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In re Magdalena F.

Supreme Court of Maine

August 9, 2016

IN RE MAGDALENA F. et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: July 20, 2016

          Matthew A. Hunter, Esq., Caribou, for appellant father

          John W. Tebbetts, Esq., Law Office of Christine M. Smith, Presque Isle, for appellant mother

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

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

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] The mother and father of Magdalena F., Rhiannon F., and Robert F. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Caribou, Soucy, J.) terminating their parental rights pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2) (2015). We affirm the judgment.[1]

         [¶2] In a judgment issued in January 2016 following a three-day hearing held in July and August 2015, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that both parents have failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the children and that termination is in the best interest of each child. See id. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(iv). The court also found that neither parent is willing and able to protect the children from jeopardy and that these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the childrens needs; that the mother has been unwilling and unable to take responsibility for the children within a time reasonably calculated to meet the childrens needs; and that the father acknowledged that he is not presently able to take responsibility for the children.[2] See id. §4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii).

         [¶3] The court made the following factual findings, which are supported by competent evidence in the record. In re Hannah S., 2016 ME 32, ¶3, 133A.3d590.

         [¶4] In February 2014, the Department initiated this child protection proceeding because of parental neglect and the threat of neglect. The children have been in the custody of the Department since that time, and in fact the children previously were in the Departments custody from April 2010 to March 2012 for the same reasons.

         [¶5] Each of the children has special needs and "require[s] extraordinary levels of care." Each suffers from reactive attachment disorder, which is usually caused by the failure to develop healthy relationships in early childhood. Each child acts "aggressively, disruptively, and defiantly." The oldest child, now nine years old, has engaged in extreme behavior that led to her admission into a crisis stabilization facility. Because of conflicts with her brother, who is the youngest child, those two children cannot reside together. The parents have not provided her with the "patience, stability, positive regard, and unconditional love" that she needs, and the parents cannot consistently do so now. The middle child, who is seven years old, acts even more "disruptively, defiantly, and aggressively" than her older sister. She is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is engaged in therapy and other services, and needs "consistency and a highly structured environment, " which the parents are unable to provide. The youngest child, who also is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is six years old. He was once admitted into a psychiatric facility, and he frequently acts in an impulsive and "extremely aggressive" manner, requiring "constant and close supervision" to keep him safe.

         [¶6] Efforts to reunify the children with their parents were unsuccessful. The parents were not engaged or cooperative during the reunification process and, as the court found, failed to provide the patience, structure, and stability that the children need.

         [¶7] Although the mother has acknowledged that she locked the children in their room for extended periods of time, disciplined them inappropriately, and failed to provide adequate care and supervision, she failed to offer any solutions to address her parenting deficits. She has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, to which she attributes her "heavy" emotional reliance on others, although she also can be "very distant" and affected by a sense of hopelessness. The court found that her "approach to the issues in this case was curiously dispassionate" and that "[o]bviously, [she] is not ready to assume responsibility for these three high-needs children."

         [¶8] As to the father, he was incarcerated for significant periods of time during the childrens lives. In late 2013, when he was released after spending three years in prison, he became primarily responsible for child care during the next few months until the children were taken into the Departments custody for the second time. The father denies any neglect of the children and, as the court found, is "largely oblivious" to the Departments allegations of neglect and abuse-even though in May 2014 he agreed to the courts issuance of a jeopardy order against him based on those allegations, see 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2015). Further, as the court noted, the father acknowledges that he is not ready to assume responsibility for the children.

         [¶9] On appeal, the principal argument of each parent is that the court improperly faulted them for their respective failures to adequately fulfill the requirements of the reunification plans. These arguments fail because they do not have support ...


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