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In re Hope M.
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:1998 ME 170
Docket:Pen-97-679
Submitted
on Briefs:June 29, 1998
Decided:July 9, 1998


Panel:WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, DANA, and SAUFLEY, JJ.



IN RE HOPE M.
WATHEN, C.J.

	[¶1]  The father of Hope M. appeals from a judgment of the District
Court (Newport, Hjelm, J.) terminating his parental rights to his daughter.
22 M.R.S.A. § 4055(1)(B)(2) (1992 & Supp. 1997).{1} On appeal the father
contends that the court erred in concluding that the Department of Human
Services (the Department) was not required to demonstrate a substantial
change in circumstances before bringing a second petition to terminate his
parental rights and responsibilities.  He also contends that there was
insufficient evidence to support the court's finding that termination was in
the best interests of the child.  Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  The history of this action may be summarized as follows: A
request for a child protection order was first filed in 1993 when the child
was four years old. The court granted the order, concluding that the child
was in jeopardy due to inappropriate physical discipline, inappropriate
supervision, and a threat of physical and emotional abuse from her father. 
Custody was awarded to the maternal grandparents.  The following year, the
order was reviewed and custody of the child was awarded to the
Department.
	[¶3]  In 1996, the Department filed a petition to terminate the
father's parental rights.  The court denied the petition on the grounds that,
although the Department had shown by clear and convincing evidence that
he was "unable or unwilling to protect Hope from jeopardy and that this
situation would continue beyond a time reasonably calculated to meet Hope's
needs," a permanent separation from him was not then in the child's best
interest.  In its order, the court noted that its decision did not preclude the
Department from filing a new petition if circumstances changed.
	[¶4]  The following year, the Department filed a second petition to
terminate the father's parental rights. Following two days of testimony, the
court concluded that the Department presented:
more persuasive evidence in 1997 on Hope's best interests . . .
[t]hus, while Hope's situation has not changed significantly since
1996, and while changes in her life have been the foreseeable
product of an additional year in foster care, the trial record now
supports the Department's allegations that Hope's best interest
would be served through termination.
The father now appeals this judgment.
	[¶5]  The father argues that the Department of Human Services must
demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances prior to filing a second
petition for the termination of parental rights.  We disagree.  Termination
cases require that the trial court carefully evaluate both the best interests of
the child and the ability of the parent to care for that child within the time
frame established by the child's needs.  22 M.R.S.A. § 4055(1)(B)(2)(I) &
(ii).  The court is charged with a continuing concern for the safety and
health of the child, and the statutory sensitivity to the passage of time
mandates a low threshold for further consideration of the merits of this
case.  See Restatement (Second) of Judgments  24 cmt. f. (1982). 
("[W]here important human values are at stake . . . even a slight change of
circumstances may afford a sufficient basis for concluding that a second
action may be brought."). 
	[6]  At the second hearing, evidence was presented to the court to
support a finding of changed circumstances.  The child's therapist testified
that the child no longer wanted to be in foster care, and, although
termination would adversely affect her, it was in her best interest to have
parental rights terminated so that she could be freed for adoption.  The
child's foster mother testified that the child had been asking when they
could adopt her and, although the child was upset with the separation from
her father, she was adjusting.  One of the evaluating psychologists testified
that the child expressed interest in being adopted by her foster family and
that she was strongly attached to the foster family.  The psychologist also
testified that, in his opinion, failing to provide the child with permanency
through adoption would cause her long term injury.  This testimony
demonstrated a change in circumstances sufficient to permit consideration
of the Department's second petition to terminate the father's parental
rights.
	[7] Finally, contrary to defendant's contention, reviewing the entire
record, we conclude that the court could have rationally found clear and
convincing evidence that it was in the child's best interest to terminate the
father's parental rights. See In re Denise M., 670 A.2d 390, 392 (Me 1995).
see also In re Lisa C., 684 A.2d 801, 802 (Me. 1996).
	The entry is:
							Judgment affirmed.
                      
Attorney for appellant: Richard W. McCarthy, Jr., Esq. P O Box 549 Pittsfield, ME 04967 Attorneys for appellee: Andrew Ketterer, Attorney General Janice S. Stuver, Asst. Atty. Gen. Geoffrey Goodwin, Asst. Atty. Gen. 6 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0006 Guardian ad Litem: Laurie Anne Miller, Esq. Downeast Law Offices, P.A. P O Box 190 Orrington, ME 04474 Attorney for mother: David Gray, Esq. 50 columnbia Street Bangor, ME 04401
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} The statute provides that the court may order the termination of parental rights if: (a) Termination is in the best interest of the child; and (b) Either: (i) The parent is unwilling or 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; (ii) The parent has been unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; (iii) The child has been abandoned; or (iv) The parent has failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child pursuant to section 4041. 22 M.R.S.A. § 4055(1)(B)(2) (1992 & Supp. 1997).