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In Re Hoback

OPINION FILED APRIL 9, 1981.

IN RE LEONARD JACOB HOBACK, A MINOR. — (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,

v.

GERALDINE FOSTER, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cumberland County; the Hon. JAMES R. WATSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Termination of parental rights.

• 1 Off the head end, we note that parental rights are not lightly terminated. In fact, the State must show the existence of one or more of the statutory grounds by clear and convincing evidence. In re Sanders (1979), 77 Ill. App.3d 78, 395 N.E.2d 1228.

After examining the facts as presented by the parties, as well as the record and the arguments of counsel, we find that the State has failed to meet its burden.

We must reverse.

On August 26, 1980, the trial court entered an order terminating the parental rights of Geraldine Foster. The court found that: (a) she failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the child's welfare; (b) she failed to make reasonable progress towards the return of the child within 12 months after an adjudication that he was a neglected minor; and (c) she failed for a period of well over 12 months to maintain reasonable contact with the child, or to plan for the child's future while the child was in the care of an authorized agency.

• 2 The first statutory factor which the trial court found existed was a failure by respondent-mother to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the child's welfare. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 40, par. 1501D(b).) Although this standard is not susceptible to a precise quantitative or qualitative analysis, the record indicates that respondent-mother visited the child six times in the 18 months the child was with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. David Cole, a caseworker for DCFS, and Paula Nave, a caseworker for Catholic Charities, both testified that respondent expressed her desire to have Jake returned to her. Additionally, there was evidence that she had sent cards to Jake on at least two occasions. Considering the entire record, especially the facts noted above, we find that the trial court's determination, that respondent-mother failed to show a reasonable degree of interest and concern, was against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re Hurley (1976), 44 Ill. App.3d 260, 357 N.E.2d 815.

• 3 The trial court further found that respondent-mother failed — for a period of 12 months — to maintain reasonable contact or to plan for the child's future, while the child was in the care of an authorized agency, which agency was attempting to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 40, par. 1501D(n).) Our review of the record indicates that the trial court's finding on this ground was also against the manifest weight of the evidence. Hurley.

In the 12-month period prior to the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights, the following contacts occurred:

March 14, 1979 Respondent has a child and requests that Jake be allowed to visit the baby.

March 23, 1979 Respondent meets with Nave from Catholic Charities in an attempt to set goals and objectives to be achieved within the next six months.

April 12, 1979 Respondent visits with the child.

May 1, 1979 Respondent, who was living in Chicago, sends ...


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