Submitted On Briefs: December 17, 2019
Kellett Gray, Esq., Brooklin, for appellant mother
M. Frey, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
C. Munch, III, Esq., Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky,
Bangor, for appellees paternal grandparents
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
Charlene F. appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Ellsworth, Roberts, J.) terminating her parental
rights to her child pursuant to 22 M.R.S.
§4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii) (2018). The
mother contends that the court erred in finding by clear and
convincing evidence that she is unfit and that termination is
in the child's best interest. See id. We affirm
The court's findings are supported by competent evidence
in the record. "We review the court's factual
findings supporting its determination of parental unfitness
and best interest of the child for clear error, and
review its ultimate conclusion that termination is in the
best interest of the child for an abuse of discretion,
viewing the facts, and the weight to be given them, through
the trial court's lens, and giving the court's
judgment substantial deference." In re Children of
Jessica D., 2019 ME 70, ¶ 4, 208 A.3d 363
(quotation marks omitted).
The court's supported factual findings underlying its
unfitness and best interest determinations include the
The court finds by clear and convincing evidence, that...
[the mother] is unable to protect [the child] from jeopardy
and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time
reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs. [The
mother's] relationship with [the father] was marred by
domestic violence to a degree which would jeopardize [the
child's] safety. The Department first became involved
with [the parents] in June of 2016. [The child's] parents
agreed to work with the Department at that point, including
drug testing and releases for their providers. [In] July . .
. 2016, the parents had another violent argument culminating
in a suicide attempt by [the mother]. [The child] was placed
with [the father's] parents as a safety plan [in] August.
. . 2016. [The child] remains with [the father's parents]
to this day. [The mother] suffers from PTSD and Persistent
Depressive Disorder. She is in therapy ... and has made
significant progress. She is working to respond appropriately
to [the child's] behaviors. Unfortunately, [the
mother's] efforts to manage her emotions and her decision
making, her executive functions, will be a lifetime struggle.
[The mother] believes that [the child's] behaviors are
the result of spoiling by [the father's parents]. She
intends to adopt a strict parenting style. She disagrees with
[the child's clinician's] recommendations for
de-escalating [the child]. [The child] has been in treatment
with [the clinician and the child's therapist] since
coming into the Department's care[The child] is a complex
child who must have stability and understanding in her
relationships. She needs a calm and composed caregiver. [The
mother's] strict authoritarian style would exacerbate
[the child's] troubling behaviors. [The child] is very
attuned to the adults in her life and is aware of their
conflicts. [The child] has made progress, but, will need
therapy until at least young adulthood. [The mother] presents
as an appropriate loving parent in visits with her daughter.
She participated in therapy with [the child's clinician]
initially. Unfortunately, she stopped working with [the
clinician] [in] January... 2019. [The mother's] inability
to recognize the basis for [the child's] . . . issues and
to adopt appropriate responses to them place [the child] in
This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that DHHS
offered [the mother] ... appropriate services and referred
[her] to providers. [She was] simply unwilling or unable to
engage or make changes. This court finds that there is
nothing more that DHHS could have done to assist [the
mother]... in this case.
[The child] resides in the home of [the father's
parents]. [The father's mother] displayed a very clear
understanding of [the child's] concerning behaviors and a
willingness to work with [the child's] therapists to
resolve them. [The child] is making progress in the
[father's parents'] care and they are prepared to
adopt her. The [father's parents] have the resources to
meet [the child's] needs. They are [the child's]
grandparent[s] and have the ability to allow her the
opportunity for contact with her extended family.
The difficulty for [the mother]... is one of timing. [The
child] is 5 years old. She's been out of her parents'
care for 3 years. She cannot continue to wait for her parents
to do all the things necessary to set up a stable, consistent
and safe life. [The child] has established a good bond with
[her paternal grandparents]. [The child] would best benefit
from maintaining loving relationships with her parents and
[the father's parents]. Unfortunately, that is very
unlikely to ever occur. She needs a permanent home now and
cannot wait any longer for her parents to get their lives in
order. This is a particularly troubling case because it is
clear to this court that [the child's] parent[s] love her
dearly. Despite that love, they are unable to take full
responsibility for [the child] at this time. The court does
not believe that they will be able to take responsibility for
her within a time reasonably calculated to meet her needs.
The court must look at whether ... [the mother] will be able
to take responsibility for [the child] within a time
reasonably calculated to meet her needs, and [she] cannot.
The time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs
is measured from the child's perspective. [The child] has
been in DHHS custody for almost 36 months. [The child] has
been in the care of [the father's ...