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In re Danika B.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 24, 2017

IN RE DANIKA B. et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 27, 2017

          Nathaniel Seth Levy, Esq., Brunswick, 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


          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] The mother of Danika B., Victor B., and Daytona C. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Lewiston, Dow, /.) terminating her parental rights to the children pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2016). The mother argues that the court's finding that the Department of Health and Human Services did not make reasonable efforts to "shape and monitor" counseling for her compels us to conclude that the termination of her parental rights was improper. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The court based its decision to terminate the mother's parental rights on the following factual findings, which are supported by the record:

[T]he Department has made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate and reunify the family, and has made reasonable efforts to identify and pursue an alternative permanency plan. These efforts include rehabilitation and reunification planning, family team meetings, safety assessments, random drug screening for the mother, referral to domestic violence education and services for the mother, supervised visitation for the mother, ICPC study for kinship placement, mental health and parental assessment for the mother, medical and mental health care for the children, referral to case management for the mother, [and] foster care for the children. While the Department referred the mother to mental health counseling, the Department failed to take reasonable steps to shape and monitor the quality of that counseling, and such failure makes the counseling fall short of qualifying as a reasonable effort by DHHS.
. . . Child protection services has been involved with [the mother and] these children ... over and over since 2003. Despite repeated interventions, the chronic problems in the household are exposure to domestic violence, squalid and unsafe living conditions, housing instability, and inadequate supervision and care of children.
The relationship with [the father] has, in fact, been violent, with both [parents] as perpetrators, and the children as witnesses. [The mother] has not shown accountability for her violence or changed the belief system that underpins recurrent domestic violence. The Court adopts [the evaluator's] finding that, "[o]ne of the biggest obstacles for [the mother] is her lack of insight and recognition regarding the problems in her life and the role she plays in them." [The mother] has chosen to have contact with [the father] throughout the pendency of this case.
[The mother] succeeded in attending and completing certain services. In May of 2016, she successfully completed DBT group. She attended a parenting class. Since June of 2016, she has engaged in counseling . . . and she attended the majority of scheduled case management sessions These are good things.
However, desirable results from these services remain elusive. The Court notes, for example, that [the mother's] completion of DBT class preceded by only a few weeks her emotional escalation to aggressiveness toward a visit supervisor at a supervised visit on May 31, 2016. Police were called and visits were suspended for a time. It was the kind of escalation that DBT is intended to prevent.
As for counseling, the Court was gravely disappointed with the testimony of [the counselor] that she was not 100 percent sure she had seen [the evaluator's] parental assessment of [the mother]. She certainly has not been using that assessment as a guide to focus the efforts in counseling. [The counselor] identified the goals of her counseling of [the mother] to be addressing depression, PTSD, and reunification with the children. Despite months of weekly counseling sessions, [the counselor] was not aware that [the mother] had been a perpetrator of domestic violence against [the father], not aware of the extent to which [the mother] has continued to see [the father], and not aware that [the mother] had been convicted of three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The trauma that [the mother and the counselor] seem to be processing together seems to be the difficult experience of having the children removed by DHHS rather than [the ...

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