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In re Jesse B.

Supreme Court of Maine

May 9, 2017

IN RE JESSE B.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 27, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Aaron M. Frey, Esq., Bangor, for appellant father.

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

          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, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] The parents of Jesse B. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Bangor, Jordan, J.) terminating their parental rights to Jesse pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2) (2016). Both parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the courts findings of parental unfitness, and the mother also challenges the courts discretionary determination of the childs best interest. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Contrary to the parents contentions, there is competent evidence in the record to support the courts findings, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet the childs needs. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii); In re Logan M., 2017 ME 23, ¶¶ 2-3, 155 A.3d 430. That evidence, described in the courts thorough decision, included the following.

         [¶3] The child, who was nearly three years old at the time of the termination hearing, suffers from chronic, severe medical conditions causing a number of developmental delays. His conditions include a missing corpus callosum-a band of nerve fibers that would normally connect the two halves of his brain-which diminishes some of his intellectual functions; an underdevelopment of the optic nerve that makes it difficult for him to learn language and may prevent him from reading; spastic quadriparesis, a type of cerebral palsy affecting both sides of his body, which results in muscle rigidity and impaired mobility; and an atrial septal defect, which is a hole between the upper two chambers of his heart. He is also being monitored for hormonal and urological issues.

         [¶4] Because of his conditions, the child requires regular treatment and monitoring by a team of more than ten educational specialists and medical providers. The child also requires an unusually high degree of competence and engagement by his caretakers, who must provide in-home treatment and accurately inform the childs specialists and providers about his progress. The failure to ensure that the child attends close to 100 percent of his appointments would pose a serious risk that the child would regress and suffer additional medical issues, as demonstrated by the following:

• The childs developmental pediatrician testified that if the child does not receive consistent physical therapy his joints may become "frozen" in place, negatively affecting his mobility-a condition that could only be corrected with surgery, if at all; and that if the child does not "get regular care" his doctors "may miss some medical complications that could certainly impair [his] quality of life" and that his development "would at best plateau" and may decline.
• The childs speech therapist testified that if the child does not consistently attend appointments there would be "safety concerns" because the child might be unable to comprehend verbal warnings about dangerous situations.
• The childs neurologist testified that the failure to follow through with the childs speech therapy could cause him to become frustrated and aggressive due to challenges with communication, and that the frustration could become so severe that he ...

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