Submitted On Briefs: June 26, 2019
M. Drew, Esq., Lewiston, for appellant father
M. Frey, Attorney General, and Hunter C. Umphrey, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, HJELM, and
Matthew G. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Rumford, Carlson, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his two children pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2018). He argues that the
court erred by relying solely on his incarcerated status to
support its findings of parental unfitness and claims that he
received ineffective assistance of counsel at the termination
hearing. We affirm the judgment.
The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child
protection proceedings as to the father's two children in
March 2018 while the father was incarcerated, roughly one
month after the children's mother died from an apparent
drug overdose. See 22 M.R.S. § 4032 (2018). The
court [Nale, J.) issued preliminary protection
orders the same day, granting custody of the children to the
Department. See 22 M.R.S. § 4034 (2018). A
jeopardy hearing was held on June 18, 2018; the father did
not appear at the hearing, and the court [Carlson,
J.) later issued a jeopardy order. See 22
M.R.S. § 4035 (2018).
On November 7, 2018, the Department filed a petition to
terminate the father's parental rights, and the court
held a two-day hearing on the petition the following month.
By judgment dated January 3, 2019, the court terminated the
father's parental rights. Based on clear and convincing
evidence in the record, the court determined that the father
(1) is unwilling or unable to protect his children from
jeopardy and these circumstances are unlikely to change
within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet their
needs and (2) is unwilling or unable to take responsibility
for the children within a time which is reasonably calculated
to meet their needs. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(ii). Finally, the court concluded that
termination of the father's parental rights is in the
children's best interests. See id. §
In support of those determinations, the court made the
following findings of fact, which are supported by competent
record evidence. See In re Child of Erica K, 2019 ME
66, ¶ 3, - A.3d -.
The children came into the custody of the Department of
Health & Human Services on March 5, 2018 after the
children's mother ... died on February 4, 2018 as a
result of an apparent drug overdose in her home. At that
time, the children were living with [the mother]. When the
Department brought the child protection petition, [the
father] was incarcerated. He continues to be incarcerated at
this time, with a tentative release date of December 2019.
... Following their mother's death, [the children] were
placed with [their maternal grandmother], where they remained
until early May 2018, when they were placed in foster care .
. . with their half-sibling .... They have remained in that
placement since that time.
... The children are ages eight and nine. [The father] lived
with the children and their mother until the summer of 2015,
when he ended the relationship with [the mother] due to her
drug and alcohol use. . . . [The mother] and [father's]
relationship was marked by frequent arguments which occurred
in the presence of the children.
... In the spring of 2017, [the mother] . . . filed a
Protection from Abuse Complaint individually and on behalf of
the children, against [the father]. He did not appear for the
final hearing and she was granted a two[-]year Order which
expires on May 12, 2019. This Order prohibits [the father]
from having contact with the children.
At this point in time, [the daughter] needs a predictable,
structured routine in her life, with consistent supervision
and attention, clear rules and appropriate role modeling. She
needs a caregiver that is physically and emotionally
available to her, and one who ...