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In re Noah B.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 5, 2017

IN RE NOAH B.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 27, 2017

          Zack M. Paakkonen, Esq., Portland Legal LLC, Portland, 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, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] The mother of Noah B. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating her parental rights to Noah pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2016).[1] She challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the judgment and the courts discretionary determination of the childs best interest. Because the evidence supports the courts findings and discretionary determination, we affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the mother is unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet his needs and that she is unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet his needs. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii); In re Cameron B., 2017 ME 18, ¶ 10, 154 A.3d 1199. The court also found that termination of the mothers parental rights is in the childs best interest. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055 (1)(B)(2)(a); In re Cameron B., 2017 ME 18, ¶ 10, 154 A.3d 1199. The court based its findings of parental unfitness and its determination of the childs best interest on the following findings of fact:

[The mother] has previously had her parental rights to four children terminated....
In this case, on February 3, 2016, [the child] was ... found to have petechial bruising on the right side of his face....
When asked about the injuries, [the mother] first blamed the father for inflicting them. Once confronted with evidence that the father was not available to inflict the injuries at the time they were inflicted, she admitted that she had been the one who inflicted them. As a result of the injuries, a Preliminary Protection Order was entered, and subsequently a Jeopardy Order was entered. A Rehabilitation and Reunification plan was put in place, and [the mother] began to make good progress with that plan. Because of the progress [the mother] was allowed weekly unsupervised visits with [the child] .... After the third such visit [the child] returned to his foster home with bruises on his arm....
Again [the mother] was asked about the bruises and denied that she had inflicted them. . . . [The child] was in her care at a time when the injuries were most likely to have occurred. [The child] told his foster mother that his mother had done it... . The Court finds that [the mother] again struck [the child] even when she was progressing on her rehabilitation and reunification plan.
... This is the second time that [the child] has been removed from [the mothers] care and placed with foster parents. He should not have to go through this process again and needs to have permanency at this time.
... He is well bonded to the members of his foster family and needs to move on in that safe and stable family setting....

         [¶3] The court further found that the childs "physical conditions" and "cognitive challenges" make him incapable of "protecting himself from harm." The court found that the mothers "personality disorder with narcissistic and borderline traits and a history of antisocial features, " characterized by "rigid" thinking, "low tolerance for stress, " and a "lower ability to adapt to and react to novel situations, " is "difficult to treat and may require extensive time to allow treatment to be effective." Due to the mothers condition, history of abuse, and the childs high needs, the court found that it could not "allow placement with [the mother], or even to move again to unsupervised visits given the risk that [the child] would again have an injury inflicted upon him." The court stated that it "does not know when [the mother] might ... be considered a safe placement" and "there is no guarantee that. . . therapy will remediate [the mothers] problem, and it may take a long time, measured in years, to find out if [therapy] has worked." Noting that "[t]ime is measured from [the childs] perspective, " the court found that the mother-despite her effort and progress-remains ...


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