Submitted On Briefs: January 11, 2018
Doyle, Esq., Next Step DV Project, Ellsworth, for appellant
M. Corbett, Esq., Law Office of Dawn M. Corbett, PA,
Ellsworth, for appellant father.
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.
ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
The mother and the father of Emma S. appeal from a judgment
of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, /.)
terminating their parental rights to the child pursuant to 22
M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii)
(2017). Both parents challenge the sufficiency of the
evidence supporting the court's finding of parental
unfitness and the court's discretionary determination
that termination is in the best interest of the child.
See id. § 4O55(1)(B)(2). The father
additionally challenges whether the Department met its
obligation pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4041 (2017) to
provide reunification services. We affirm the judgment.
Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by
clear and convincing evidence that both parents (1) are
unable to protect the child from jeopardy, and these
circumstances are unlikely to change within a time that is
reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs and (2)
are unable to take responsibility for the child within a time
that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii). The
court also determined that termination of the mother's
and father's parental rights is in the child's best
interest. See id. § 4O55(1)(B)(2)(a). We review
the trial court's factual findings that a parent is unfit
and that termination of parental rights is in the child's
best interest for clear error and the ultimate decision to
terminate parental rights for an abuse of discretion.
Adoption of Isabelle T., 2017 ME 220, ¶ 30,
The court based its determinations on the following findings
[The child] is 4 years of age. She has witnessed domestic
violence and substance abuse by her parents. She has a
profound fear of abandonment. She suffers from PTSD
[post-traumatic stress disorder], is still processing earlier
trauma and struggles with significant anxiety regarding
separation from her caregivers. [The child's] issues stem
from the chaos of her life while in her parents' care.
[The father] has taken significant steps toward reunification
with his daughter. He has engaged in counseling for opiate
addiction for over 18 months. He has not counseled for
alcohol abuse. His [substance abuse] counselor testified that
[the father] is not alcohol dependent. [The father] is an
intense individual. Alcohol brings out his aggressive
tendencies. He has completed 24 of the 48 required
[Batterer's Intervention Program] groups and received a
positive reference from [his BIP counselor].... He has not
accepted responsibility for his prior assaultive behavior.
The lack of specific alcohol counseling combined with this
denial indicate to the court that he continues to pose a risk
of violence to his domestic partners and has not alleviated
the jeopardy that violence poses to [the child].
[The child] must take antibiotics daily and be constantly
monitored. [The father] is employed as a fisherman. He works
hard to earn sufficient funds to maintain a home.
Unfortunately, his work hours are unpredictable and not
within his control. His employment caused him to miss visits
with [the child] and counseling sessions with [his BIP
counselor]. He cannot maintain a consistent routine at home.
His plans for [the child's] care while he is working are
not particularly structured. [The child] needs routine and
stability in her home. She will suffer significant trauma if
placed in an unstable living environment.
This is a very old case, and [the child] needs permanency.
The child has been in the custody of DHHS since August of
2015. Despite the length of time and the numerous
opportunities, [the father] is not yet in a position to care
for [the child].
[The mother] has struggled with opiate addiction for the last
seven years. She engaged in substance abuse counseling on
multiple occasions. The initial Jeopardy finding herein was
based in large part on her substance abuse. She has taken
steps in support of her efforts to rehabilitate and reunify.
She began counseling at a treatment facility in the summer of
2016. In early October of 2016 she left for Florida without
notifying the Department. She participated in an intensive
substance abuse program in Florida, returning to Maine on
January 4, 2017. She did not communicate with the Department,
or [the child] throughout this period. Upon returning to
Maine [the mother] relapsed. She entered another treatment
facility on March 14, 2017, acknowledging that she had been
using heroin and cocaine. She is currently prescribed
Methadone and is participating in counseling. [The mother]
has been unable to provide ...