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Protestant Children's Home v. Dept. of Welfare

MAY 7, 1962.

ILLINOIS PROTESTANT CHILDREN'S HOME, AN ILLINOIS NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE OF STATE OF ILLINOIS, OTTO BETTAG, DIRECTOR, CLARK MILEY, HEARING OFFICER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL A. ROBERTS, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied May 28, 1962.

Plaintiff, the Illinois Protestant Children's Home (hereinafter referred to as the Home), appeals from a judgment order of the Circuit Court affirming the findings and decision of the Department of Public Welfare which denied the renewal of plaintiff's license to operate as a child welfare agency.

This matter originated with the Department's issuance of notice to the Home, in accordance with § 299 of "an Act to provide for the licensing and supervision of child welfare agencies and family homes . . ." [Ill Rev Stats c 23, § 299 (1955)], that the Home's license which expired on March 9, 1956, would not be renewed. The Home subsequently requested from the Department a statement of charges and a public hearing, to which it is entitled under § 299(e). The Department complied, furnishing the Home with a written statement of twenty-seven charges. Extensive public hearings, with Clark Miley as the hearing officer, were conducted during 1956 and early 1957. With the Department introducing four witnesses and the Home thirty, the transcribed evidence (including numerous exhibits) consisted of 2874 pages. At the conclusion the hearing officer recommended that the Home's license not be renewed, which recommendation was adopted by the Department.

As authorized in the Administrative Review Act the Home filed a complaint in the Circuit Court and received a hearing focused upon the record of proceedings before the Department. [Ill Rev Stats c 110, §§ 265, 274 (1955)]. On July 5, 1960, the Circuit Court entered an order which, after reciting that the court reviewed all the proceedings before the Department and heard oral argument, affirmed the Department's decision.

The Home contends that the findings and conclusions of the Department and the Circuit Court are against the manifest weight of the evidence. In entertaining this question it is important that we describe our precise function as a reviewing court. Section 11 of the Administrative Review Act [Ill Rev Stats c 110, § 274 (1955)] provides: "the findings and conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held to be prima facie true and correct." In Parker v. Department of Registration and Education, 5 Ill.2d 288, 294, 125 N.E.2d 494, the effect of the statutory presumption was thus explained: "the court has a judicial function comparable to the issue at law as to whether there is competent evidence to support a judgment of a lower court. Harrison v. Civil Service Commission, 1 Ill.2d 137, 115 N.E.2d 521." In accordance with this directive we turn to an examination of the record.

The Home, an Illinois Corporation not-for-profit, is located at 5017 Ellis Avenue, Chicago. It has been licensed during the entire period that the State Licensing Act has been in effect. Mrs. L.W. Budd, president of the Home since 1928, was present during the hearings before the Department and was represented by counsel. The record reveals that the Department withdrew on its own motion seven of the charges filed in the written statement. The hearing officer determined that seven of the charges were sustained by the evidence, that evidence insufficient to sustain three additional charges nevertheless carried probative value upon the ultimate question of revocation, and that the remaining ten charges should be dismissed. Briefly summarized, the sustained charges reveal that the Home failed to file with the Department within a reasonable time standard reports required by law and certain special reports orally requested by the Department; that it failed to file reports and information required by the Family Court of Cook County; that it failed to maintain a staff sufficient to supervise the children adequately at all times; and that it failed to maintain personnel records which would indicate employee fitness, and financial records necessary for the Department's appraisal of prospective stability of operations.

We think it significant to note that the entire Act governing licensing and supervision of child welfare agencies imports a liberal delegation of authority, discretion and responsibility to the Department of Public Welfare. The provisions of that Act [Ill Rev Stats c 23, § 299 (1955)] here involved read:

(b). . . .

The Department shall prescribe and publish minimum standards for the licensing of agencies and homes under this Act.

(e) The Department may revoke or refuse to renew any license of a child welfare agency or family home in case the licensee shall:

(1) substantially and wilfully violate any provisions of such license;

(2) intentionally make any false statement or report to the department; or

(3) be no longer qualified to receive or care for children under the ...


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