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In re Child of Dawn B.

Supreme Court of Maine

June 11, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF DAWN B.

          On briefs: May 30, 2019

          Seth Berner, Esq., Portland, for appellant father

          Valerie A. Randall, Esq., Hanly Law, Portland, 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, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Dawn B. and Michael L. both appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating their parental rights to their child. The mother challenges only the court's denial of her motion for relief from the termination judgment in which she alleged that she received ineffective assistance of counsel during the proceedings. The father argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the termination of his parental rights. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On March 23, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services instituted child protection proceedings on behalf of this child as to both parents, alleging that the child had been in the care of the maternal grandparents since birth and that the maternal grandparents were unable to adequately care for the child.[1] See 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2018). The parents later agreed to the entry of a jeopardy order in which the court found that the parents have never been primary caretakers for the child; that their apartment was unsuitable for reunification; and that the father lacked basic parenting skills, has anger management issues, has been verbally abusive to the mother while he was holding the child, has a history of domestic violence, abuses alcohol, suffers from anxiety and depression, and has health issues that impair his ability to care for the child. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4002(6), 4035, 4036 (2018). With the agreement of the parties, the court entered judicial review and permanency planning orders dated January 25, 2018, and July 27, 2018, maintaining custody of the child with the Department.

         [¶3] On September 6, 2018, the Department petitioned to terminate the mother's and father's parental rights, alleging that neither parent had engaged in any of the rehabilitation and reunification services necessary to alleviate jeopardy. See 22 M.R.S. § 4052 (2018). After a testimonial hearing, the court entered a judgment terminating both parents' rights to the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4054 (2018). The court made the following findings of fact, which are supported by competent record evidence.

[The mother] reports that she was unaware that she was pregnant until she arrived at the emergency room When their child was ready to leave the hospital, the parents realized that they were not prepared to bring home and raise a baby. They agreed to place their child with [the mother's] parents. Very little about the parents['] ability to raise a child has changed since that time.
Unfortunately, the placement of the child with the mother's parents turned out to be not appropriate [and] . . . the child was removed from the grandparents and a new placement was arranged....
....The parents have not had much success in completing the [rehabilitation and reunification] plan.
The mother has completed a parenting course, and has had regular visitation with her child since January 2018. That visitation continues to be fully supervised and [the mother] requires many prompts from the supervisor to appropriately tend to her child and keep her safe. This contact with her child is well short of demonstrating her ability to take on a primary care role for the child. [The mother] did attend some counseling but began to miss appointments and that counseling stopped without [the mother] having made any progress toward the goals of the counseling. [The mother] has been unable at this time and throughout the pendency of the case to obtain housing suitable for reunification with her child. . . . The summary of [the mother's diagnostic evaluation] is that [the mother] has a poor prognosis for being able to successfully address the jeopardy which continues to exist in this case. [The mother] has not ...

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