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In re Hope H.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 5, 2017

IN RE HOPE H. et al.

          On Briefs: September 27, 2017

          Carina Cilluffo, Esq., Portland, for appellant mother

          Peter M. McGee, Esq., South Portland, for appellant father

          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 and father of Hope H., Jason J., and Kristopher J. appeal from the judgment of the District Court (Springvale, Foster, J.) terminating their parental rights to their twin sons pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv)[1] (2016). The mother also appeals from the same judgment terminating her parental rights to her daughter pursuant to the same statutory provisions. The parents both challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the courts finding of at least one ground of parental unfitness and the courts determination that termination of their parental rights was in their children's best interests. The mother also challenges the courts exclusion of the children's grandmothers testimony as hearsay.

         [¶2] Contrary to the parents contentions, competent evidence in the record supports the courts findings that the parents are unwilling or unable to protect the children from jeopardy and otherwise take responsibility for the children within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children's needs and that the father has failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the children pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4041 (2016). The court appropriately exercised its discretion in concluding that termination of their parental rights was in the children's best interests. Furthermore, the record shows that the court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the grandmothers proffered testimony regarding "[s]ome of the stories that Hope has made up." We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶3] Clear and convincing evidence in the record supports the courts findings that the mother and the father are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for the children and protect them from the risks of harm that have persisted since the court issued the jeopardy order. 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(B)(2).

          [¶4] The initial jeopardy order was based upon the parents

inability to appropriately address their boys behavioral challenges and mental health needs; emotional harm due to [their] inability to obtain and maintain adequate, sanitary and stable housing for [themselves] and the children; and the risk of harm based on the mothers lack of support around her daughter[s] ... reports [and the fathers] sexually inappropriate communications with her.
... Jeopardy also consists of a risk of harm to the boys[ ] based on [the fathers] conduct to their half-sister.

         [¶5] Until July 2016, approximately a year and a half after her daughters disclosure of the fathers sexually inappropriate communications, the mother maintained that the daughters disclosures were the product of a delusion and insisted on having her evaluated for a delusional disorder. Despite her daughters consistent statements and medical examinations that ruled out the possibility that her daughter had any disorder, at the termination hearing the mother maintained doubts about the truth of her daughters disclosures regarding the father. The father continues to deny that anything happened, although he acknowledges the courts finding to the ...


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