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In re Child of Kimberlee C.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 4, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF KIMBERLEE C.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 26, 2018

          Roger M. Champagne, Esq., Law Office of Roger M. Champagne, LLC, Biddeford, 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, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Kimberlee C. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Springvale, Foster, J.) terminating her parental rights to her youngest child.[1]She argues that there is insufficient evidence to support the court's finding of parental unfitness and that she received ineffective assistance of counsel during the hearing on the termination of her parental rights. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The Department of Health and Human Services filed a child protection petition with respect to six of the mother's children, including the youngest child, in February 2016, when the youngest child was three years old. 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2017). The Department alleged that the mother, who had a history of mental health and substance abuse issues, was unable to provide safe and sanitary housing for herself and the children and was unable to manage the behavioral health needs of her children. On May 11, 2016, the court [Foster, J.) entered a jeopardy order, with the parties' agreement, that placed the children, including the youngest, in the custody of the Department.

         [¶3] The Department petitioned for termination of the mother's parental rights on January 19, 2017. After a two-day testimonial hearing, by judgment dated February 1, 2018, the court terminated the mother's parental rights. See 22 M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(B)(2) (2017). The court made the following findings of fact, which are supported by competent record evidence. See id.; In re AM., 2012 ME 118, ¶ 29, 55 A.3d 463.

After 2013 or so, [the mother] was the single parent of seven children, ranging in age from eleven years to less than one year old.
[The mother] was not particularly well-suited to the task at hand. She has long-standing mental health issues that she has attempted to address through counseling..... She also developed a substance abuse problem around the time [the five-year-old twins] were born, using opiates and pain medications. After [her youngest child] was born, she added intravenous heroin use to her list of behaviors.
... The disclosures [that the children made about life in the mother's household] are overwhelmingly] consistent over time and among the children; they have been made to caseworkers, foster parents, therapists and Child Advocacy Center interviewers.... Although all of these children have shared many of the same experiences, they have experienced them in different ways and responded in their own fashion[The youngest child] may have seen even less but was the subject of direct abuse by [a sibling]. The effect of that abuse, if any, is not yet known.
It is clear that [the mother] has made sincere efforts to reunify with her children. She has participated in reunification and rehabilitation services recommended by the Department. She attended individual mental health counseling with [a counselor] for approximately one year but was unable to work on her own trauma history or make much headway on the issue of domestic violence.... The topic of [the ...

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