APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Marshall County; the Hon.
EDWARD E. HAUGENS, Judge, presiding.
This is an appeal from an order of the Circuit Court of Marshall County committing respondent Daryl Wealer to the Juvenile Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections, as a result of a dispositional hearing. The State's Attorney of Marshall County had petitioned to have Daryl Wealer adjudged delinquent and a ward of the court. The allegations of the petition were not disputed. On appeal the appellant contends that the trial judge's dispositional order was against the manifest weight of the evidence for the reason that there was no substantial evidence in the record as a whole to establish, that the parents of the minor were unfit or unable for some reason other than financial circumstances alone, to care for, protect, train or discipline the minor or were unwilling to do so, and that it was in the best interests of the minor to take her from the custody of her parents. It is contended that such findings are mandatory before the trial court can exercise its special statutory jurisdiction in committing a minor to the Department of Corrections.
It appears from the record that on September 8, 1975, respondent Daryl Wealer and one Lori Maubach burglarized a pharmacy in Henry, Illinois. Several thousand pills, including valium, phenobarbital, amytal and dexedrine were taken from the pharmacy. It was shown that the respondent and her companion intended to sell the stolen drugs in Peoria, Illinois.
Appellant and her parents testified at the dispositional hearing. The father, Victor A. Wealer, has been blind for 14 years. Mr. Wealer is employed as a telephone salesman of tools in Chicago, Illinois. He resides in Stone Park, Illinois, during the work week, and returns to the family residence in Putnam County on weekends and holidays. Appellant's younger sister, Debra, suffers from encephalitis. Debra is comatose and incontinent and requires constant care. Appellant's mother and appellant provide Debra with the care necessitated by her condition. Appellant's family has resided in Putnam County for three years. The family moved to Putnam County from Lombard, Illinois, in an effort to get away from the problems of city life. The father said Daryl needed to change schools because her peer group was to blame for her troubles.
It is shown by the record that appellant never committed an unlawful act of the nature involved in this case previously. Her prior disciplinary problems included incidents in school. She is 16 years of age. In the past, appellant's parents have been notified that she was skipping class, misbehaving and being sassy at school. Appellant's attitude and grades at school have improved during this year. Her parents have not been notified of any problems with appellant at school this year. Appellant's other disciplinary problems have been an unauthorized truck ride to visit a friend in Lombard, and (two years ago) the smoking of marijuana. Appellant, her father and mother, all testified that they would abide by any terms of the probation order.
It was also shown that after the delinquency petition was filed in this case, appellant was stopped by a Marshall County sheriff's deputy for illegal transportation of liquor consisting of a six-pack of beer which Daryl had purchased through another person. She stated she had intended to drink the beer with four other people. The incident occurred about 10 or 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night when Daryl was staying overnight at a friend's house. Because the deputy knew appellant's brother (who is also a deputy sheriff in Putnam County) no charges were filed against appellant.
The sole issue involved in this case on appeal is whether the trial court's order committing appellant to the Juvenile Division of the Department of Corrections was proper on the record made in the trial court.
We should observe, preliminarily, that a dispositional order must be reviewed in light of the purposes and policies of the Juvenile Court Act. As stated in the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 7601-2(1)):
"The purpose of this Act is to secure for each minor subject hereto such care and guidance, preferably in his own home, as will serve the moral, emotional, mental, and physical welfare of the minor and the best interests of the community; to preserve and strengthen the minor's family ties whenever possible, removing him from the custody of his parents only when his welfare or safety or the protection of the public cannot be adequately safe-guarded without removal; and, when the minor is removed from his own family, to secure for him custody, care and discipline as nearly as possible equivalent to that which should be given by his parents * * *."
The policies announced in the Juvenile Court Act are given specific support in the dispositional scheme of the Act. The relevant orders of disposition which may be entered with respect to an adjudicated delinquent are (a) placement of the minor on probation or conditional discharge and release of the minor to his parents, (b) placement of the minor under section 5-7 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 705-7) with a relative or other person, a probation officer, an agency other than the Department of Corrections, a licensed training or industrial school, or any other appropriate institution, with or without placing the minor on probation or conditional discharge, and (c) commitment of a minor to the Department of Corrections under section 5-10 of the Juvenile Court Act, or under section 5-2. Any disposition removing the minor from the custody of his parents must be supported by a finding that, generally, the parents are unfit or unable, for some reason other than financial circumstances alone, to care for, protect, train or discipline the minor (Juvenile Court Act, sections 5-7, 5-10 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, pars. 705-7, 705-10)). Commitment of the Minor to the Department of Corrections must be supported by the further finding that the best interest of the minor and the public will be served by placement.
We are, therefore, confronted with the question in this case of whether the mandated findings of the Juvenile Court Act are supported by the record in the trial court. Appellant attacks the dispositional order as being against the manifest weight of the evidence and as not being supported by substantial evidence on the record. Appellant argues that the good intentions of appellant's parents, as noted by the trial court, demonstrate that the requisite findings cannot be made. The State argues, however, that although Daryl's parents are trying to rear her in the best possible manner, the parents' efforts are simply not successful and the parents are thus unable to adequately discipline their daughter. The State emphasizes that Mr. Wealer's blindness and routine absences from the family residence and the amount of Mrs. Wealer's time devoted to the care of the Wealer's invalid daughter, Debra, render the Wealers unable to give Daryl the proper supervision. The State does not suggest that the Wealers are unfit or unwilling to care for Daryl. The circumstance that Mr. Wealer is blind should make no difference under the facts in this case.
The trial court did in fact find that the Wealers were unable to discipline Daryl. This finding should be tested on review by the manifest weight of the evidence standard. (People v. Hackman (1971), 1 Ill. App.3d 1030, 1033, 275 N.E.2d 488.) The Juvenile Court Act does require, in addition to a finding of the parents' inability, consideration of the source of the parents' inability. It is apparent from the Act that if the inability arises solely from other than financial circumstances alone then the parents can be deprived of the custody of the minor child. If, after completely disregarding financial causes of the parents' inability, other existing non-financial causes of the parents' inability are sufficient to render the parents unable to discipline the minor, the statute would authorize taking custody of the child from the parents and placing the child in the Department of Corrections. Obviously, if existing non-financial circumstances, taken alone, are not sufficient to render the parents unable to discipline the minor, and if financial circumstances taken alone would be sufficient to render the parents unable to discipline the child, the statute would not authorize taking the child from the parents' custody. The apparent literal meaning of the statute in the use of the phrase "financial circumstances alone" would clearly indicate the general statutory reluctance to deprive parents of custody of their children.
The major factors that were determined by the court below to render the Wealers unable to discipline Daryl were the father's blindness, the father's work-related absence from the family residence, and the mother's care of the invalid daughter. The father's blindness obviously is a factor of non-financial nature. The daughter's illness in itself is not a financial factor. However, it is not clear whether the infusion of some reasonable amount of financial support to this family would allow the hiring of persons to aid nursing the invalid daughter. The father's blindness, taken alone, obviously cannot support a finding that the Wealers are unable to discipline their daughter.
The second finding required to commit a minor to the Department of Corrections is that the best interest of the minor and the public will be served by placement under section 5-10 of the Juvenile Court Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 705-10. The State argues that Daryl's best interests are not presently being served and that, therefore, Daryl's best interests would be served by commitment to the Department of Corrections. The State justifies this argument by the assertion that the trial judge found that the alternate dispositions are inappropriate for this case. The State apparently refers to the portion of the trial court's order at the dispositional hearing where the court stated "we surely don't have the facilities here in a small county, such as Marshall County" to properly supervise. The court also observed, "It would seem to me that this young lady needs some discipline, that she needs the help of an agency that has the proper personnel and facilities to carry out and help her solve her problems. For that reason, I believe, under all the circumstances, as I felt in connection with her companion, Miss Maubach, that this minor should be committed to the Juvenile Division of the Department of Corrections for their handling of the case, confinement, supervision as is their policy." Appellant contends that this statement must be considered in light of the State's recommendation that Daryl be committed to the ...