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In re Child of Raul R.

Supreme Court of Maine

June 11, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF RAUL R.

          Submitted On Briefs: May 30, 2019

          Angela M. Thibodeau, Esq., Holmes Legal Group, LLC, Wells, for appellant father

          Molly Butler Bailey, Esq., Strike, Gonzales & Butler Bailey, Portland, for appellant mother

          Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Raul R. and Jessie H. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating their parental rights to their child. Both parents challenge the court's parental unfitness determinations and contend that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to meet its obligation to provide reunification services pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4041(1-A) (2018). The mother additionally argues that her due process rights were violated when the court commenced the termination hearing-as previously scheduled-in her absence and with the knowledge that she had been arrested while travelling to the hearing. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Based on competent evidence in the record, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that both parents (1) are unable to protect the child from jeopardy and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, (2) are unable to take responsibility for the child within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, and (3) failed to make good faith efforts to rehabilitate and reunify with the child. See 22 M.R.S. §4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii), (iv) (2018). The court also determined that termination of the parents' parental rights is in the child's best interest. See id. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a) (2018).

         [¶3] The court found the following facts by clear and convincing evidence, all of which are supported by competent record evidence. See In re Child of Adam E., 2018 ME 157, ¶ 2, 197 A.3d 527.

At the time this case began on August 31, 2016, [the child] was 3 1/2 years old. He . . . [was] living in a household scarred by domestic violence. At the time [the child's] mother was unable to protect him from the violence occurring in the home. [The child's] father was the perpetrator of the violence which was severe
Mother had filed for a Protection from Abuse Order earlier in 2016, but had later dismissed the action. Police also became involved and felony domestic violence charges were brought against [the] father. Neither of these actions were successful in stopping the violence as father violated his bail conditions and returned to the home where the violence continued. [The child] was protected from the violence only when he was removed from the home and placed with his maternal grandparents.
... For sentencing [the father]... had a choice of a suspended sentence with nine months in jail and probation, or serving a straight sentence in the Department of Corrections custody of three years. He chose the three[-]year sentence which has resulted in him being in prison for all or most of the time that [the child] has been in Department custody and will keep him in prison until July 22, 2019. He has had no contact with [the child] during this time. He was also not always residing with [the] mother and [child] during the time from [the child's] birth until his placement in Department custody and therefore has not been a consistent presence in [the child's] life. At the time of the father's release from prison, [the child] will be over six years old, and if this case were still proceeding, it would be almost three years old

         [¶4] The court also found that the mother has untreated mental health issues that have significantly affected her ability to meaningfully engage in visits, meetings with the Department, and evaluations for various programs. Her behavior, as well as her lack of attendance, resulted in her visitation with the child being suspended in December 2017; visitation was never reestablished.[1] The mother engaged in mental health counseling for a few months, but she was discharged by the counselor for missing seven sessions. When the Department tried to help her reengage in mental health counseling, she refused to see a counselor chosen by the Department and stated that she did not need counseling. The mother's own efforts to get into counseling have also been unsuccessful. The mother's behavior further affected her rehabilitation and reunification efforts after she tested positive for drugs in 2017, [2] and was required by the Department to complete substance abuse treatment. Although the Department made referrals and the mother started various programs, her behavior caused her to be discharged before she was able to complete any of the them.

         [¶5] In March 2018, the mother started-but did not complete-a court ordered diagnostic evaluation. The psychologist was unable to perform the psychometric portion of the testing ...


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