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In re Dominykt

Supreme Court of Maine

December 7, 2017

IN RE DOMINYKT.

          Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2017

          Dawn M. Corbett, Esq., Law Office of Dawn M. Corbett, PA, Ellsworth, for appellant mother

          Mary Kellett Gray, Esq., Brooklin, 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 ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          REPORTER OF DECISIONS

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] The parents of Dominyk T. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, J.) terminating their parental rights to the child. The mother argues, and the father joins in her argument, that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to satisfy its obligation to provide necessary services to the mother and that the record cannot support the finding of parental unfitness or the determination that the termination of her parental rights is in Dominyks best interest. The father also contends that, although he is unable to care for the child, the mother and he should both retain their parental rights. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] When the Department petitioned for a child protection order in February 2015, the child had already been residing apart from both parents with family members as part of an agreed upon safety plan. The child has a genetic disorder that causes rapid growth in the first years of life and can result in physical and behavioral challenges. The Department alleged in its petition that the father was unable to maintain sobriety and that the mother could not maintain a stable home and safely care for the child.

         [¶3] Upon the parties agreement, the court found in March 2015 that the child was in jeopardy with the mother due to the involuntary termination of her parental rights to two other children in 2005, her inability to keep Dominyk safe or meet his medical needs, her inability to maintain appropriate housing, and her repeated choice of unsafe partners. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4002(6), 4035(2) (2016). The father conceded that, due to his struggles with alcohol abuse, he was unable to care for Dominyk.

         [¶4] The Department first filed a petition to terminate the parents parental rights in February 2016. The court held a trial on that petition in November and December 2016 and was not persuaded that the Department had established the mothers unfitness. On that basis, the court denied the petition, and the Department then transitioned the child into the mothers care.

         [¶5] After the Department received new evidence of injuries to Dominyk, it filed another petition to terminate the parents parental rights on April 11, 2017. The court held a trial on that petition and on July 11, 2017, entered a judgment granting the petition to terminate the parents parental rights after finding, by clear and convincing evidence, the following facts, all of which are supported by competent evidence in the record. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2) (2016); In re A.M., 2012 ME 118, ¶ 29, 55 A.3d 463.

[The mother] is very willing to take responsibility for Dominyk and to protect him from jeopardy. She is simply unable to care for him consistently. [The mother] worked extremely hard to alleviate the issues that brought him into care. She engaged in counseling ... for close to 2 years. [The counselor] remains supportive of [the mother] indicating that she is a competent parent committed to her child and able to set appropriate limits for him. At hearing, [the mother] articulated the parenting knowledge that she has acquired. She can describe Dominyks needs and the parenting skills that she would utilize to deal with him. [Her] parenting progress is contradicted by the observations of the in-home care providers. She cannot consistently apply the parenting skills that she has acquired.
Dominyk was transitioned into [the mothers] care on December 30, 2016, following the courts denial of the Departments first termination petition. [The mother] received HCT [home and community treatment] services . . . following Dominyks placement in her home. [The HCT worker] noted that Dominyk exhibited heightened aggression following his return. She observed that [the mother] has a low stress threshold while Dominyk is quick to agitate. This resulted in clashes between the two. [The mother] would become agitated with Dominyk, he would respond with aggression and the HCT worker would intervene to calm the situation. Unfortunately, [the mother] admitted that she couldnt maintain the calm environment. [The mother]s partner confirmed that he and [the mother] were becoming irritable before March 30th. They werent calm. Dominyk was hard to handle. [The mothers fiancé] felt that they really needed time away from Dominyk.
[The HCT worker] and . . . Dominyks school nurse noted that [physiological hygiene issues were] a significant concern during his placement with [the mother]. . . . [The HCT worker] addressed her concerns with [the mother]. [The mother] could acknowledge the issue and seek guidance from [the HCT ...

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