Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2018
McNally, Esq., Woodman Edmands Danylik Austin Smith &
Jacques, P.A., Biddeford, 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
James R. appeals from an order of the District Court
(Portland, Powers, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his child based on the court's conclusions that
he is unfit because he is unable to "meet his son's
special needs and take responsibility for him in a reasonable
time to meet those needs" and to "protect his son
from jeopardy in a reasonable time to meet his needs, "
and that termination is in the child's best interest.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii)
(2017); M.R. App. P. 2B(c). On appeal, the father contends
that the court erred in its parental unfitness and best
interest determinations and that he was denied due process.
We affirm the judgment.
After a two-day termination hearing, the court issued a
judgment containing the following factual findings, which are
supported by the record. See In re Evelyn A, 2017 ME
182, ¶ 4, 169 A.3d 914.
The child was born premature and drug-affected. He remained
hospitalized in neonatal intensive care for six weeks after
his birth. Upon discharge, he was placed in the
custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and
lived in foster care because his parents knew that they were
unable to care for him. He has resided in the same foster
home since then.
Up until several days before the child was born, the father
had been using numerous drugs, including heroin, cocaine,
amphetamines, and marijuana, in addition to alcohol. Since
then, he has maintained sobriety. He attends Narcotics
Anonymous meetings and has participated in substance abuse
counseling since February of 2016. The father has been
diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and
depression, and, as part of a reunification plan, he has
attended mental health counseling that has a domestic
violence component. Since May of 2016, the father has worked
with a case manager to coordinate services that include a
parenting coach who began working with the father in January
of 2016. Overall, the father has been cooperative with the
Department and has participated in the reunification services
provided to him.
The father has had regular visitation with the child,
beginning with supervised contact at an agency and foster
home, and progressing to some unsupervised contact, including
overnights toward the end of 2016. Because the visits went
well and the father had demonstrated progress in services, in
early 2017 the parties formulated a plan to allow greater
unsupervised contact that would lead to a trial placement
with the father beginning on January 27, 2017. The ultimate
plan was reunification of the father and the child.
The court described what happened next.
Unfortunately, the serious incident of January 17, 2017
directly interfered with the reunification plan, and the
trial placement has never occurred. Around 11:00 a.m. on
January 17, 2017 the father's parent educator ...
appeared at the father's apartment as part of the visit
there between father and [the child]. [The parent educator]
noticed that [the child] seemed normal acting. However, he
then saw red bruising on both of [the child's] cheeks.
When he was asked about this, the father described two
incidents the day before which might explain the bruises.
[The father] was putting a new chair together, and [the
child] was pushing a toy and somehow fell. The second
involved both being in the shower and [the child] was at the
back of the tub and slipped. The father cannot recall seeing
either event but was present and assumed two falls occurred
from [the child's] reaction. The father was aware of the
bruising on January 17 before [the parent educator] arrived.
The father did not believe either incident was serious
because [the child] slept all night thereafter. He has denied
slapping or otherwise causing the facial bruises since being
questioned on January 17, 2017. He was the only adult there
when the bruising occurred.
[The parent educator] called DHHS, which immediately
scheduled an abuse evaluation for [the child] at the Spurwink
Child Abuse Program. That occurred on the afternoon of
January 17, 2017, with a follow up visit that took place on
January 20, 2017. Numerous photographs taken at the
evaluation document the obvious bruising. ...