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In re Child of Eric K.

Supreme Court of Maine

March 6, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF ERIC K.

          Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2018

          Andrew S. Edwards, Esq., Northland Legal Solutions, LLC, PA, Portland, 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.

          REPORTER OF DECISIONS

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] 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).[1] 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.

         [¶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 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 federal prison
[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 [her]
[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 ...

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