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In re Child of Kelcie L.

Supreme Court of Maine

April 26, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF KELCIE L.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 10, 2018

          Heather Gonzales, Esq., Strike, Gonzales & Butler Bailey, Portland, for appellant mother.

          Richard Charest, Esq., Lewiston, 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: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] The mother and father appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Lewiston, Dow, J.) terminating their parental rights to their daughter pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(A)(1)(a), and (B)(2)(a), (b)(T), (ii), and (iv) (2017). Both parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's findings of unfitness. In addition, the father challenges the court's determination that termination of his parental rights is in the child's best interest. The evidence supports the court's findings and discretionary determinations, and we affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that both parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for her in a time reasonably calculated to meet her needs, that both parents had failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child, and that termination of both parents' parental rights is in the child's best interest. See id.; In re Haylie W., 2017 ME 157, ¶ 2, 167 A.3d 576. The court based its conclusion on the following findings of fact:

[T]he Department has made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate and reunify the family, and has made reasonable efforts to identify and pursue an alternative permanency plan. Those efforts include: safety assessment; rehabilitation and reunification planning; family team meetings; supervised visitation for the parents; kinship placement foster care; transportation assistance; referrals for the parents to case management, individual counseling, medication management, and parenting education; parental assessment for the mother, and DHHS social work services.
[The mother] has not consistently participated in medication management or mental health counseling. These services would have been very important for reunification
[The mother's] visits with the child do not go very well. She was regularly prompted to engage with the child, but she remained quite withdrawn
[The mother] is the victim of significant violence and intimidation by [the father].... They remain together as a couple, living together in a two-bedroom apartment[The mother] has chosen [the father] over [the child]. In the four months prior to the TPR trial, she had declined to visit with [the child] because [the father's] visits had been suspended.
The father failed to participate in the [Court Ordered Diagnostic Evaluation], which would have been helpful to the Court in assessing his mental health, cognitive functioning, and parental capability. However, the TPR trial itself provided the Court some insight into the father's behavior .... The father is nearly unmanageable in a courtroom. Despite warnings from the Court and attentive, professional coddling by his attorney, the father ...

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