IN RE DANIKA B. et al.
Submitted On Briefs: September 27, 2017
Nathaniel Seth Levy, Esq., Brunswick, 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, and
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.
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
[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
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 ...