IN RE MARIAH Y. et al.
Submitted On Briefs: April 27, 2017
D. Hatch, Esq., Waterville, and the Mother, pro se, for
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.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
The mother of Mariah Y. and Jebediah Y. appeals from a
judgment of the District Court (Bangor, Jordan, J.)
terminating her parental rights to the children pursuant to
22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (1)(B)(2)
(2016). Counsel for the mother filed a brief
indicating that there were no arguable issues of merit in
this appeal and, in an order dated February 14, 2017, we
afforded the mother the opportunity to file a supplemental
Pursuant to that order, the mother filed a supplemental brief
purporting to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence
underlying the termination of her parental rights. The
mothers brief recounts how her history as a victim of abuse
has affected her and her capacity to care for her children.
However, the mothers brief does not demonstrate any error in
the trial courts findings regarding her incapacity to care
for Mariah and Jebediah as a result of her past conduct and
her present incarceration. That incarceration will end, at
the earliest, in October 2017, a year after the termination
hearing in the trial court.
Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found,
by clear and convincing evidence, that the mother was unable
to protect the children from jeopardy and that these
circumstances were unlikely to change within a time
reasonably calculated to meet the childrens needs, see
id. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i); was unable to take
responsibility for the children within a time reasonably
calculated to meet their needs, see id. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(ii); failed to engage in a good faith
rehabilitation and reunification effort, see id.
§ 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(iv); and that termination of her
parental rights is in the childrens best interests,
see 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a). See In re
Robert S., 2009 ME 18, ¶ 15, 966 A.2d 894. The
court based this decision on the following specific findings
The mother was convicted of one count of gross sexual
assault, 17-A M.R.S. § 253(1)(B) (2016), and three
counts of endangering the welfare of a child, 17-A M.R.S.
§ 554(1)(C) (2016). The mother initially admitted to the
behaviors that constituted the sexual abuse. The victim of
the gross sexual assault was the mothers oldest daughter, who
was the subject of a separate child protection proceeding. As
a result of the mothers actions, a jeopardy order in this
proceeding was entered based on the courts finding that the
children were in jeopardy to their health and welfare in the
care and custody of their mother due to a threat of sexual
abuse. The Department was relieved of its obligation to
pursue reunification efforts with the mother because the
court found the existence of a statutory aggravating factor.
See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4002(1-B)(A)(1),
On May 1, 2015, the mother was sentenced to fifteen years
incarceration with all but three years suspended on the
conviction for gross sexual assault. She is currently serving
that sentence but has filed a petition for post-conviction
review based on alleged defects in the trial and in trial
While incarcerated, the mother has engaged in the educational
and psychological services available to her. She has taken
parenting classes and domestic violence classes, and has
attended counseling. She also enrolled in a sex offenders
counseling group, but admitted she did so only to avoid
returning to prison from the re-entry center where she is
currently housed. Despite having admitted to the abuse in her
criminal trial, the mother now denies having committed the
sexual assault at all and is adamant that she does not need
sex offender counseling.
The children have been placed with a foster family and have
done well over the last two years in that placement. The
current foster parents may be willing to be permanent
guardians, but they have not yet committed to that course.
The trial court acknowledged that, pursuant to 22 M.R.S.
§ 4055(1-A)(A) (2016), it could presume that the mother
is unwilling or unable to protect the children from jeopardy
upon finding that she "has acted toward a child in a
manner that is heinous or abhorrent to society." The
trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the
gross sexual assault committed by ...