Submitted On Briefs: July 18, 2019
Notis, Esq., Portland, for appellant father
M. Frey, Attorney General, and Zack Paakkonen, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM,
Walter C. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Portland, Powers, J.) terminating his parental
rights to his child. He contends that the court erred in its
determination that he is parentally unfit and that
termination of his parental rights is in the best interest of
the child. We affirm the judgment.
In November 2017, sixteen days after the child was born, the
Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for
a child protection order and a request for a preliminary
protection order. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4032,
4034 (2018). The petition alleged that the father struggled
with substance abuse and untreated mental health issues that
manifested in him burning himself. The court (Janelle,
J.) granted the request for a preliminary protection
order, granting custody to the Department, and the child was
placed in foster care. On February 5, 2018, the court
[Powers, J.) entered an agreed-upon jeopardy order,
and custody of the child remained with the Department.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4035(1)-(2) (2018).
The Department petitioned for termination of the father's
parental rights on November 30, 2018. See 22 M.R.S.
§ 4052 (2018). The court held a single-day hearing on
the petition, see 22 M.R.S. § 4054 (2018), and,
on February 27, 2019, found by clear and convincing evidence
that the father is unwilling or unable to protect the child
from jeopardy or take responsibility for the child within a
time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child's
needs, and determined that termination of the father's
rights is in the best interest of the child, see 22
M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2018).
The court based its decision on the following findings, which
are supported by the record.
The family's issues involved untreated marijuana and
alcohol misuse, untreated mental health problems, and
relationship issues. The child was not safe in the care of
[The father] is 29 and has lived in a one-bedroom . . .
apartment for three months. He was homeless before then from
The father admits to a lengthy history of excessive alcohol
and marijuana use. ... He was assessed for [a] . . .
substance use program in March 2018, entered it in April, and
completed the program at the end of August 2018. The program
included regular intensive outpatient treatment for substance
use and parenting education sessions with some individual
counseling late in the program.
Drug testing was [also] part of the program. His testing
showed [marijuana] use during each of the 21 weeks. [The
father] would typically admit his ongoing use of marijuana.
He also had positive alcohol tests for the first few weeks
and then negative test[s] for the last four months .... The
[substance use program] clinician had concerns about [the
father] at [the] program's end ...