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In re Tyrel L.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 31, 2017

IN RE TYREL L.

          Submitted On Briefs: October 24, 2017

          Valerie A. Randall, Esq., Rioux, Donahue, Chmelecki & Peltier LLC, 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 MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child protection proceedings as to the child on May 21, 2014.[1] 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.

         [¶3] 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 in them....
[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 ...

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