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In re Child of Domenick B.

Supreme Court of Maine

December 6, 2018


          On Briefs: November 28, 2018

          Robert Van Horn, Esq., Van Horn Law Office, Ellsworth, for appellant father.

          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.


          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Domenick B. appeals from an order of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, J.) terminating his parental rights to his child.[1] He argues that there is insufficient evidence to support the court's finding of parental unfitness. Alternatively, the father argues that the court abused its discretion by terminating his parental rights rather than imposing a permanency guardianship. We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts, all of which are supported by competent evidence, are drawn from the court's judgment and the procedural record. See In re Children of Nicole M., 2018 ME 75, ¶ 2, 187 A.3d 1. The child was born in December 2013, while the mother was incarcerated in Colorado. Several months later, the child's maternal grandparents brought the child to Maine to reside with them, and the father followed shortly afterwards. The mother was released from prison on parole in early 2015 and also returned to Maine.

         [¶3] Shortly after the mother's return to Maine, the father was arrested for assaulting her with the child present. The Department of Health and Human Services filed a child protection petition, alleging that the father's substance abuse, anger, and domestic violence placed the child at risk of harm. See 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2017). The court entered a jeopardy order by agreement, placing the child with her maternal grandparents. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2017). Among other things, for a successful reunification, the jeopardy order required the father to participate in a substance abuse evaluation and individual therapy to address childhood trauma and anger issues, participate in random drug screening, and refrain from using any nonprescribed mood-altering substances.

         [¶4] In November 2017, the Department filed a petition for termination of the father's parental rights. See 22 M.R.S. § 4052 (2017). A two-day hearing was held on the petition in May and June 2018. Following the hearing, the court entered a judgment granting the petition to terminate the father's parental rights after finding that he was unable to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for her within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii) (2017); In re Thomas D., 2004 ME 104, ¶ 21, 854A.2d 195.

         [¶5] The court's decision was based on the following findings, all of which are supported by competent evidence in the record. See In re AM., 2012 ME 118, ¶ 29, 55 A.3d 463.

The court finds that [the father] has not participated in individual therapy to address his childhood trauma issues and how those may impact his parenting capability. [The father] has not participated in therapy to work on his anger issues. He began therapy with [a mental health counselor], participated sporadically, then discontinued treatment October 20, 2017, without completing his goals.
[The father] has engaged in substance abuse therapy through [a] methadone program since July of 2016. He has had negative tests for opiates through his treatment and reports that his opiate addiction has been in remission for five years. [The father's] substance abuse therapy would be considered successful were it not for his use of alcohol. [The father] has been on notice since he began participation in the [methadone treatment] program that alcohol use is dangerous for him and is therefore prohibited. [The father] was warned to stop his use of alcohol following a failed screen on March 13, 2018. He promised to discontinue his use of alcohol at a subsequent family team meeting. Unfortunately, he tested positive for alcohol twice since March, including the week before this hearing. The [c]ourt concludes that substance abuse therapy has not been completed satisfactorily to this point.
The court recognizes that [the father] loves his [child] very much, and he wants very much to reunify with [her]. The court also has no doubt that [the child] loves [her] father. The court finds, however, that [the father] has been very inconsistent in his mental health services, and despite the significant ...

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