Submitted On Briefs: October 10, 2018
B. Rowden, Esq., Waterville, for appellant father
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 MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY,
Charles V. appeals from a judgment of the district court
(Skowhegan, Fowle, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his child. He argues that the record does not support
the court's finding of parental unfitness. We affirm the
In 2017, when the child was two weeks old, the Department of
Health and Human Services filed a child protection petition
and a request for a preliminary protection order.
See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4032, 4034 (2017). The
petition alleged that there had been several reports from
medical professionals and Department caseworkers that there
was a threat of physical abuse and verbal aggression by the
father. Additionally, the petition alleged that the
father's home was unsanitary and unsafe for the
child's continued habitation.
The court [Benson, J.) entered a jeopardy order, by
agreement, placing the child with a foster family in
September 2017. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2017). As
part of the jeopardy order, the father was to participate in
medication management; participate in mental health
counseling with an anger management component; complete a
court-ordered diagnostic evaluation (CODE); participate in
random drug screens; establish a safe and sanitary home; and
allow unannounced home visits by the Department.
From the time of the jeopardy order until December 2017, the
father stopped almost all visitation with the child. In
addition, the father ceased his mental health counseling in
October 2017, resuming only after the Department petitioned
for termination of his parental rights on February 2, 2018.
See 22 M.R.S. §4052(2017).
A hearing on the petition was held by the court [Fowle,
J.) on April 26, 2018. Following the hearing, the court
entered a judgment granting the petition to terminate the
father's parental rights after making comprehensive
findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii);
In re Thomas D., 2004 ME 104, ¶ 21, 854 A.2d
[¶6] The court's decision was based on the following
findings of fact, all of which are supported by competent
evidence in the record.
In the present case, the court is concerned that the TPR
petition was filed on February 2, 2018, or approximately
seven and one half months following the removal of the child
from the home, and slightly less than five months following
the issuance of the jeopardy order. Ordinarily, the court
would expect that more time would elapse before the petition
for termination was filed. At first glance, this process
seems to be moving very quickly, leaving one to wonder
whether [the father] has been given sufficient time and
opportunity to reunify with his child. The TPR hearing itself
was held 10.5 months following the removal of the child.
Additionally, the uncontroverted evidence presented at
hearing established that the Department had been working with
the [father] and [the mother] for several months prior to the
removal of [the child] from the custody of her parents in
June of 2017. While [the mother's older child] is not the
biological child of the father in the present case, it is
noteworthy that the Department was working with both parents
in an effort to keep [the older child] safely in their home.
According to court documents filed in conjunction with this
case, the Department was quite concerned over [the
father's] treatment of [the older child], as a number of
instances of disturbing conduct by [the father] toward [the
older child] are described. Thus, in considering parental
fitness factors described at 22 M.R.S. [§] 4055, it is
appropriate to do so in the context of well over one-year
involvement by the Department with [the father] and [the
The evidence at hearing, including the testimony of the
father, established conclusively that [the father] made very
little effort toward reunification until February of ...