Submitted On Briefs: October 24, 2017
Valerie A. Randall, Esq., Rioux, Donahue, Chmelecki &
Peltier LLC, Portland, for appellant father
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 MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
The father of Tyrel L. appeals from a judgment of the
District Court (Biddeford, Janelle, /.) terminating
his parental rights pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv) (2016). He
raises directly on appeal an ineffective assistance of
counsel claim and challenges the court's discretionary
determination of the child's best interest. Concluding
that the father failed to present a prima facie case of
attorney ineffectiveness and that the record evidence
supports the court's findings and best interest
determination, we affirm the judgment.
The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child
protection proceedings as to the child on May 21,
2014. The court [Douglas, J.) entered a
preliminary protection order that day placing the child in
Department custody. After a contested hearing, by order dated
December 19, 2014, the court found jeopardy to the child
based on neglect, the child's failure to thrive, the
child's significant developmental delays, and the
father's failure to engage in services recommended by the
Department. The Department filed a petition to terminate the
father's parental rights on December 14, 2015.
The court (Janelle, J.) held a one-day contested
hearing on the Department's petition to terminate the
father's parental rights on March 2, 2017. On that same
date, the father's counsel asserted that the father
stated that he wished to end the representation and filed a
motion to withdraw, which the court denied. The court
terminated the father's parental rights in a judgment
dated March 28, 2017. The court based its unfitness and best
interest determinations on the following findings of fact:
The Department . . . filed this protective case [based on a]
risk of immediate harm ... premised on the parents' high
severity neglect (substance abuse, mental health and
cognitive impairment issues) and [the child] being a
"failure to thrive" child....
[The father] acknowledges that he suffers from a chronic case
of polysubstance abuse (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other
drugs) and that he also struggles with episodes of major
depression and anxiety....
Following the Department's intervention in this case and
[the child's] placement in its custody the Department
developed a reunification plan and made reasonable and
appropriate services available to the family. [The father]
alternatively chose not to access most services and
opportunities or, at other times, chose not to invest himself
[The father] acknowledges that he is not in a position, at
this time, to provide what [the child] needs. [The child] has
been in Departmental custody for the majority of his young
life. His mother's rights have been terminated. [The
father] admits that he is not yet ready to take
responsibility for [the child].
[The father] admits that he needs substance abuse treatment.
[He] acknowledges that what he really needs is not outpatient
treatment but inpatient treatment. [He] also believes that he
needs counseling . . . following substance abuse
rehabilitation to begin to get a handle on his "anger
management" issues. To date [the ...