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In re Asanah S.

Supreme Court of Maine

January 23, 2018

IN RE ASANAH S.

          Submitted On Briefs: January 11, 2018

         Lewiston District Court docket number PC-2016-60

          Jeffrey S. Dolley, Esq., Lewiston, 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: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] The father of Asanah S. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Lewiston, Lawrence, J.) terminating his parental rights to Asanah pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iii) (2017).[1] He alleges that the court impermissibly relied on his imprisonment in finding parental unfitness and argues that the court erred by determining that terminating his parental rights was in the child's best interest. Because the evidence supports the court's findings and discretionary determination, we affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the father is unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet her needs, that the father is unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet her needs, and that the father abandoned the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(iii); In re Cameron B., 2017 ME 18, ¶ 10, 154 A.3d 1199. The court also determined that termination of the father's parental rights is in the child's best interest. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a); In re Cameron B., 2017 ME 18, ¶ 10, 154 A.3d 1199. The court based its findings of parental unfitness and its determination of the child's best interest on the following findings of fact:

[The father] has been incarcerated since October of 2010 for convictions on charges of Assault and Battery and being an Armed Career Criminal. He believes he will be incarcerated on these charges until 2020.... He is now 46 years old and has been incarcerated for about 20 years. The only time that [the father] actually has seen [the child] was one time in 2008 [The father] acknowledged that he is unable to care for [the child] because of his incarceration.
[The father] is aware that [the child] is living with [her maternal grandfather] and he believes it is beneficial for her to be living with him. . . . [He] asks the court to order a permanency guardianship with [the grandfather].
... [The child] experienced trauma in the past and exhibited symptoms of PTSD and anxiety... . [The child] is grateful for her placement with [her grandfather]; she has a greater sense of security and stability because she feels safe with him and has no concerns that he will hurt her. [The grandfather's] boundaries and discipline have been appropriate. For [the child], [the grandfather's] house equals home.
... [The child] does not recall ever meeting [the father]
. . . [The grandfather] testified that he is absolutely ready, willing and able to adopt [the child].

         [¶3] The court explained that "[i]ncarceration is an important factor ... to consider in termination proceedings, " but that "it is not dispositive." It then outlined certain factors that a court should consider in a termination proceeding when a parent is incarcerated, including "the parent-child relationship before and after incarceration, " the psychological effect of the incarceration on the child, and the parent's ability to fulfill his or her parental responsibilities while incarcerated. See In re Alijah K.,2016 ME 137, ¶ 16, 147 A.3d 1159. With these factors in mind, the court found that the father "has failed to develop any parent-child relationship" with the child; the father "will be serving another three years in prison"; the child "does not know him"; and the child "has not had any contact with [the father's] family or built a ...


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