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In re Ryan G.

Supreme Court of Maine

November 9, 2017

IN RE RYAN G.

          Submitted On Briefs: October 24, 2017

         Biddeford District Court docket number PC-2015-30

          Stephen H. Shea, Esq., Fairfiled & Associates, P.A., Portland, for appellant Mother

          Alison B. Thompson, Esq., Hanly Law, 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, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] The mother and father of Ryan G. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Biddeford, Foster, /.) terminating their parental rights to Ryan G. pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (ii), (iv) (2016). They challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the judgment and the court's discretionary determination of the child's best interest. The father also contends that his right to counsel was violated and that the court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for amended or additional findings of facts and conclusions of law.[1] Because the evidence supports the court's findings and discretionary determinations, we affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) that the parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and that those circumstances are unlikely to change within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, (2) that they are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, (3) that the mother has failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4041 (2016), and (4) that termination of their parental rights is in the child's best interest. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055; In re Caleb M., 2017 ME 66, ¶ 27, 159 A.3d 345. The court based these determinations on the following findings of fact.

         [¶3] In the fall of 2014, the mother and father engaged in a sexual relationship that involved the use of drugs, including crack cocaine. The mother became pregnant and the child was born drug affected due to the mother's continued abuse of drugs up until his birth, including an injection of heroin into her breast three hours before the child's delivery. The Department of Health and Human Services filed the present action pursuant to the terms of the Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act, 22 M.R.S. §§ 4001-4099-H (2016), and obtained temporary custody of the child. The court's termination order states:

Reunification efforts with [the mother] have been stymied by her repeated incarcerations over the last year and one half. The caseworker made every attempt to maintain contact with [the mother], including conducting several Family Team Meetings in jail as well as telephone contact when that was available. The reunification services for [the mother] have been consistent throughout the case - mental health and substance abuse treatment, safe and stable housing, and regular visitation. [The mother] has been unable to comply with any of those obligations. She was unable to complete the [Intensive Outpatient Program] at Key3West due to continued abuse of substances. At one point during the case, [the mother] had an intake appointment to attend Crossroads for Women, a residential substance abuse treatment program. . . . However, [she was] unable to find the facility and missed the appointment. [The mother] insisted she had been unable to reschedule another intake.
Although difficulties with transportation and communication may have complicated the reunification effort, the hard fact is that [the mother's] continued use and repeated incarcerations are the real reasons for her failure in this matter. Even if she is able to re-engage in treatment when released from jail, it will take an extended period of time to address a problem with which [the mother] has struggled for years and to persuade the [c]ourt that she has been truly successful at that endeavor.

         [¶4] Three months after the child was born and the Department obtained temporary custody, paternity testing confirmed the father's relationship to the child. After the father's initial rejection of the child, his wife encouraged him to change his position, and he expressed an interest in having contact with the child. In discussing the father, the court stated:

On one level, [the father] has been extremely cooperative with this process. As the [caseworker] acknowledged, he has expressed a willingness to do almost everything the Department has requested. He went to the initial appointment for an evaluation at Maine Behavioral Health, completed a [Families Affected by Substance Abuse evaluation] at Day One, participated in a daylong appointment for a [Court Ordered Diagnostic Evaluation], and ultimately connected with [a Violence No More ...

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