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In re Child of Portia L.

Supreme Court of Maine

April 17, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF PORTIA L.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 10, 2018

          Lome Fairbanks, Esq., Lewiston, for appellant mother

          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: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Portia L. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Lewiston, Dow, J.) terminating her parental rights to her daughter pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2017). She challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the court's finding of parental unfitness and its determination that termination is in the child's best interest.[1] We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that the mother (1) is unwilling and 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 (2) is unwilling and unable to take responsibility for the child within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii). The court also found that termination of the mother's parental rights is in the child's best interest. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a). We review factual findings supporting the unfitness determination for clear error and apply the same standard to the factual findings supporting the best interest determination. See In re M.B., 2013 ME 46, ¶ 37, 65 A.3d 1260. We review the court's ultimate conclusion that termination is in the child's best interest for an abuse of discretion. See In re Anastasia M., 2017 ME 213, ¶ 2, 172 A.3d 922.

         [¶3] The court based its determinations on the following findings of fact:

The mother remains homeless It took the mother a long
time to resign herself to the reality that she needed to apply for housing assistance.... It is impossible to say when, precisely, she will obtain suitable housing.
Even if she found housing today, it would be at least months before jeopardy could possibly be alleviated. If everything went perfectly, there would have to be an inspection, visits in the home, and a trial placement. The mother would have to show that she can keep the place safe and clean, and that she can meet the child's needs for longer than an hour and a half at a time. It is a long way from here to there.
As for the mother understanding the risk posed by the child's father, it turns on a question of credibility. At the time of the TPR trial, the mother was within a week or two of finishing the non-offender, chaperone class. . . . She only started it around the time of the filing of the TPR petition, but the delay is not her fault.
There were problems with class space availability that were beyond her control. She has attended the chaperone class consistently, and she is currently saying all of the right things. She says she has gained a greater understanding of the child's father and his manipulative ways. She has prepared a safety plan as part of the chaperone class.
Unfortunately, it is hard to believe the mother when she says she is through with the child's father, and the ...

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