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In re Child of Shainat

Supreme Court of Maine

July 9, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF SHAINAT.

          Submitted On Briefs: June 26, 2019

          Kristina Dougherty, Esq., Chester & Vestal, P.A., 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

          Mary Kellett Gray, Esq., Brooklin, for appellees maternal grandparents

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

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Shaina T. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Waterville, Montgomery, J.) terminating her parental rights to her child and the court's denial of her motion for relief from that judgment pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). She challenges the court's parental unfitness and best interest determinations and contends that the court erred in denying her motion for relief based on her claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] The following facts are drawn from the court's findings, which are supported by the evidence, and from the procedural record. See In re Children of Corey W., 2019 ME 4, ¶ 2, 199 A.3d 683.

         [¶3] In January 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services was notified by a Waterville police detective that the child at issue in this case-who was two years old at the time-was residing with her mother in an apartment in Waterville where police found drugs, drug paraphernalia, and several intoxicated adults while investigating a burglary. The Department also discovered that the mother was advertising herself on a website often used to facilitate prostitution. Although the mother initially refused to cooperate with the Department, she ultimately agreed to participate in the safety assessment process and signed a safety plan. When the mother violated that safety plan in February 2016, the Department filed a petition for a child protection and preliminary protection order. The court [Stanfill, J.) issued a preliminary protection order at that time, granting custody of the child to the Department, which placed her with her maternal grandparents.

         [¶4] In May 2016, when the mother's drug screen results were satisfactory and the Department determined that she had safe and stable housing, the court [Matthews, J.) entered a jeopardy order returning the child to her custody with conditions. The child remained in the mother's care until the mother was arrested for selling drugs in September 2016. The child was again placed with her maternal grandparents; in October 2016, the court [Stanfill, J.) entered a judicial review order granting custody of the child directly to the grandparents.

         [¶5] The mother eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs and two counts of violation of a condition of release. She was sentenced to five years of incarceration, with all but eighteen months suspended, and three years of probation. The mother remained incarcerated until January 2018.

         [¶6] Visits between the mother and the child began again in February 2018. Around that time, the child began to cry more often, withdraw from her friends at school, and cling to adults.

         [¶7] In March 2018, the Department filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights; a one-day hearing was held on the petition in September 2018. Following the hearing, the court [Montgomery, J.) entered a judgment terminating the mother's parental rights. Based on clear and convincing evidence in the record, the court determined that the mother was unable or unwilling to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for the child, and that those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs. See 22 M.R.S. ยง ...


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