Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2016
Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant mother
Charles Helfrich, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant father
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY. C.T.. and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
The mother and the father of Cameron B. appeal from a
judgment of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts,
J.) terminating their parental rights to the child
pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)
(2016). They contend that the court should have ordered a
permanency guardianship instead of terminating their parental
rights. We affirm the judgment.
In January 2014, when Cameron was ten months old, the
Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for
a child protection order because of the parents' neglect
and the threat of neglect due to their substance abuse. On
February 3, 2014, the Department sought and obtained a
preliminary protection order placing the child in the
Department's custody after the Department alleged that
the child was found alone in a car with the parents in
contravention of a safety plan. The child was placed in
foster care with the father's uncle and the uncle's
wife on the same day.
By agreement, the court [Mallonee, J.) made a
finding of jeopardy as to both parents based on their
substance abuse. A reunification plan required them to
maintain sobriety, refrain from using non-prescribed
mood-altering substances, and submit to random drug testing.
After the court repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, ordered the
parents to comply with drug testing requirements, the
Department filed a petition to terminate their parental
rights on May 19, 2015. The court denied the petition on
August 25, 2015, giving the parents additional time to
recover from their addictions. The court admonished the
parents for failing to comply with drug testing and warned
them that their continued failure to engage in recovery could
result in future termination of their parental rights.
On January 28, 2016, almost two years after Cameron was
placed with his relatives, the Department filed a second
petition for termination of the parents' parental rights.
The Department alleged that, in addition to both parents'
substance abuse, neither was engaged in treatment, they had
no stable housing, and they had made "little or no
progress" in the five months that had elapsed after the
first termination petition was denied.
The second termination hearing was held on April 26 and 29,
2016. The Department caseworker testified that the Department
recommended termination because of the child's young age
and the risk that the parents would repeatedly bring the
matter back into court. The guardian ad litem (GAL) also
recommended termination. Although she believed that
permanency guardianship could also provide permanency for
Cameron, she expressed concern about "tension"
between the parents and the foster parents.
In a judgment entered on May 17, 2016, the court
[Roberts, J.) terminated both parents' parental
rights to Cameron after making the following findings by
clear and convincing evidence. See In re Hannah S.,2016 ME 32, ¶ 3, 133 A.3d 590. The parents
"continually failed" to comply with the drug
testing requirement and never tested clean for a period of
thirty days. The Department requested drug tests from both
parents on every weekday between January 22, 2016, and March
3, 2016, but neither parent complied. Permanency was
important for the child. The child had lived with his foster
parents for twenty-seven of the thirty-eight months of his
life. The foster parents provided "a loving and stable
home" for him and they planned to adopt him. The parents
did not demonstrate a commitment to maintaining a sober
lifestyle despite the passage of twenty-nine months. The
court further found that neither parent was willing and able
to protect the child from jeopardy, and those circumstances
were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated
to meet his needs, nor was either parent ...