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In re Child of Shayla S.

Supreme Court of Maine

May 9, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF SHAYLA S.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 24, 2019

          Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant mother

          Aaron M. Frey, 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 ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Shayla S. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, J.) terminating her parental rights to her child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv) (2018). The mother contends that the standard of proof in termination of parental rights cases is constitutionally inadequate. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are drawn from the court's findings, which are supported by the evidence, and from the procedural record. In re Children of Corey W., 2019 ME 4, ¶ 2, 199 A.3d 683. On November 2, 2016, two days after the child was born, 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 (2018). The petition alleged that the mother had a long history of serious mental health issues that had at times required hospitalization, that she had not been receiving medications or mental health services to address her significant diagnoses, and that she had been involved with law enforcement on multiple occasions due to concerns about her being assaultive and about her mental health. The court granted the request for a preliminary protection order. On November 10, 2016, the court held a summary preliminary hearing. At the hearing, the court entered an order continuing the placement of the child with the Department. The court then held an uncontested jeopardy hearing as to the mother[1] on February 27, 2017, and entered an order finding that the child was in jeopardy.

         [¶3] On February 2, 2018, the Department filed a petition for termination of the mother's parental rights. See 22 M.R.S. § 4052 (2018). The court held a hearing on the petition on August 29 and 31, 2018, and issued an order granting the Department's petition on October 26, 2018. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4054, 4055 (2018). Based on the testimony presented at the hearing and other competent evidence in the record, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that the mother was unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and that those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, that the mother was unwilling or unable to take responsibility for her child within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, that the mother had failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child, and that it was in the best interest of the child that the mother's parental rights be terminated. See id. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv).

         [¶4] The court based its decision on the following findings of fact, all of which are supported by competent evidence in the record.

[The mother] has a history of impulsive and assaultive behaviors. She made progress moderating her aggressive behaviors and learning to accept guidance and suggestions from providers. Unfortunately, she failed to address her underlying history of trauma. [The mother] has not demonstrated an ability to translate her work in therapy into behavioral change. She refuses to consider guidance from those she perceives as a threat, including DHHS caseworkers and [the foster mother]. Her interactions with [the child]'s foster mother and DHHS caseworkers are continually conflictual. Her decisions to drop out of medication management and post false allegations on social media demonstrate her continuing impulsive behavior.
[The child] cannot wait any longer for her mother to begin to make the changes needed to meet her needs. She has been in foster care for almost all of her 2 years of life. She needs a permanent home.
[The child] has settled into a comfortable routine at the [foster] home. She has spent a significant portion of her life in their care. . . . The Guardian ad litem supports termination of [the mother's] parental rights and agrees that adoption is in [the child]'s best interest.

         [¶5] Following the issuance of the judgment terminating her parental rights, the mother timely appealed. See 22 ...


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