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In re Child of Sherri Y.

Supreme Court of Maine

December 10, 2019

IN RE CHILD OF SHERRI Y.

          Argued: November 7, 2019

          Kristina Dougherty, Esq. (orally), Chester & Vestal, PA, Portland, for appellant mother.

          Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Hunter C. Umphrey, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services.

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

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] Sherri Y. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating her parental rights to her child. The mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence with regard to the court's finding that she is unfit within the meaning of 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i) and (ii) (2018); disputes the court's determination that termination of parental rights was in the child's best interest, see 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a) (2018); and asserts that the court violated her constitutional due process rights by refusing to acknowledge that she was incompetent to participate in the termination hearing. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶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 Child of Scott A., 2019 ME 123, ¶ 2, 213 A.3d 117. On December 20, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for a child protection order. On January 3, 2018, the Department requested and was granted a preliminary child protection order (Portland, Field, J.), see 22 M.R.S. § 4034 (2018), and the child was temporarily placed with the Department and entered foster care.

         [¶3] With the parties' agreement, the court (Portland, Eggert, J.) entered a jeopardy order on March 5, 2018, finding that the mother had been unable to care for the child because she had suffered severe brain injuries, had mental health and substance use issues, and lacked stable housing. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2018). On January 10, 2019, the Department petitioned to terminate the mother's and father's[1] parental rights, asserting that neither the mother nor father could provide a safe environment and stable housing for the child. See 22 M.R.S. § 4052 (2018). On March 6, 2019, the father consented to the termination of his parental rights.

         [¶4] On May 14, 2019, the court held a one-day hearing on the petition to terminate the mother's rights, see 22 M.R.S. § 4054 (2018). In two orders issued May 17, 2019, the court removed the child's grandfather as guardian[2] and terminated the mother's parental rights. It also declared the child's permanency plan to be adoption. In regard to the mother, the court determined that there was clear and convincing evidence that the mother failed to alleviate jeopardy and that circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, see 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1) (B) (2) (b)(i); that she continued to be unable to take responsibility for the child in a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, see 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(ii); and that it would be in the child's best interest to terminate her parental rights, see 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a). The court based its determination on the following factual findings:

[The child] was placed in the guardianship [of his grandfather] because his mother . . . was unable to care for him. [The mother] continued to live with her parents and [the child] after the guardianship was granted. On December 11, 2017, [the grandfather] was evicted from his home and he and four other unrelated individuals were served with no trespass orders to remove them. There was no report that [the mother] was living there, but [the child] was and he was placed by [the grandfather] with [the grandfather's former daughter-in-law] .... During this time the Department of Health and Human [S]ervices had already been investigating a report from [the child's] school concerning his behaviors in school and a Petition was filed with the Court on December 20, 2017....
[The child] is an incredibly high needs child. His behavior at school . . . prompted a referral to the Department in November 2017A recent foster parent... testified that [the child] required a lot of work which was essentially one on one attention on a 24/7 basis. A caregiver could not leave him alone for any length of time and expect he would be safe....
[The child] is presently placed with ... a therapeutic foster parent.... She is an elderly and experienced foster parent who would not be considered for adoption of [the child]. She has a calming influence on [the child] who appears to be doing well for the time being in her care.
[The child's] guardian [his grandfather] has had no contact with [the child] for over a year. He is presently staying with friends and does not have any permanent place to live. He was not really able to care well for [the child] after his wife died in 2016, and [the child's] present emotional, medical, ...

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