Submitted On Briefs: April 12, 2018
Valerie A. Randall, Esq., Rioux, Donahue, Chmelecki &
Peltier LLC, Portland, 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
Emily K. appeals from a judgment entered by the District
Court (Lewiston, Ende, J.) terminating her parental
rights to her child. The mother argues that the court erred
in determining that the termination of her parental rights
was in the child's best interest when the child was
placed in a permanency guardianship with his paternal
grandparents and his father's parental rights were not
terminated. We affirm the judgment.
In December 2015, the court [Oram, J.) entered a
preliminary protection order placing the child in the custody
of the Department of Health and Human Services upon
allegations that the child's mother threatened suicide in
his presence and took steps to avoid contact with the
Department, which had been assisting her in obtaining
substance abuse and mental health treatment. The Department
filed a petition for a child protection order at that time,
and the court [Dow, J.) entered an order after the
mother waived the opportunity for a summary preliminary
hearing on January 8, 2016, retaining custody with the
Department. The child was placed with his paternal
grandparents and has remained in their care ever since.
The mother agreed to the entry of a jeopardy order in
February 2016 and the father agreed to the entry of a
jeopardy order one month later. Following judicial review and
permanency planning hearings held in July and December 2016,
the Department petitioned for termination of both
parents' parental rights in January 2017. After pretrial
case management and unavoidable continuances, the court
[Ende, J.) held a hearing on the petition to
terminate the mother's parental rights in June 2017. The
court entered a judgment terminating her parental rights on
August 14, 2017, in part based on the grandparents'
availability and willingness to adopt the child. The mother
timely appealed on August 28, 2017. See 22 M.R.S.
§ 4006 (2017); M.R. App. P. 2 (Tower 2016).
The Department withdrew the petition to terminate the
parental rights of the father on September 7, 2017. The
mother moved for us to authorize additional process in the
trial court so that she could move for relief from judgment
based on the Department's withdrawal of the petition as
to the father. We authorized the trial court to act and
stayed the appeal until a court ruling could be reached on
the mother's anticipated motion for relief from judgment.
The trial court [Dow, J.) ultimately ordered, with
the father's consent, that the child would be placed in a
permanency guardianship with the child's paternal
grandparents. See 22 M.R.S. § 4038-C (2017).
Because of the change in the permanency plan from adoption to
permanency guardianship and the father's retention of his
parental rights, the mother moved for relief from the
judgment entered against her and sought to reopen the record
so that the court could reconsider whether her rights should
be terminated. The court [Ende, J.) granted the
motion to reopen the record. The Department, joined by the
mother, moved to stay the appeal pending the new hearing, and
we granted that motion.
On November 20, 2017, the court held a hearing and took
additional evidence. After hearing that evidence, the court
entered the judgment now on appeal terminating the
mother's parental rights. The court found, by clear and
convincing evidence, the following facts, all of which are
supported by competent evidence in the record. See In re
Aurora M., 2018 ME 4, ¶ 2, 177 A.3d 617.
[The child] came into Departmental custody on or about
December 17, 2015, at a time when [the mother] threatened
suicide in [the child]'s presence, while she continued to
evade DHHS, continued to use drugs and to display unregulated
mental health symptoms, which violated a December 1, 2015
Safety Plan in which she had agreed to get mental health and
substance abuse treatment and submit to random drug tests at
DHHS request. A Jeopardy Order was entered against the Mother
on February 22, 2016, after she waived her right to a
contested hearing on the issue of jeopardy. Jeopardy Findings
relating to the Mother were as follows:
[The child] is at risk for serious physical harm, serious
emotional harm and/or serious neglect based on his
mother's substance abuse, untreated mental health issues,
exposure of [the child] to unsafe people and chronic
unsafe/unstable housing. [The mother] has been diagnosed in
the past with bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, and anxiety
disorder but has failed to maintain recommended treatment.
[The mother]'s mental health concerns have led to her
expressing her suicidal ideation in front of her young son.
Due to the unstable lifestyle and chronic homelessness [the