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In re Children of Tiyonie R.

Supreme Court of Maine

March 5, 2019

IN RE CHILDREN OF TIYONIE R.

          Argued: February 20, 2019

          John W. Tebbetts, Esq., Tebbetts Law Office, LLC, Presque Isle, 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: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, AND HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Tiyonie R. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Presque Isle, Nelson, J.) terminating her parental rights to her two children. She challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's findings of parental unfitness. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child protection proceedings as to both children on April 25, 2017, alleging neglect by the mother.[1] See 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2018). The court [O'Mara, J.] issued a preliminary protection order that day placing the children in the Department's custody. See 22 M.R.S. § 4034 (2018). The mother waived her right to a summary preliminary hearing, see 22 M.R.S. § 4034(4), and she later agreed to the entry of an order [Daigle, J.) finding jeopardy to the children based on neglect and the threat of physical harm due to the mother's mental health issues, exposure of the children to domestic violence, and maintenance of unsuitable living conditions, see 22 M.R.S. §§ 4002(6), 4035, 4036 (2018). In March of 2018, the Department petitioned for the termination of the mother's parental rights to both children. See 22 M.R.S. §4052 (2018). After a testimonial hearing, the court [Nelson, J.) made the following findings of fact, which are supported by competent record evidence. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4054, 4055 (2018).

         [¶3] The mother and the children came to Maine in 2017 to live with the mother's boyfriend but soon moved into a homeless shelter. The mother and the boyfriend's relationship involved domestic violence on multiple occasions; after one such incident, the mother was hospitalized in a crisis unit, and she was charged with and pleaded guilty to assault. Thereafter,

[t]he children were left in the care of [the boyfriend] and he subjected the children to . . . abuse .... [The mother] failed to protect the children from the jeopardy posed by the domestic violence situation, her inability to manage her own significant mental health issues, and subjected the children to maltreatment by a partner, who had previously physically abused her.
[The mother] was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent. [She] has continually struggled to effectively manage her own mental health issues throughout the duration of this case. Her numerous hospitalizations reflect that fact that her mental state is extremely fragile and her life is susceptible to major disruptions. In light of the children's ages and reliance on others for their care, such instability is harmful to the children.
[The mother] has not only subjected the children to maltreatment by others, she has herself made a threat to kill both children. She made the threat to her former partner when he was attempting to leave her. She threatened to drown both children This behavior combined with the substantial evidence regarding [the mother's] inability to manage her mental health issues creates great risk to the health and welfare of the children, if they were in her care.
.... It is all that [the mother] can do to try to attend to her own mental health issues and her personal needs. She has had only marginal success for brief periods during the pendency of this case. She simply does not have the capacity to care for the children while struggling to care for herself.
In the fall of 2017, [the mother] abandoned her efforts in Maine to reunify with her children and headed south to be with her family. On her way, she experienced a tremendous detour in the form of an extended psychiatric stay in New Hampshire after an episode while in transit. Thereafter, [the mother] did not meaningfully participate in reunification efforts From October of 2017, to the date of the hearing on the petition for termination of parental rights, [the mother] had no contact with the children
In light of the children's ages and their need for stability, predictability and adequate care, they simply cannot wait to see if at some point in the future [the mother] makes sufficient progress in dealing with her issues to consider moving forward with reunification. Unfortunately, such ...

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