IN RE SKYLER F. et al.
Submitted On Briefs: June 14, 2017
District Court docket numbers PC-2015-45, 68.
A. MacLean, Esq., South Portland, for appellant Father of
Rosalee and Austin V. Heather Gonzales, Esq., Strike,
Gonzales & Butler Bailey, Portland, for appellant Mother
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Hunter C. Umphrey, Asst.
Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for
appellee Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, HJELM, and
The mother of Skyler F., Rosalee V., and Austin V., and the
father of Rosalee and Austin, appeal from a judgment of the
District Court (Portland, Powers, J.) terminating
their parental rights to the children pursuant to 22 M.R.S.
§4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (ii) (2016).
They challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the
judgment and the court's discretionary determinations of
the children's best interests. Because the evidence
supports the court's findings and discretionary
determinations, we affirm the judgment.
Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found,
by clear and convincing evidence, that the parents, whose
children were removed from their custody, are unable to take
responsibility for the children within a time reasonably
calculated to meet the children's needs, that they are
unable to protect the children from jeopardy and that those
circumstances are unlikely to change within a time reasonably
calculated to meet the children's needs, and that
termination of their parental rights is in the children's
best interests. See id.; In re Roberts., 2009 ME 18,
¶ 15, 966 A.2d 894. The court based these determinations
on the following findings of fact:
[The parents] clearly care dearly for all three children, but
that affection is not enough. Having a suitable apartment is
also not enough. They have also complied superficially with
most reunification requirements, but their level of
satisfact[ory] completion and application of learned
parenting practices is low. Neither parent has had
unsupervised contact since these cases began, and the trial
of less supervised visits last spring was unsuccessful. They
have not been close to having a trial home placement. There
is a serious question whether these two can apply learned
parenting concepts and techniques to the children when no
other adults are present to help. Neither was capable of
safely parenting these children when this case began, and the
evidence shows little progress in that regard. [The mother]
especially is overwhelmed by having three children, and [the
father] is out of the home substantial hours each week and
will not be present to help.
Each parent needs ongoing, lengthy counseling to deal with
their respective mental health issues. The father has a
troubling history of yelling and swearing at the children
which he is trying to overcome in counseling. Each has
trouble putting the children's needs ahead of their own.
Each continues to smoke marijuana daily with no apparent
concern. [The mother] continues to smoke in the house.
The GAL's unannounced October 2016 home visit provides a
revealing snapshot into the home situation and the
parents' lack of judgment in having little known
"strangers" in the home, leaving drugs and
paraphernalia around, and having a heavily cluttered home.
This is problematic regardless of the fact that the children
were not present at the time. Their behaviors give the court,
the GAL, and DHHS little to no confidence that these parents
are ready and able to provide a safe and stable home.
Skyler in particular has serious, ongoing mental health and
behavioral and other issues clearly related at least in part
to his upbringing. It makes no sense to send him back to
essentially the same environment, which led to his problems
in the years before this case began.
These parents continue to live a somewhat chaotic life and
are unable to provide a safe, stable, and predictable home
involvement for the three children despite their willingness
to do so. While unfortunate, it is clearly so.
The language in [22 M.R.S.] § 4003 [(2016)] notes that a
purpose of the law is to avoid uncertainty and instability in
the affected children's lives. Skyler has clearly the
most special needs of these children. Rosalee has some, and
Austin seems to have none. The professionals are clear that
Skyler in particular needs a safe and permanent home ...