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In re Children of Philip M.

Supreme Court of Maine

August 6, 2019

IN RE CHILDREN OF PHILIP M.

          Submitted On Briefs: July 18, 2019

          James S. Hewes, Esq., South Portland, for appellant father

          Aaron M. 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, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Philip M. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) finding that his children are in circumstances of jeopardy to their health or welfare in his care. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4002(6), 4035(2) (2018). He argues that the court violated his due process rights in entering the jeopardy order because the matter was initiated as a direct consequence of the failure of the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to pay for his family's temporary housing in a timely manner, which resulted in the father's arrest for criminal trespass. He also contends that the court erred in finding that the children were in circumstances of jeopardy to their health or welfare. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] In October 2018, the Department filed a petition for a child protection order and sought a preliminary protection order for the father's three children based on neglect by the father, who had been caring for the children until he was arrested for criminal trespass, and by the mother, whose whereabouts are unknown. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4032, 4034 (2018). The court [Darvin, J.) entered a preliminary protection order, and the children entered the Department's custody. 22 M.R.S. §§ 4034(2), 4036(1)(F) (2018).

         [¶3] After an agreed to continuance, the father did not attend the rescheduled November summary preliminary hearing due to weather conditions, and the court [Eggert, J.) scheduled a case management conference to be held in early December. See id. § 4034(4). At the case management conference, the parties were unable to reach an agreement, and the court [Powers, J.) scheduled a contested jeopardy hearing for January 2019. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035(2018).

         [¶4] The court [Eggert, J.) held a two-day jeopardy hearing as scheduled. The father was present and was represented by counsel. The guardian ad litem was present and participated in the hearing.

         [¶5] Based on the evidence presented, the court entered an order finding that the children were in circumstances of jeopardy to their health or welfare. Id. §§ 4002(6), 4035(2). The court reached the following findings, all of which are supported by competent evidence in the record:

Father has been unable to provide a stable, consistent living situation for the three children. The reason for that is his erratic and explosive behavior when he is confronted with situations which he does not control require[s] him to leave present living situations and move on to another. He does not appear to have had an[y] gainful employment recently. He has been living in an apartment for the past two months without the children, but the rent for January 2019 is not paid and it is unclear if he will be able to remain in that apartment.
Father has used excessive physical discipline with the children. Father has been emotionally abusive to the children. The children claim some food insecurity in their travels and [the middle child] was shoplifting to obtain money for food while in [another state].

         The court ordered the Department to engage in reunification efforts with the father and ordered the father to participate in identified services, obtain stable housing, and continue to visit with the children as scheduled to facilitate a permanency plan of family reunification. The father timely appealed from this judgment. See 22 M.R.S. § 4006 (2018); M.R. App. P. 2A, 2B(c)(1).

         [¶6] The father's primary contention is that the children would not have been removed from his care if not for the Department's failure to continue the payments for his family's temporary housing as he expected, resulting in his arrest for criminal trespass when he failed to leave the housing previously paid for by the Department. The court was required by statute to consider the circumstances that led to the children's removal from the father's care, and all other ...


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