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In Re Jennings

OCTOBER 22, 1975.


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County; the Hon. JAMES BOYLE, Judge, presiding.


The petitioner, grandmother of the minors, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of De Kalb County denying her petition to terminate the right of the court-appointed guardian to consent to the adoption of the minors, to terminate the guardianship and to appoint the petitioner guardian of the minors.

In April 1972 petitions were filed by Katheryn J. Pihlaja, county probation officer, alleging that the three minors were neglected and dependent children, the mother was Judy Jennings, the father was unknown and praying that the minors be adjudged wards of the court. On June 19, 1972, Judy Jennings filed a consent to adoption on behalf of each of the minors and on June 21, 1972, Katheryn Pihlaja was appointed guardian of said minors with power to consent to their adoption.

On August 28, 1972, Faye Jennings, the mother of Judy Jennings, and the petitioner here, filed a petition praying that the guardianship of Katheryn Pihlaja be terminated and that the petitioner be appointed guardian of said minors. At the hearing on the petition, the court, after hearing arguments both as to the question of the standing of the petitioner and as to the question of the validity of the consent to adoption, found that the petitioner was without standing to file her petition and that it was contrary to public policy to allow her to file said petition and denied the petition. However, the court stayed the order empowering Katheryn Pihlaja to consent to the adoption of the minors.

In this appeal the petitioner contends that (1) the court erred in finding that the petitioner is without standing to file the petition (2) the court was without jurisdiction to enter the order appointing Katheryn Pihlaja guardian with power to consent to the minors' adoption because (a) the court did not adjudge them wards of the court and (b) the consent was not properly acknowledged and was therefore void and (3) the well pleaded facts of the petition were admitted because not denied, therefore the petition should have been granted. In oral argument petitioner also questioned the validity of the consent because of the alleged illiteracy and lack of understanding of the mother, Judy Jennings. However, at the hearing it was indicated that an examination by a psychiatrist did not reveal her to be incompetent. The question really argued on this appeal is as to her understanding when she executed the consents, which point will be considered in connection with the validity of the consents to adoption.

The petitioner bases her standing on the wording of section 5-8 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 37, par. 705-8) which then stated in paragraph (2) that "The minor or any person interested in the minor may apply to the court for a change in custody of the minor and the appointment of a new custodian or guardian of the person * * *."

Our Supreme Court has stated that the "* * * Juvenile Court Act provides for the continuing jurisdiction of the court over dependent minors, and that the court may, upon application of any person, transfer custody." (Emphasis supplied.) In re Stanley, 45 Ill.2d 132, 134, rev'd on other grounds, Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645.

• 1 The order taking the children away from their mother was a continuing order subject to modification and was in no way final. In re Ramelow, 3 Ill. App.2d 190, 196; In re Bartha, 107 Ill. App.2d 214, 215.

• 2, 3 One aim of the Juvenile Court Act is to strengthen the minor's family ties whenever possible. (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 37, par. 701-2.) In the petition herein it was alleged that the grandmother had raised and cared for these children since their birth. (Emphasis supplied.) It cannot be denied that the grandmother has a special interest in the outcome of these proceedings. In re Anast, 22 Ill. App.3d 750, 756, the court stated, "Where the circumstances of a case indicate that a person other than a parent has a substantial interest in a minor in proceedings in the juvenile court, then under the contemplation of the Act that person is a necessary party to the proceedings."

In Layton v. Miller, 25 Ill. App.3d 834, 839, in construing section 276 of the Probate Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 3, par. 276) "* * * petition of any interested person" the court stated, "Certainly a maternal uncle of minor children would come well within the range of qualified persons."

The grandmother petitioner herein should have an evidentiary hearing; her fitness and the best interests of the children should be determined by the Juvenile Court after hearing evidence.

Further, there is no order in this record declaring the children to be wards of the court. Therefore the finding of June 21, 1972, that the children had "been adjudged wards of the Court" is not supported by the evidence and should be disregarded. In re Bartha.

The Juvenile Court Act provides for detention hearings (article 3), for adjudicatory hearings (article 4), and for dispositional hearings (article 5). A minor under the age of 18 years who is alleged to be neglected or dependent, as the terms are defined in sections 2-4 and 2-5 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 37, pars. 702-4, 702-5), is subject to a hearing to determine whether or not the named minor is a neglected or a dependent child. Article 4 of the Act provides for the petition, process, evidence, etc., and section 4-8(2) of article 4 provides:

"(2) If the court finds that the minor is a person described in Section 2-1 and that it is in the best interests of the minor and the public that he be made a ward of the court, the court shall note in its findings whether he is delinquent, otherwise in need of supervision, neglected or dependent, specifying which of Sections 2-2 through 2-5 is applicable, and shall adjudge him a ward ...

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