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In re Bentlee G.

Supreme Court of Maine

December 21, 2017

IN RE BENTLEE G. et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2017

          Amy McNally, Esq., Woodman Edmands Danylik Austin Smith & Jacques, P.A., Biddeford, for appellant father

          Nathaniel Seth Levy, Esq., Brunswick, for appellant mother

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Hunter C. Umphrey, 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.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶l] The father of Bentlee G. and Brenton G. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Springvale, Janelle, J.) terminating his parental rights to Bentlee G., pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2016), and finding jeopardy as to Brenton G., pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4035(2) (2016). The father challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support (1) the court's finding of parental unfitness and its determination that termination was in Bentlee G.'s best interest, and (2) the court's finding of jeopardy as to Brenton G. The mother of Bentlee G. and Brenton G. challenges the jeopardy order as to Bentlee G. (Springvale, Foster, J.) entered on January 26, 2016. The mother argues that the court's finding of jeopardy as to Bentlee G. was "void for vagueness." To the extent that the mother's challenges constitute a direct appeal from the jeopardy order issued on January 26, 2016, it is untimely and not properly before us. Because the evidence supports the court's findings as to both parents, we affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The court based its decision to terminate the mother's and the father's parental rights as to Bentlee G., and its finding of jeopardy as to Brenton G., on the following factual findings:

[The mother and father] are the biological parents of Bentlee and Brenton. [The mother] has an older son... who was the subject of an earlier child protection matter. . . .
[The mother and father] began their relationship in 2014, while [the mother's other son's] case with the Department was still pending. At that time, the Department required [the father] to engage in services so that [the mother's] reunification efforts with [the mother's other son] [would] not... be disrupted. . . .
[The father's] reunification plan required him to "provide a safe and stable living situation that is free of unsafe individuals" and "work with providers to ensure that his mental health is appropriately addressed and learn the skills needed to care for his children while still meeting his own mental health needs" and "work with parenting supports to learn necessary skills to care for his child and will demonstrate an understanding of these skills by ensuring that the child's needs are consistently met when he is in [the father's] care" and "engage in mental health counseling and follow any and all recommendations made by his provider to ensure that his mental health needs are being met." Additionally, the plan calls on [the father] to develop coping skills, obtain safe and stable housing and learn appropriate parenting skills. . . .
[The mother's] plan closely mirrored that of [the father's] and included managing her mental health needs, developing skills to engage in healthy communications and relationships and to identify safe and appropriate caregivers, acquiring the skills to develop a lifestyle that promotes physical and emotional well-being, obtaining safe and stable housing, learning to appropriately manage medications, "managing her 'gut reaction' to yell scream, etc." when under stress, and to make decisions in the best interests of her children notwithstanding any impact on her romantic relationship and engaging in parenting classes in order to learn necessary parenting skills and co-parenting skills.
[A] licensed clinical psychologist... evaluated [the father] on October 26, 2016 and he issued his 23-page written report on November 4, 2016. [The clinical psychologist] notes that [the father] has an 11th grade education (lacks a GED) with a very spotty employment record (never held a formal job for any length of time). [The father] reported that he had been on disability for his entire adult life but he could not provide [the clinical psychologist] with information about the nature of his disability. [The father] reported suffering chronic back and joint pain from multiple accidents sustained while riding all-terrain vehicles (ATV's). [The father] reported a history of multiple arrests but was unsure of whether he had served time in jail. [The clinical psychologist], relying on the results of tests, questionnaires and other assessment tools, reports that [the father] had a full-scale IQ of 76 (well below average range) with a "mental status" score falling in the "dementia range" with some impairment in his ability to interact with his present environment. . . .

[The father] remains in treatment with [a licensed clinical social worker] pursuant to his ...


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