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In Re Hill





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


Respondent, Stephanie Hill, appeals the trial court finding that her children were dependent and neglected. She raises two issues for review: (1) whether the findings that the children were neglected and dependent are contrary to the evidence where the State failed to offer any evidence that the children were deprived of proper care, and (2) whether the trial court arbitrarily refused to continue the dispositional hearing to obtain current information relative to the children's best interests.

We affirm.

Petitioners for adjudication of wardship were filed on September 7, 1978 alleging that Bobbie, Steven, and Tyrone Hill and Joni Crockett were dependent minors without proper care due to the mental disabilities of the mother in violation of the Juvenile Court Act (hereafter Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 37, par. 702-5(1)(b)), and neglected in violation of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 37, par. 702-4(1)(a)).

An adjudicatory hearing was held on May 8, 1979. Ann Keating, a registered nurse with the Chicago Health Department, testified that on the morning of August 23, 1978, at about 9:40, she visited a home in Chicago Heights. She saw three children who were clean and fully dressed, a man who was sleeping on a couch, and a baby who was sleeping in an armchair, covered only by a coat. Keating examined the baby several times. The baby seemed limp with poor muscle tone and extremely weak with dull eyes and a weak cry. Keating did not examine the other children.

Although the apartment was fully carpeted, clean and adequately lighted, Keating noticed that it was sparsely furnished. There were no beds in the bedroom. There was no gas or hot water. There was no refrigerator in the kitchen, and Keating saw no food nor means of preparing food. However, Keating admitted that she did not look in the cabinets. The commode was full of excrement.

Keating knocked on the bedroom door and asked Stephanie Hill, the mother of the children, to come out. She did not do so until Keating threatened to call the police. When Stephanie came out, her gait was unsteady and she leaned against the wall for support. When Keating told Stephanie that the infant needed care, Stephanie ordered her out of the house. Keating returned one-half hour later with the police, but there was no response to her knock on the door.

Phyllis Putnam, a worker for the Department of Children and Family Services, testified that she had visited the Hill home on August 25, 1978, and had noticed that the yard was littered with glass, garbage, beer cans and liquor bottles. She also visited the children on August 31, 1978, at the home of their paternal grandmother. Putnam observed that Joni had small scars, an infected right arm and dry places on her scalp. There was nothing unusual about Bobbie. Steven had a small lump on his right forearm and an infected right leg.

Carrie Clark, the paternal grandmother, testified that she visited the children on August 27, 1978. Tyrone, the infant, was on a couch, alone. He looked weak and had vomited on himself. Three men walked into the house with a piece of paper and began removing the couch from the premises. Clark took the three older children with her. The next day she returned, found the baby at a neighbor's home, and took him to the hospital.

Eight-year-old Joni Crockett, daughter of respondent Hill, testified that she used to change the infant Tyrone's diapers and feed and bathe him. She continued to help her grandmother feed and care for Tyrone. Joni further testified that most of the time her mother was away and that she (Joni) was often scared. Joni asked her mother's friends for help in buying milk. On cross-examination, Joni stated that her mother did not leave the children alone often.

Respondent, Stephanie Hill, testified that she currently resided with her mother, brothers and sisters.

The adjudicatory hearing was continued until June 28, 1979, when John Whitman, a physician employed by clinical services, testified for the People. He had interviewed Stephanie as part of a diagnostic evaluation on February 15, 1979. In his opinion, Stephanie was an over-dependent, emotionally very immature person who was also quite depressed and who had difficulty caring for herself and her children in an appropriate manner. Stephanie felt lost and depressed, almost like a small child, unless some other adult was around on whom she could lean and ask for advice and from whom she could secure help. She needed someone who could give her advice on how to handle herself and her children. Stephanie had no response, concern or recognition as to the inadequacy of a home without gas or water. Her only emotional response was that she was being victimized and she did not have any means of financial support. At the time of the interview, according to the witness, Stephanie was not on public aid and did not know how to apply for it. It was impossible for Whitman to discuss practical future plans with Stephanie.

Whitman characterized Stephanie as impractical and unrealistic. She thought that if only she could get her children back everything would be well. This was a purely emotional response supported by her feelings of separation and inadequacy. Stephanie thought that she and her children could live with her mother, which was contrary to Whitman's information.

In Dr. Whitman's opinion, Stephanie was unable to take responsibility for her children. The basis for his opinion was her purely emotional responses and her complete inability to make any ...

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