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In re Meena H.

Supreme Court of Maine

January 23, 2018

IN RE MEENA H. et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: January 11, 2018

         Waterville District Court docket numbers PC-2016-5 and PC-2016-6

          Elyse M. Apantaku, Esq., Schneider & Brewer, Waterville, for appellant mother Heidi M. Pushard, 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

         [¶l] 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).[1] The mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding of parental unfitness.[2] 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.

         [¶2] 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 ...

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