Submitted On Briefs: April 10, 2018
Fairbanks, Esq., Lewiston, for appellant mother
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
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. We affirm the judgment.
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.
The court based its determinations on the following findings
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 ...