IN RE MEENA H. et al.
Submitted On Briefs: January 11, 2018
District Court docket numbers PC-2016-5 and PC-2016-6
M. Apantaku, Esq., Schneider & Brewer, Waterville, for
appellant mother Heidi M. Pushard, Esq., Lewiston, for
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, 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 of Meena H. and Blayne H. and the father of Blayne
H. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Waterville,
Stanfill, J.) terminating their parental rights
pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a),
(b)(i)-(ii) (2017). The mother challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence to support the trial court's finding of
parental unfitness. Counsel for the father filed a brief
indicating that there are no arguable issues with merit in
this appeal and, by order signed September 26, 2017, we
granted the father the opportunity to file a supplemental
brief. The father did not file any supplemental materials.
Concluding that the evidence supports the court's
findings, we affirm the judgment.
The court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the
mother and Blayne's father were unable to protect the
children from jeopardy or take responsibility for the
children within a time reasonably calculated to meet their
needs, and that the termination of their parental rights is
in the children's best interests. See 22 M.R.S.
§ 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii). We review the factual
findings supporting the determination of parental unfitness
for clear error. See In re Logan M., 2017 ME 23,
¶ 3, 155 A.3d 430. The court based its determination of
unfitness on the following findings of fact.
This case began in January 2016, but the family's
involvement with the Department started long before that.
Blayne and Meena . . . were the subjects of petitions for
child protective orders filed on December 4, 2013. . . . The
children remained in Department custody until the case was
dismissed on October 2, 2015[, ] after successful
reunification with Mother .... Reunification with
[Blayne's father] was not pursued at [Blayne's
father's] request as he did not wish to pursue anything
but visits with Blayne. . .
Very quickly after reunification [in 2015, the mother] became
more disengaged... By January 27, 2016, [the mother's]
mental health had deteriorated so significantly that she was
hospitalized at Maine General Hospital for almost a month and
was completely unable to care for the children. [Blayne's
father], although aware that [the mother] needed
hospitalization, did not step up to protect the children or
be their primary caretaker.
On January 28, 2016, the Department sought and this court
granted a [preliminary protection order], bringing the
children back into Department custody
[The mother] has struggled with mental health issues
resulting in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations since she
was a teenager. . . . She carries a diagnosis of
schizoaffective disorder, which means she exhibits both a
psychotic component and mood disorder.
. . . [The mother's] continued medication compliance has
historically been a big issue. When she is on her medications
she generally does quite well. When [the mother] is
symptomatic, she experiences thought broadcasting and
paranoia; she can be depressed, manic, and psychotic. This
can happen in a matter of days, and she is unable to care for
herself or the children.
. .. Although acknowledging that her actions contributed to
[her children's anger, anxiousness and behaviors], [the
mother] does not squarely take responsibility for her role in
the harm the children have suffered. . . . [S]he does not
understand the devastating ...