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In re Child of Angela H.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 4, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF ANGELA H.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 26, 2018

          Stephen H. Shea, Esq., Fairfield & Associates, P.A., Portland, 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, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶l] Angela H. appeals from an order entered by the District Court (Springvale, Foster, J.) finding that her minor child is in jeopardy pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2017). The mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the child is in jeopardy. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] The Department of Health and Human Services filed a child protection petition against the mother as to this child in September of 2017, [1]alleging that the mother neglected the child's medical needs and failed to adequately supervise the child. After a two-day testimonial hearing, by a decision entered on February 21, 2018, the court found the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence, each of which is supported by competent evidence in the record. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035(2).

         [¶3] In 2011, concerns were raised with the Department regarding whether this child was receiving appropriate medical care for his Type 1 diabetes, with which he was diagnosed as a young child. The mother, with whom the child primarily resides, received services designed to promote the child's regular attendance at medical appointments and monitor the necessary testing of the child's blood. After the child was hospitalized twice for diabetic ketoacidosis, the Department again worked with the mother regarding the child's medical needs. The mother reported then that she was "unwilling to monitor her son's testing as he needed to learn how to care for his own medical needs in regard to his chronic condition." The child was eight years old at the time. The child's medical providers again referred the family to the Department in 2016 when the child failed to attend scheduled medical appointments.

         [¶4] In April of 2017, the child was expelled from school for possession of marijuana on school grounds. The school listed the tasks the child was required to complete before he could be readmitted to school, including counseling, community service, and certain homework assignments. The child did not do so before the end of the school year and was not readmitted until October of 2017.

         [¶5] Meanwhile, as a consequence of his expulsion, the child's regular visits with the school nurse to monitor his blood sugar were discontinued. The child also missed multiple medical appointments between June and August of 2017, notwithstanding the efforts of his medical providers to engage the mother in addressing the child's needs. In September, the child was again hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis. The mother complained that she would have to be near her son on a constant basis to monitor the child's health, stated that she hoped that being hospitalized would motivate the child to better manage his condition, and expressed anger at being expected to take the child to the hospital after her long work day. On multiple days in November and December of 2017, the child left school early and, on one occasion, had to be taken to the hospital, because his blood sugar numbers were outside the norm. Although the mother has opined that the child's difficulties in managing his diabetes are related to a mental health issue, she has not followed through on multiple opportunities to obtain counseling for him.

         [¶6] The court found,

The Guardian [ad litem] concluded that the parents' inability to communicate and reach agreement on how to manage their son's diagnosis and respond to medical emergencies has resulted in inconsistent care and unsustainable plans that have placed [the child] at risk of physical harm. Throughout this case, [the mother] rejected responsibility for any of the difficulties in her life and often provided explanations for events that portrayed her as the victim of others.
As the Guardian points out, both of [the child's] parents are able to articulate what needs to be done to properly manage their son's diabetes as well as the dangers posed by a failure to do so. At trial, [the mother] gave a thorough and cogent description of what daily testing and monitoring entails. Even when she was without insurance, she has apparently ensured that [the child] still has the supplies, medicine, even snacks he requires for his condition. Despite that, [the mother] has been unwilling or unable to support her son in a manner that ensures the condition is appropriately addressed. At the heart of this issue is [the mother's] long-held conviction that her son should be able to manage his condition independent of any oversight by her or [the father].
At the [family team meeting] on September 21, 2017 [the mother] reiterated her conviction that [the child] was old enough to take care of himself Even as she maintained that, [the child] was in the hospital for the fourth time for diabetic ketoacidosis.... In her testimony, [the mother] pointed out that her son was only three years short of being an adult. She acknowledged that he has not always been truthful about when and what he has eaten, ...

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