Relative of Groton parents on trial was willing to help but DCF never called

Waterford — A close relative of the Groton couple facing termination of their parental rights testified Friday that he offered to share rent, housing and child care responsibilities to help them get their children back, but the Department of Children and Families never contacted him.

Friday was the fourth day of the trial before Judge John C. Driscoll in Superior Court for Juvenile Matters in Waterford. 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, 27, biological father of three of the children.

DCF removed four of the children from the couple’s home in June 2015 due to concerns about the mother's mental health and the couple's ability to pay rent. The agency took Fauquet’s fifth child shortly after she was born. The couple’s 3-year-old son later nearly died in the home of an unlicensed relative selected by the agency as a foster parent.

The relative who testified Friday was called as a witness on behalf of the parents. Witnesses may not be identified by name in coverage of the trial under an order by the judge.

The witness said he remains willing to share housing and rent with the parents, assist them with child care and submit to a background check and mental health evaluation by DCF, if needed. He said he planned to ask Fauquet’s brother, who owns the house where the couple now is living in the lower level, about whether the children can move into the house if they are released from agency custody. He described the house as having a wood floor on the lower level, with cement in the bathroom where remodeling is incomplete. Two bedrooms in the house could be used for the children, he said.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Vitelli, who is representing DCF, questioned this, saying the couple has not paid rent at the house since January and the brother recently threatened to evict them. Vitelli pointed out that seven people live in the home, described as having six bedrooms.

The relative said he spoke to his brother about this, the eviction never happened and, if needed, he could move in to a different apartment with the couple. The witness said he could then split the rent with the couple equally and help them with the children in the new apartment.

He believes DCF knew of his offer to help but had some concern about him, he said. He works as a chef at a local restaurant, spent four years in the U.S. Army and served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, he said. He said he has no criminal history or mental health issues.

To terminate parental rights, the state must prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the parents have not rehabilitated themselves, that the state made “reasonable efforts” to put the family back together and that terminating parental rights is in the children’s best interests.

The coordinator of a parent leadership program also testified Friday for the defense. The coordinator said Fauquet, the children’s mother, applied to, attended and graduated from a 12-week program that teaches parents how to collaborate with others to advocate for children in the schools and community.

Vitelli, in cross-examining the woman for the state, noted that Fauquet missed two of the 12 sessions with the group.

The state called two witnesses Friday, both former therapists of the mother. The first therapist, who saw Fauquet from March 2016 until February 2017, testified that she diagnosed the mother with borderline personality disorder, a condition in which longstanding patterns interfere with relationships and other aspects of life.

The therapist said Fauquet was inconsistent in her attendance to therapy and did not gain insight into her role in her own life’s difficulties.

A second therapist called by the state was Fauquet’s counselor after the first, up until September 2017. She worked under the supervision of the first counselor who testified. The second therapist said Fauquet initially was guarded with her and missed appointments, but gradually became more engaged and consistent. “It kind of was like she was coming out of her shell,” the therapist said.

She said she did not wish to disagree with her supervisor, but she questioned whether borderline personality disorder was the correct diagnosis, as she did not see Fauquet exhibit some of the associated traits.

The trial resumes at 10 a.m. on Monday.


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