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In re Children of Dani B.

Supreme Court of Maine

May 3, 2018

IN RE CHILDREN OF DANI B.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 25, 2018

          Nathan Seth Levy, Esq., Brunswick, for appellant Mother

          Janet 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

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

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Dani B. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Powers, J.) terminating her parental rights to her two children.[1] She argues that the record cannot support the finding of parental unfitness. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] The Department filed a child protection petition with respect to the younger child in November 2011 when that child was nine months old. See 22 M.R.S. §4032 (2017). The petition alleged that the mother, who was abusing substances, left the child with a relative while evading arrest on charges of burglary, theft, and criminal mischief. In January 2012, the court [Goranites, J.) entered a jeopardy order, with the parties' agreement, that granted the Department custody of the child and placed the child with his paternal grandmother. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4035(2), 4036(1)(F) (2017).

         [¶3] In March 2012, the mother's older child, who had been residing with his father, came into the Department's custody through a preliminary protection order entered by the court [Mulhern J.) when his father left him with a relative while the mother was incarcerated. See 22 M.R.S. § 4034(2) (2017). The court [Goranites, J.) entered a jeopardy order with respect to that child, upon the parties' agreement, in May 2012, granting the Department custody and placing the child, then age six, with his paternal grandmother. See id. §§ 4035,4036.

         [¶4] The Department provided, and the mother participated in, multiple services, culminating in a trial placement of both children with the mother beginning in late January 2013. The placement was suspended for ten days in September 2013 and then terminated in November 2013. The children entered foster care, and the mother continued to pursue reunification.

         [¶5] The children were again placed in the mother's home in a second trial placement that began in the summer of 2014 for the older child and the early fall of 2014 for the younger child. In February 2015, custody of the two children was formally returned to the mother. All parties anticipated that the case would be dismissed in April 2015, but the mother admitted that she had used cocaine at the end of March, and the matter remained open.

         [¶6] In February 2016, the Department petitioned for preliminary protection orders for the children after a brick was thrown through the window of their home, possibly by the mother's recent boyfriend, a man who was involved with drugs and had threatened to shoot at her home after she broke up with him. The court [Powers, J.) signed preliminary protection orders placing the children in the custody of the Department.

         [¶7] The Department petitioned for termination of the mother's parental rights as to both children in June 2016. The court held a trial on that petition over the course of three days between October 12 and 16, 2017. It then entered a judgment granting the petition to terminate the parents' parental rights after reaching extensive findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence. 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2) (2017); In re Thomas D., 2004 ME 104, ¶ 21, 854 A.2d 195. All of those facts are supported by competent evidence in the record. See In re AM., 2012 ME 118, ¶ 29, 55 A.3d 463.

         [¶8] Based on the facts that it found, the court reached the following ultimate findings.

This is a tragic case regarding [the mother], who has made some recent progress toward resolving her serious parenting deficits. It is, however, a situation of too little progress, too late in the process. She still cannot meet her children's ...

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