Submitted On Briefs: April 27, 2017
M. Champagne, Esq., Champagne & Simpson, LLC, Biddeford,
for appellant Mother
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 Mya E. appeals from a judgment of the District
Court (Biddeford, Foster, J.) terminating her
parental rights pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(A)(1)(a)
and (B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii) (2016). She argues that the court's
determination of parental unfitness is not supported by the
evidence and that the court abused its discretion by finding
that termination of her rights was in the child's best
interest. We affirm the judgment.
The following facts, which were found by the court and which
we review for clear error, see Guardianship of Hailey
M., 2016 ME 80, ¶ 15, 140 A.3d 478, are supported
by competent evidence in the record, see In re Cameron
B., 2017 ME 18, ¶ 10, 154 A.3d 1199. The
mother's parental rights to her six older children have
been terminated through the child protection process, largely
due to her chronic substance abuse and mental health issues.
The mother-who, the record indicates, was 29 years old at the
time- became pregnant in early 2014 with her seventh child,
Mya. In light of the pregnancy, the mother was switched by
her doctor from Suboxone, which she was taking to address her
opiate dependence, to Subutex, although when the prescription
ended the mother purchased Suboxone off the street. She also
used marijuana during the pregnancy. The child was born drug
affected on November 9, 2014, and required in-hospital
treatment for withdrawal for several weeks.
The Department of Health and Human Services filed for and
obtained a preliminary child protection order on November 12,
2014, and placed the child with a licensed foster family when
the child was discharged from the hospital in late November.
The mother and father agreed to a jeopardy order in January
2015. The Department's reunification plan
for the mother required her to actively engage in drug
addiction treatment; engage in mental health services,
including working with a therapist; acquire the skills
necessary to parent a vulnerable high-needs infant; and
locate stable housing.
As the trial court found, the mother struggled to satisfy the
requirements of the reunification plan. Despite two
admissions into a residential treatment program and twice
entering an intensive outpatient program (IOP) to address her
substance abuse issues, the mother continuously tested
positive for marijuana and regularly tested positive for
opiates and irregular levels of Suboxone-which was prescribed
to her and should have been present at a consistent
level-from late 2014 through early 2016. During 2015, the
mother had a weeklong relapse on crack cocaine in March, a
one-day relapse on opiates and benzodiazepines in April, and
a relapse on cocaine and fentanyl in June.
In early 2016, the mother was asked to "step out"
of IOP because her continued marijuana use violated program
rules, and she transitioned to a less intensive program that
met on a weekly basis. Her doctor at the IOP discharged her
from Suboxone treatment in March 2016 for failure to
participate because her drug screen was positive for
marijuana and negative for Suboxone. The mother reacted
strongly to her discharge from Suboxone treatment, and she
disengaged from the weekly program and from individual
The mother has been unable to maintain stable housing that
would be safe for a child. At the commencement of this
proceeding, she lived with her mother and stepfather, who use
marijuana regularly and have a history of more serious
substance abuse. When the mother did get her own apartment,
she allowed her mother and stepfather to move in and allowed
the child's father to spend time in the apartment. He
actively used drugs there and, in April 2016, had a
near-fatal overdose requiring emergency response.
Meanwhile, the child has been raised by the same foster
family throughout the duration of this case. The child has a
strong bond with the foster parents, who are prepared to
adopt the child into their family.
The court's findings are supported by clear and
convincing evidence in the record, which indicate that the
mother is unwilling or unable to protect the child from
jeopardy, and take responsibility for the child, in a time
reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs.
See 22 M.R.S. §4055(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii); In re
R.M.,2015 ME 38, ¶¶ 7-8, 114 A.3d 212.
Furthermore, based on the record evidence, the court did not
abuse its discretion by finding that it was in the ...