Submitted On Briefs: June 27, 2018
T. Crocker, Esq., Farrell, Rosenblatt & Russell, Bangor,
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, HJELM, and
Amber L. appeals from the judgment of the District Court
(Bangor, Campbell, J.) that terminated her parental
rights to her child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4O55(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), and (b)(i)-(ii)
(2017). The mother contests the sufficiency of the
evidence supporting the court's findings of parental
unfitness. She further challenges the court's
determination that termination of her parental rights is in
the best interest of the child, arguing that because the
kinship placement for the child provides sufficient
stability, the court was required to order additional time
for her to attempt to rehabilitate herself and reunify with
the child. We conclude that clear and convincing evidence
supports the court's finding that the mother is unfit as
a parent and that the court acted within its discretion in
determining that termination is in the child's best
interest. We therefore affirm the judgment.
After a two-day hearing in early February of 2018, the court
found that the mother is unwilling or unable (1) to protect
the child from jeopardy and (2) to take responsibility for
him and that both of these circumstances are unlikely to
change in a time reasonably calculated to meet the needs of
the child. See22M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii). After
carefully considering the record, the court ultimately
determined that terminating the mother's parental rights
was in the child's best interest. See 22 M.R.S.
§ 4O55(1)(B)(2)(a). To support its findings of parental
unfitness and its best interest determination, the court made
the following factual findings based upon clear and
convincing evidence in the record:
In this case, custody of [the child] was properly removed
from the parents and granted to DHHS on October 21, 2016.
... Mother clearly loves [the child] very much, and she has a
bond with him. Mother has also made progress in some areas,
for which she deserves credit. For example, mother has
consistently engaged in supervised visits with [the child],
and the visits have generally gone very well. Mother also
regularly attends [a clinic] for replacement therapy, and she
has not used opiates. . . . Unfortunately, however, despite
the progress mother has made in some aspects of this case,
many of the very serious jeopardy concerns remain.
. . . Throughout the case, DHHS has attempted to assist
mother with her substance abuse and mental health issues.
Despite this, mother has continued to self-medicate with
marijuana, and she has been very inconsistent in her mental
health therapy. Mother has also continued to make very
impulsive and irresponsible decisions, and she continues to
maintain contact with unsafe people.
... Mother [has] long-standing problems with a cannabis use
disorder, personality disorder . . ., and complex
post-traumatic stress disorder.... Mother has [a] limited
ability to self-correct and learn from the consequences of
her behavior and acting out. According to [the court-ordered
psychologist], without appropriate treatment, mother's
ability to safely parent as well as reunify with her children
is guarded. [The psychologist] believes that mother's
mental health diagnoses tend to be resistant to change and
historically require long-term and committed involvement in
treatment. Mother's prognosis is further guarded because
of her tendency to self-medicate with marijuana.
Although the [termination petition] had already been filed,
mother did not follow through with her therapy [provider].
Rather than seeing her [therapist] twice a week, mother met
with [her therapist twice between August and November of
2017]. . . . Although [her therapist] reports that mother has
made progress since November 3rd, mother still does not
regularly attend her appointments. . . . Mother has only
attended her [dialectical behavioral therapy] groups three
times, twice in December and once in January. Mother attended
individual therapy twice, once on December 11, 2017, and once
on January 29, 2018.
Mother's level of commitment is unacceptable. [Her
therapist] testified that mother still has a lot of work to
do. According to [her therapist], mother's [dialectical
behavioral therapy] will take a year from November 3, 2017.
(This assumes that mother will be fully committed to her
therapy, which, at this point, has not been the case.) ...