Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2018
E. Ramirez, Esq., Law Office of Amanda E. Ramirez, Newfield,
for appellant mother
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, J., and, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY,
REPORTER OF DECISIONS
Heather W. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Springvale, Foster, J.) terminating her parental
rights to her daughter pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(T), (ii), (iv)
(2017). She challenges 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. § 4055(1)(B)(2). Additionally, the
mother argues that the Department failed to meet its
obligation to provide reunification services pursuant to 22
M.R.S. §4041 (2017). We affirm the judgment.
Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by
clear and convincing evidence that the mother (1) is 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, (2) is unable to
take responsibility for the child within a time that is
reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, and (3)
has failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and
reunify with the child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4041.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i), (if),
(iv). The court also determined that termination of the
mother's parental rights is in the child's best
interest. See id. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a). We review
the trial court's factual findings supporting the
unfitness determination and the best interest determination
for clear error, and we review the ultimate decision to
terminate parental rights for an abuse of discretion. In
re Anastasia M., 2017 ME 213, ¶ 2, 172 A.3d 922.
The court based its determinations on the following findings
of fact. The mother was first prescribed opiates in 2010
following a gallbladder issue. She continued using opiates to
deal with back pain. In 2012, the mother was in a car
accident and was again prescribed opiates, which she used
until after a resulting surgery in January 2013. When her
prescription expired a few months later, she began obtaining
unprescribed opiates through other means.
The mother sought treatment for her addiction. From May 2013
to August 2014, she successfully completed a methadone
treatment program. In the fall of 2014, she experienced
another injury, which required surgery. She was prescribed
oxycodone and subsequently relapsed. The mother continued to
use unprescribed opiates for the next five months and soon
began injecting heroin.
During this time, the mother and the child were living at the
mother's uncle's home. In April 2015, the mother
stole valuable coins from her uncle in order to purchase
drugs. She was charged with theft, and she and the child were
evicted from the home.
In May 2015, the Department filed a petition for a child
protection order, which the court granted. The mother waived
her right to a summary preliminary hearing and agreed to the
entry of a jeopardy order in which the court found that
jeopardy as to the mother "consists of her inability to
provide adequate care for the child and neglect of the
child's basic daily needs due to the mother's
long-standing opiate addiction."
Visitation between the mother and the child was fully
supervised. There were concerns during some visits that the
mother appeared to be falling asleep or "nodding
off" at times and that she took extended bathroom
breaks. These concerns contributed to the Department's
reluctance to ease the requirement of full supervision. There
was no visitation between July 9, 2016, and August 28, 2016,
when the mother was incarcerated for the theft of coins from
her uncle. Upon her release, she "procrastinated"
in resuming treatment and visitation with the child because
she had relapsed using heroin combined with fentanyl. The
mother visited with the child a couple of times in December
2016, but before additional visits were arranged, she was
arrested in February 2017 and incarcerated for six months for
violating her probation. As of the date of trial, visitation
between the mother and the child had not been reestablished.
The child is diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. She
has been in three different foster placements as well as a
trial placement with the father. She has also been
hospitalized in psychiatric crisis centers on two different
At the time of trial, the mother was participating in another
substance abuse program, but she was two weeks into a program
that can run for up to fifty-two weeks. She stated that she
would require thirty to sixty days to secure a residence that
could accommodate the child and would be in a position to
parent the child full-time after ...