Briefs: November 28, 2018
S. Hewes, Esq., South Portland, 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 ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
Kaysean M. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his child pursuant to 22 M.R.S.
§4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv)
(2017). The father contends that he received
insufficient notice of the termination hearing through
service by publication and that the court erred by admitting
in evidence the testimony of a Department of Health and Human
Services supervisor. We affirm the judgment.
Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by
clear and convincing evidence that the father (1) is
unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and
these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time
which is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs;
(2) is unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the
child within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet
the child's needs; (3) failed to make a good faith effort
to rehabilitate and reunify with the child; and (4) abandoned
the child. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(iv). The court also found that
termination of the father's parental rights is in the
child's best interest. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(a). The court based its determinations on the
following findings of fact.
At the jeopardy hearing on September 11, 2017, where the
father failed to appear but was represented by counsel, the
court found that
letters sent to the Department by the father ... [and]
presented as evidence show that his thoughts about his child
are not based in reality. In addition, he is not present
today nor has he had contact with the Department for some
time, since most recently getting out of jail. He has
abandoned his child.
See In re Marcus E., 2017 ME 200, ¶ 5 n.3, 171
A.3d 190 ("Although [at the termination hearing] the
court was required to make its unfitness and best interest
determinations by a higher standard of proof than its
findings in earlier stages of the proceedings, including the
jeopardy stage, the same judge presided over nearly the
entirety of these child protective proceedings and was
entitled to consider the evidence presented throughout")
At the conclusion of the termination hearing held on May 7,
2018, where the father again failed to appear but was fully
represented by counsel, the court found from the bench at the
close of the evidence:
[N]ot only has [the father] abandoned his child, he's
abandoned the proceedings themselves .... All the legal
efforts have been made and [they have not] been sufficient to
get him here, and he hasn't contacted the Department
throughout the process ... so he's made no efforts
whatsoever to be involved in the rehabilitation,
reunification process so that he could be a parent. And
everybody, probably, in the criminal justice system from a
judicial standpoint has had some contact with [the father]
written order, the court found that
[t]he last contact that the caseworker had with the father
was in court, when he was still incarcerated, in May, 2017.
He sent some letters to the Department, but has had no
contact with the Department since he was released from jail.
He has had issues of mental health, substance abuse, and
homelessness The child is thriving [in a placement with a
relative]. . . . [The ...