Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2018
S. Edwards, Esq., Northland Legal Solutions, LLC, PA,
Portland, for appellant father.
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.
REPORTER OF DECISIONS
Eric K. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Portland, Duddy, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(A)(1) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii)
(2017). He challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the judgment and the court's
discretionary determination of the child's best interest.
Because the evidence supports the court's findings and
discretionary determination, we affirm the judgment.
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 the child's needs
and that the father is unwilling or unable to take
responsibility for the child within a time reasonably
calculated to meet her needs. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(if). The court also found 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 a lengthy history of substance abuse and
criminal activity. As a young man, [he] was convicted of a
federal trafficking charge, and spent nearly 20 years in
[The father] did not see or meet [the child] until late
October 2015, or early November 2015. At the time he was not
sure [she] was his child[He] has never lived with [the child]
in his household.
In October 2015, shortly after his release from prison, [the
father] violated his probation by using crack cocaine. In
June 2016, [he] again violated his probation by testing
positive for illegal drugs[I]n July 2016, [he] agreed to the
Court's Jeopardy Order.
For well over a year, [the father] has failed to secure
adequate housing for himself and his daughter
[The father] has a new girlfriend [who] is a homeless person
whom [he] met at a local homeless shelter three months ago. .
. . [He] readily admits that he does not know much about
[The father] has never parented his daughter, and has
demonstrated that he does not have parenting skills to do so.
As part of the Rehabilitation/Reunification Plan, [he] was
given visitation with [the child] beginning in September
2016. [He] attended visits for a period of time, but also had
several no-shows and cancelations. In response to [the
child's] challenging behaviors during visits, [he]
refused to engage with her .... [He] last visited [the child]
on April 6, 2017, and stopped visiting [her]. The Department
reached out to [him and he] refused to respond [for several
months][He] showed little understanding that abruptly
stopping visits with his daughter for a period of five months
demonstrated poor parenting skills.
When asked how he would parent [the child, the father]
testified that his plan was to have his new girlfriend...
become [the child's] primary caregiver. [The new
girlfriend] has never met [the child], and is ...