Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2017
S. Bristol, Esq., Auburn, for appellant father.
Hunt, Esq., Kennebunk, 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, JABAR, HJELM, and
The parents of Arturo G. appeal from a judgment of the
District Court (Biddeford, Foster, J.) terminating
their parental rights to Arturo pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(T), (ii) (2016) and, with
respect to the father, § 4O55(1)(B)(2)(b)(iv). Arturo is
two and a half years old and, as a result of his parents'
drug addictions, has lived with four different care providers
in his short life. The father challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence to support the court's finding of unfitness.
He also argues that he was deprived of due process when the
court denied his motion to continue a hearing on the ground
that he was experiencing withdrawal from Suboxone. The mother
argues that the court erroneously admitted hearsay evidence
in the form of drug test results. The evidence supports the
court's factual findings; the father received due
process; and the court did not abuse its discretion in
admitting evidence of the mother's drug test results. We
affirm the judgment.
On April 23, 2015, the Department of Health and Human
Services filed a petition for a child protection order
concerning the child, who at that time was only two weeks
old. The Department based its petition on the parents'
significant history of substance abuse and incarceration and
on a prior order terminating the mother's parental rights
to her older daughter. On June 5, 2015, the court entered a
jeopardy order with respect to the father, to which he
agreed. Pursuant to that jeopardy order, the father was
required to submit to random testing for drugs and alcohol by
both hair and urine, and the Department was required to
facilitate the father's substance abuse counseling.
On July 17, 2015, the court entered a jeopardy order as to
the mother, to which she agreed. Pertinent to this appeal,
that order included a provision that "[u]pon request of
the Department, mother shall promptly submit to random
testing for drugs and/or alcohol by both hair and urine; test
results shall be admissible in these proceedings."
The Department filed a petition to terminate the parental
rights of both parents on August 11, 2016. A hearing on the
petition was held on May 8 and 9, 2017. On the morning of the
first day of the hearing, the father moved to continue the
hearing on the ground that he was suffering from symptoms of
withdrawal from Suboxone. He stated that the withdrawal
resulted from the Department's decision to cut off
payments for the Suboxone in order to force the father into
releasing records documenting his substance abuse counseling.
In support of the motion, the father's counsel stated
that because of the withdrawal symptoms, the father was
"at a little bit of a disadvantage." He later
stated, "I don't believe he's incoherent, but
he's saying that it has affected his ability
The court summarized the positions of the parties: "The
Department's saying they have an obligation... to make
sure the person is using the medication as prescribed and is
attending counseling as recommended [The father] is arguing
the Department calculatedly did so to place him at a
disadvantage at a time that we are on the verge of
hearing." The court clarified that the Department was
not withholding Suboxone but withholding payments until the
father provided the Department with records showing that he
had been receiving treatment. The court stated, "[the
father] had every reason to understand the Department would
be seeking those records and had an obligation to sign the
releases in a timely fashion." It denied the motion to
The Department's first witness was a substance abuse
counselor. He testified that within seventy-two hours of
Suboxone withdrawal, a person is likely to experience
"[h]eadaches, poor sleep, chills, sweating, diarrhea,
vomiting, weakness, craving, anxiety, depression, [and]
frustration." The father renewed his motion to continue.
The Department objected to the motion and offered to obtain
an immediate authorization for a prescription. The court once
again denied the motion. The father received treatment during
a break on the first day, and he testified on the following
Also on the morning of the first day of the hearing, the
mother objected to the admission of certain positive drug
test results from a laboratory engaged by the mother's
substance abuse counseling service pursuant to her
reunification plan. The mother contended that the reports
were inadmissible hearsay and were not covered by the