their son was the focus of an investigative report last fall by The Office of the Child Advocate. The report concluded that DCF placed the child with an unlicensed relative despite information that the couple had no employment income, suspended driver's licenses, chronic health issues and the relative’s husband had a criminal conviction for drug possession and assault.

The foster mother, Crystal Magee, was charged last February with risk of injury to a minor and cruelty to persons in connection with the case. She has pleaded not guilty and is due to appear in New London Superior Court on Feb. 16. Three DCF workers were disciplined in the case.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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