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In re Child of Lindsay D.

Supreme Court of Maine

July 3, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF LINDSAY D.

          Submitted On Briefs: June 27, 2018

          Allan Hanson, Esq., Caribou, 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, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Lindsay D. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Presque Isle, O'Mara, J.) terminating her parental rights to her child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (iv) (2017).[1] In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting that judgment, she specifically challenges the efforts made by the Department of Health and Human Services to rehabilitate her and reunify her with the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4041 (2017). The evidence supports the court's findings and discretionary determinations, and we affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the mother was unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and that these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet her needs; (2) the mother failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child; and (3) the termination of parental rights was in the best interest of the child. See 22 M.R.S § 4055(1)(B)(2). We review the factual findings for clear error and the court's ultimate conclusion that termination is in the child's best interest for an abuse of discretion. See In re Matthew H., 2017 ME 151, ¶ 2, 167 A.3d 561.

         [¶3] The court based its decision to terminate parental rights on the following findings of fact:

This proceeding is the second child protective proceeding brought by MDHHS on behalf of [the child]. [The child], currently six years old, has now been in the custody of MDHHS during this proceeding for in excess of one year.
. . . .
The mother has lived in shelters and has been unable to arrange for permanent housing during most of these proceedings. About four months prior to this proceeding having been begun, the mother turned primary physical residence of [the child] over to the father. Last April, the mother moved to a [new] shelter . . ., after having been asked to leave a shelter in [a different] area, which move resulted in the mother having an extended time without services and made it far more difficult, due to distance, for the mother to have in person contact with [the child]. The mother has not provided the day-to-day care for [the child] in [approximately] 13-14 months. The mother has not seen [the child] since (roughly) the first week of February, 2017, i.e. [approximately] 11 months, and she has not often requested in person contact. The mother has not spoken to [the child] on the telephone since sometime in October. The mother admits she needs "... a few more months ..." before she would be able to care for [the child]. The mother has no income, employment, vehicle, or residence (other than the shelter). The mother did not complete counseling, not having attended since October. Prior to October, her lack of regular attendance became a barrier to successful completion. [The mother has several mental health diagnoses and has had issues with substance abuse.]
. . . .
Little, if any, progress has been made by [the mother] toward ameliorating the problems that required [the child] to again be brought into care [and the mother] has [not] demonstrated the ability, skills, commitment, or desire to put [the child], her needs and her safety, first in [the mother's life]. [The mother has] voluntarily absented [herself] from [the child's] life. At this point, in what is [the child's] second child protective matter, [the mother] could [not] ...

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