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In re Child of Amey W.

Supreme Court of Maine

July 2, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF AMEY W.

          Submitted On Briefs: June 26, 2019

          Nathaniel Seth Levy, Esq., Portland, for appellant mother

          Aaron Frey, Attorney General, and Zack Paakkonen, 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, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Amey W. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Skowhegan, Nale, /.) terminating her parental rights to her then-eighteen-month-old child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (1)(B)(2)(a)-(b)(i) (2018).[1] The mother contends that the court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that she was an unfit parent upon determining that she would be unable to protect the child from jeopardy within the statutorily-required timeframe, that is, "[a] reasonable timeframe from the child's perspective." In re Child of Carl D., 2019 ME 67, ¶ 6, ___A.3d___ (emphasis added); 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i). We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] The court made its unfitness finding, as well as its finding that termination was in the child's best interest, 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), based on competent evidence in the record. "We review the court's factual findings supporting its determination of parental unfitness and best interest[] of the child[] for clear error, and review its ultimate conclusion that termination is in the best interest[] of the child [] for an abuse of discretion, viewing the facts, and the weight to be given them, through the trial court's lens, and giving the court's judgment substantial deference." In re Children of Jessica D., 2019 ME 70, ¶ 4, ___A.3d___(quotation marks omitted).

         [¶3] The court's supported factual findings underlying its unfitness and best interest determinations include the following:

         The minor child... went into custody... [when she] was only 4 days old.

[When the child was born, ] the Department was contacted by [the hospital] due to concerns about [the mother]'s behavior. According to the medical staff, [the mother] was rough with the new born baby when she was changing her diaper by pushing and wiping the child too hard. The hospital also discovered that [the mother] was taking prescribed [medication] during the pregnancy and she even admitted to using heroin[] as well.
When the Department arrived at the hospital to speak to [the mother], she yelled and refused to speak to the social worker on the scene. She denied using drugs and informed the Department she was planning on continuing her relationship with [the father] and claimed he had changed. . . . Eventually, a Facilitated Family Team Meeting was held and a doctor on the scene found that [the mother] appeared scattered, erratic, and was rough with the baby
The Court has significant concerns as to the fitness of [the mother] due to her continued conduct regarding drug abuse and her relationship with [the father]. [The mother] is a victim of brutal domestic violence [perpetrated by the father], and the Court sympathizes with the pain and hardships she has had to endure. However, the Court also notes that [the mother] denied the physical abuse to both her detriment, and the detriment of her children, despite significant evidence to the contrary. . . . [H]er actions have consistently shown that she has chosen her relationship with [the father] over both her welfare and the welfare of her children. Not only did the domestic violence negatively impact the children, [the mother]'s drug abuse is also concerning.
While [the mother] acknowledged in her Court-Ordered Diagnostic Evaluation that she sees the harm her actions had upon her children, the Court finds her answers to lack credibility. Despite their past, [the mother] admitted to still having contact with [the father]. This causes not only the Court concern, but also... the Licensed Psychologist who conducted the Court-Ordered Diagnostic Evaluation of [the mother]. In his report, [the psychologist] noted that [the mother] still appears to be more occupied with her relationship with [the father] [than] with her relationship with the children. Furthermore, [the mother] still does not appear to understand the reality of the abuse she suffered and the impact it had on her children.
Also, the Court finds that [the mother] has credibility issues in regard to her contact with [the father]. In the past, [the mother] has lied, been in denial, and refused to acknowledge the danger she was in. As noted in the Guardian ad Litem report, [the mother] lied as recently as [three months before the final hearing date] when she had in-person contact with [the father] in violation of the safety plan. Thus, despite [the mother] asserting that she and [the father] are no longer together, the Court still has concerns of how their volatile relationship will impact [this child]. In all, [the mother]'s habit of lying, her alternate version of facts when it comes to the violence she has been victim to, and the impact it had on her oldest children, ...

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