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In Re Taylor

JULY 11, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR N. HAMILTON, Judge, presiding.


Respondent appeals from an order declaring her an unfit parent and appointing a guardian to consent to the adoption of Gloria, Kiki and Tammy Taylor, respondent's children. John Caldwell, their father, also was declared an unfit parent in this cause, but he has taken no appeal.

Respondent contends that (1) the evidence does not support the finding that she is an unfit parent under the adoption act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 4, par. 9.1-1D(b)); (2) the petition failed to comply with the requirements of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 37, par. 704-1 et seq.); and (3) section 9.1-1D(b) of the adoption act is unconstitutional.

The minor children were placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (hereafter "the Department") in 1969. A neglect finding was entered in their case in 1970. In 1974 the Department petitioned the court to appoint a guardian to consent to the children's adoption, pursuant to section 5-9 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 37, par. 705-9). Section 5-9(1), (3) of the Juvenile Court Act provides that the finding of unfitness of a parent must be made in compliance with the adoption act which, in section 9.1-1D(a) through (1) lists the grounds upon which a parent might be found unfit. The petitions here alleged under subsection (b) thereof that respondent's unfitness was her failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the children's welfare.

At the hearing on the petitions, the children's foster mother testified for the Department that from the time they were placed in her home respondent had not contacted them in any manner. On cross-examination, the foster mother testified that she did not know whether respondent had attempted to contact the children through the Department.

Gary Morgan, a social worker employed by the Department and assigned to work with the children, testified that he interviewed respondent at Dwight Correctional Center; she told him that she was having trouble when the children were taken and "did not have herself together"; that she opposed their adoption and suggested that her mother (the children's grandmother) take the children until respondent was released. Morgan further testified that the grandmother and a sister of respondent had contacted him about the children and that the grandmother had failed to keep one appointment with him and, when he called her to arrange another, he was unable to do so because she said repair work was being done on her house.

On cross-examination, Morgan testified that at his meeting with respondent at Dwight, she had asked for the children's addresses and that he had refused to give them to her; that respondent had inquired as to whether she could correspond with him, and that he informed her that the Department felt that it was not suitable to do so. Morgan admitted that it was only because he denied respondent the opportunity that she was not able to contact her children.

Respondent testified that she had made many attempts to communicate with her children from the time they were first taken; that each time she contacted the Department she spoke to a different employee; that she could not remember the names of the employees or the dates on which she spoke to them, but that she thought the names would be in the Department's records; that she had been allowed only one opportunity to see the children and that she had seen them on that occasion; and that at all other times the Department had given her various reasons for delaying or denying her opportunities to make any other contacts. She stated further that she attempted to locate her children through the Social Services at the jail and that she sent money to Morgan, out of her earnings at Dwight, to be used for her children. Respondent testified further that she had failed to keep appointments with caseworkers about her children — once because she was in jail and on the other occasions "for reasons."

Willie Riley, respondent's mother and the children's grandmother, testified that she had attempted to contact the children through the Department; that she talked to a different person every time she called; and that she was given no information about the children. She stated that Department employees promised to call her back concerning her rights to visit the children, but that no one did call back. She testified further that she was present on occasions when respondent telephoned the Department concerning the children's whereabouts. She gave the name of one social worker she contacted, other than Morgan, but stated that only Morgan had been helpful to her. She admitted failing to keep two appointments with social workers — once because plumbers were at her house; the other because of something that came up concerning her children in school. *fn1

The guardian ad litem, in final argument, stated his opinion that respondent and her husband had attempted to make contact with the children through the Department but were frustrated in those efforts and that they were not well informed about dealing with situations like this. The guardian "urge[d] the Court to render some finding other than the adoption."

The court then ruled as follows:

"Let the record indicate the Court heard the testimony and observed the demeanor of the witnesses. I feel that the credibility is with the State's witnesses in this case and there will be a finding of unfitness, pursuant to Section 5-9."

The court entered separate orders finding respondent unfit to have custody of the children and finding it to be in the best interests of each child that a guardian be ...

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