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In re G.T.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

January 12, 2016

IN RE G.T. et al

         Submitted on Briefs November 19, 2015

         As Corrected May 3, 2016

          On the briefs: Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq., Law Office of Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq., Dover-Foxcroft, for appellant mother.

         Christopher D. Smith, Esq., Law Office of Christopher D. Smith, Esq., Dexter, for appellant father.

         Janet T. Mills, Attorney General and Meghan Szylvian Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, and JABAR, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 390

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

          [¶1] The two boys who are the subject of this termination of parental rights proceeding were ten and twelve years old when the court (Dover-Foxcroft, Mallonee, J. ) held a hearing on the third petition brought by the Department of Health and Human Services to terminate the parental rights of their parents. Two prior petitions had been denied, allowing their parents

Page 391

multiple opportunities to learn how to parent their sons free from violence, hostility, and denigration. By the time of the third trial, both boys suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious conditions, and they faced a life limited by their lost opportunity for a healthy childhood. Their parents appeal from the termination of their parental rights, challenging the court's findings of parental unfitness and its determination that termination was in each child's best interest.[1] We discern no error or abuse of discretion and affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶2] This family became involved in a child protection proceeding in 2003, when G.T. was less than a year old, due to the father's domestic violence and mental health issues, and the mother's neglect. The Department eventually petitioned for the termination of the parents' parental rights, but the court ( MacMichael, J. ) determined in April 2005 that a termination of parental rights was not in G.T.'s best interest. The court clarified, however, that the father had a responsibility to " understand once and for all that he cannot continue his pattern of domestic violence and denial," that he must not behave in an abusive manner, and that he must " do more than pay lip service to what the service providers have been trying to teach him." Later in 2005, J.T. was born and was immediately placed in the Department's custody.

          [¶3] The court considered a subsequent petition for termination of parental rights, entering a judgment in May 2006. The court found that the father had physically disciplined an older child from another relationship in December 2005 by grabbing the front of the child's jacket and his neck, and that the father had continued to be unable " to conduct himself in a manner that demonstrates alternatives to hurtful behavior." The court found that, although the father had demonstrated some willingness to participate in services, he had " not demonstrated an ability to use what he ha[d] been taught." The court found that he had spoken in a " loud, angry, and threatening manner" at a meeting held to review a treatment plan, that he had " used derogatory terms to describe the ...


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