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In re Child of Heath D.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 4, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF HEATH D.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 26, 2018

          Laura P. Shaw, Esq., Camden Law LLP, Camden, for appellant father

          Amy McNally, Esq., Woodman Edmands Danylik Austin Smith & Jacques, P.A., Biddeford, for appellant mother

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, 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, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Heath D. and Francine E. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Bangor, Jordan, J.) terminating their parental rights pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv) (2017). The mother and father both argue that there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the findings of parental unfitness. The father additionally argues that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to satisfy its responsibilities in making reasonable rehabilitation and reunification efforts. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] The Department filed a child protection petition in June 2016, two weeks after the child was born. See 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2017). The petition alleged neglect and threat of neglect by the mother due to substance abuse and exposure to unsafe persons, including the father. The petition also alleged neglect or the threat of neglect by the father as a result of untreated mental health issues and substance abuse. A week later, the court [Lucy, J.) granted a preliminary protection order after the maternal grandmother overdosed in the mother's home with the child present and the mother failed to prevent contact between the father and the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4034 (2017).

         [¶3] In October 2016, the court (Jordan, J.) entered a jeopardy order by agreement. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2017). The court found jeopardy as to the mother because of

(1) Neglect and threat of neglect due to failure to protect from unsafe people (2) inadequately addressed mental health issues and (3) history of substance abuse.

         Jeopardy was found as to the father because of "past and present substance abuse and untreated mental health issues, to wit anxiety."

         [¶4] Included in the jeopardy order were detailed requirements for both parents' reunification with the child. Both parents were to participate in random, observed drug screens; use only prescribed medications; allow announced and unannounced visits by the Department and the guardian ad litem; maintain monthly contact with the Department; participate and engage in substance abuse and mental health counseling; and avoid contact with unsafe individuals. Both parents also agreed to participate in supervised visits with the child for as long as it remained in the child's best interest. The father additionally agreed to participate in a level-of-care assessment by a substance abuse counseling agency and to participate in an informational session at the Family Treatment Drug Court.

         [¶5] The Department petitioned for termination of both parents' parental rights in July 2017. After a three-day hearing on the petition, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that both parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and that these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; the parents are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child and that these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; and the parents failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii), (iv); In re Thomas D., 2004 ME 104, ¶ 21, 854 A.2d 195. The court based this determination on the following findings of fact:

The difficult aspect of this case is that the parents have done some positive work. Additionally, the Court finds that it is quite clear that they love their child. The Court also finds that it is quite clear that for the timeframe of an hour and a half to two hours they are able to function appropriately with the child. However, the parents' ...

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