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In re Children of Anthony M.

Supreme Court of Maine

November 6, 2018

IN RE CHILDREN OF ANTHONY M.

          Submitted on Briefs: October 10, 2018

          Robert E. Meggison, Esq., Belfast, for appellant father.

          Nicholas Fowler, Esq., Bangor, 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 MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] The mother and father of three children appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Bangor, Jordan, J.) terminating their parental rights to their two older children pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2017).[1] The parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's determination of parental unfitness and further contend that the court erred by concluding that termination of their parental rights is in the best interests of the children. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts, which are supported by the evidence, are drawn from the judgment[2] and the procedural record. See In re Children of Nicole M., 2018 ME 75, ¶ 2, 187A.3d l.

         [¶3] In July of 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for preliminary protection and a child protection petition with respect to the mother and father's two children, the younger of whom had just been born. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4032-4033 (2017). The preliminary protection order was granted by the court [Budd, J.), and the children were placed in the custody of the Department at that time.

         [¶4] By agreement, in February of 2017, the court (Jordan, J.) made a finding of jeopardy against the mother and father based on the father's history of violence and criminal involvement, the mother's pattern of choosing unsafe partners, and each parent's untreated mental illness. The court's permanency planning order included requirements that each parent complete a mental health evaluation and that the father be evaluated for the batterers intervention program. Both parents were ordered to follow any recommendations made by the evaluators.

         [¶5] The following June, the Department petitioned the court to terminate both parents' parental rights. While the termination petition was pending, the mother gave birth to the parents' third child, who is the subject of a separate child protection proceeding. See supra n.l. After holding a three-day hearing in March of 2018, the court entered a judgment terminating both parents' parental rights to the two older children. Based on clear and convincing evidence, the court found that each parent was unwilling or unable to protect those children from jeopardy and that that was unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children's needs, and that each parent was unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the children and could not do so within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children's needs. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii). The court also determined, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of each parent's parental rights is in the children's best interests. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a).

         [¶6] The court made the following factual findings, all of which are drawn from competent evidence in the record:

... The parents have a substantial history with the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection Division. Each parent has other children in the custody of other parties. Both parents have been determined by the Court to have longstanding problems that impact on their ability to safely parent children. The principal question before this Court: Have they ...

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