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In re Children of Danielle M.

Supreme Court of Maine

December 30, 2019

IN RE CHILDREN OF DANIELLE M.

          Submitted On Briefs: November 21, 2019

          Seth Berner, Esq., Portland, for appellant mother

          Matthew Govan, Esq., Govan Law Office, PA, Portland, for appellant father

          Aaron 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

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

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Danielle M. appeals from a judgment entered by the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.) terminating her parental rights to her three children, and the father appeals from a judgment entered by the court terminating his parental rights to the child they have in common, who is the youngest of the children. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (ii), (iv) (2018). Each parent argues that there was insufficient evidence to support an order terminating his or her parental rights, and the father also argues that the Department of Health and Human Services did not provide appropriate and necessary reunification services. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In December 2017, the Department filed a petition for a child protection order and preliminary protection order for each of the three children, who at that time were eight, four, and two years old. The petitions alleged, and the accompanying affidavits from the Department averred, that the mother was abusing illicit drugs and alcohol and that the children were present during three different violent altercations involving the mother. With respect to the father of the youngest child, the petition and affidavit further cited as bases for a preliminary protection order a domestic violence incident during which the father pushed the mother down the stairs and strangled her with the children present, and a physical altercation between him, the mother, and the father of the oldest child involving a crowbar, during which the children were nearby.

         [¶3] The court [Powers, J.) entered orders of preliminary protection placing the children in the Department's custody.[1] After the parents of each child waived the opportunity for a summary preliminary hearing, the court entered an order maintaining the Department's custody of each child.

         [¶4] In March 2018, the court [EggertJ.) entered a jeopardy order, with the parents' agreement, as to each of the three children. Jeopardy was based on alcohol and substance abuse, mental health issues, exposure of the children to violence, and the family's prior child protective history. The court ordered the parents to participate in mental health evaluations and follow recommendations, undergo substance abuse evaluations to determine appropriate treatment, and submit to random drug testing. The permanency plan was for reunification of the children with their parents.

         [¶5] In February 2019, the Department petitioned to terminate the mother's parental rights to all three children, and the father's parental rights to the youngest child, [2] based on their lack of consistent progress toward any of the rehabilitation and reunification goals.

         [¶6] A hearing was held on the petitions to terminate the parents' parental rights on May 13 and 14, 2019. After hearing testimony and accepting documents in evidence, the court entered two judgments, which, in combination, terminated the parental rights of both parents to their respective children on May 23, 2019. In each judgment, the court made the following findings by clear and convincing evidence, and its findings are supported by competent evidence in the record. See In re Daniel K, 2017 ME 89, ¶ 2, 160 A.3d 1182.

On December 7, 2017, Mother and the children were involved in an automobile accident as passengers and Mother had a physical altercation with the driver of the other car while the children were present. The police responded and were concerned that Mother was under the influence of alcohol. The next day [the mother and both fathers] were involved in a serious altercation ... with a crowbar in front of the children. Again it was believed that Mother was under the influence of alcohol. [The mother and one of the fathers] were arrested and [the other father] was hospitalized. The children were safety planned and placed with a former foster parent. Criminal charges against Mother were later dismissed. Mother ...

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