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In Re Drescher





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN W. ROGERS, Judge, presiding.


Respondent, Eilene Drescher, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County declaring her an unfit parent, terminating her parental rights, and appointing a guardian to consent to the adoption of Jason Drescher, her minor child. William Dana Drescher, Jason's alleged father, also declared an unfit parent in this cause, defaulted and has taken no appeal from this order. We consider whether the evidence presented to the trial court supported its finding that respondent was an unfit parent.

Based upon the foregoing, we affirm.

Jason was born to respondent on July 22, 1974. At the time of Jason's birth, respondent, a graduate of Rosary College, was 26 years of age and had been divorced for approximately two years. Respondent also had an older son, Aaron, who was born on August 13, 1973.

In November 1975, when Jason was one year and four months old, his babysitter requested that respondent have Jason examined by a physician because he appeared to be in "very poor health." *fn1 After repeated insistence by both the babysitter and her husband, and after the babysitter ultimately threatened to stop caring for respondent's children if she did not have Jason examined, respondent took Jason to Dr. Armando Perez in February 1976. *fn2 Dr. Perez, a pediatrician who had seen Jason as an infant, ordered that Jason be immediately taken to Children's Memorial Hospital for evaluation because of the seriousness of his condition. On February 13, 1976, respondent's sister took Jason to the hospital where he remained until March 9, 1976. Although Jason was one year and six months old at the time of his admission to the hospital, he weighed only 15 pounds and 2 ounces. He was "malnourished, had a catatonic posture, a distended abdomen, poor skin texture and a frozen watchfulness." Jason could neither walk nor stand up by himself. Jason's condition was diagnosed as nonorganic "failure to thrive." During his stay in the hospital, respondent visited him infrequently, claiming that it was too inconvenient for her to travel from her place of employment in the Loop to Children's Memorial Hospital, a distance of approximately three miles. A report of suspected child abuse was filed by a Dr. Mervis of Children's Memorial Hospital, which led to the institution of these proceedings.

On April 6, 1976, a hearing was held on the petition for adjudication of wardship during which the court found probable cause that Jason was neglected and that there was immediate and urgent necessity that he be temporarily removed from respondent's custody and temporarily placed in foster care pending the adjudication of the petition. *fn3 The matter was continued for trial until June 22, 1976.

At the hearing on June 22, 1976, respondent, represented by privately retained counsel, entered an admission of neglect of Jason. *fn4 The following facts, upon which the admission of neglect was entered, were stipulated to by the parties: that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty Jason had not been properly fed while in his mother's care and custody; that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty he had suffered emotional deprivation while in her care and custody; that he had exhibited a catatonic posture and lack of personality development not related to malnutrition; that merely normal feeding was provided during his hospitalization; and that during his hospitalization he gained weight rapidly, became more active and better related to other people.

After presentation of written social and clinical evaluation, the court found that respondent was unable to care for, maintain, protect or promote the well-being of Jason for reasons other than financial ones, and that it was in the best interests of the child and the community that he be committed to the Department of Children and Family Services for placement. As a result, Jason has been in the care of foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shy, from April 1976 until the present. The court also recommended that respondent receive counseling.

It is undisputed that from August until December 1976 respondent had approximately 10 visits with Jason in her home. Of the 15 counseling sessions scheduled between August and December 1976, respondent failed to attend four.

From December 15, 1976, until February 2, 1977, Ms. Carlton, respondent's caseworker, did not have any contact with respondent. Respondent stated that she had been visiting her parents in southern Illinois but had not so informed her caseworker. However, on January 8, 1977, respondent had a visit with Jason. On February 2, 1977, respondent contacted Ms. Carlton. During their conversation respondent stated that she would soon be hospitalized for surgery but refused to tell Ms. Carlton the name of the hospital. When Ms. Carlton asked respondent what she intended to do concerning Jason, respondent replied that when she was ready she would call.

On April 5, 1977, Ms. Carlton wrote a letter to respondent. *fn5 On April 6, 1977, respondent called Ms. Carlton. During their conversation respondent stated that she did not wish to begin counseling until May because of her physical condition. A tentative visit with Jason was scheduled for April 19, 1977, but respondent cancelled the visit. On both April 19, 1977, and May 11, 1977, Ms. Carlton sent a letter to respondent. Respondent called Ms. Carlton on May 11, 1977, and requested to see Jason. Ms. Carlton requested that respondent first make an appointment for a counseling session because the respondent had not seen Jason since January 8, 1977, and because respondent had not seen Ms. Carlton since December 15, 1976. Respondent had counseling sessions on both May 20 and May 27, 1977. Respondent failed, however, to attend her June 1, 1977, counseling appointment. On June 4, 1977, respondent visited with Jason.

On June 2, 1977, respondent's sister informed Ms. Carlton that respondent had given birth to a daughter, Bryn, on February 11, 1977. Respondent had never told Ms. Carlton that she had been pregnant and had given birth.

Ms. Carlton's next contact with respondent was on July 1, 1977. During this conversation, Ms. Carlton informed respondent that she was transferring to another division and gave respondent an appointment for July 21, 1977.

On July 21, 1977, respondent met with Ms. Carlton and Ms. Haimes, the caseworker assigned to replace Ms. Carlton. From July 21, 1977, until October 20, 1977, respondent had several counseling sessions with Ms. Haimes. *fn6 In August 1977 ...

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