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In re Cameron B.

Supreme Court of Maine

January 26, 2017

IN RE CAMERON B.

          Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2016

          Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant mother

          Charles Helfrich, Esq., Ellsworth, 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.T.. and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶l] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] 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.

         [¶3] 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.

         [¶4] 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.

         [¶5] 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.

         [¶6] 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.

         [¶7] 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 ...


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