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In Re Lewis





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon. Richard E. Richman, Judge, presiding.


On July 10, 1985, the circuit court of Jackson County entered an order terminating the parental rights of the respondents, Richard Lewis and Roxanna Broshears. On appeal, the respondents raise the following issues: whether the services provided by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) were sufficient to meet the requirement of section 5-7(1) of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 705-7(1)) and whether the services offered were unsuccessful in rectifying the condition which led to the finding of unfitness. We affirm.

At the adjudicatory hearing on February 19, 1985, to determine whether the minor infant Charles Lewis (infant) was abused, the following evidence was adduced. On January 4, 1985, the 23-day-old infant was brought by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in Carbondale. When Dr. Jeffrey Mauldin examined the infant, he discovered that the infant had a broken left femur, multiple bruises on his body, lesions on his forehead, and burns on the bottom of his feet. Roxanna stated that the infant had fallen off a bed to the floor. She stated that the lesions and burns were the result of the infant's previous hospitalization at birth. Dr. Ralph Meeks, the radiologist who interpreted the infant's X rays, stated that there was a "mid-shaft spiral fracture of the left femur," caused by either a twisting or a blow to the area. Dr. William R. Hamilton, the pediatrician who saw the infant on January 4, 1985, and treated the infant at birth and the eight days following birth, stated that the infant's prior hospitalization did not cause the injuries to his head and feet. All three of the physicians stated that it is highly improbable that a fall from less than two feet would have caused a spiral fracture. They each agreed that even if the fall was obstructed, a spiral fracture would not have resulted. On February 26, 1985, the trial court entered its adjudication dispositional order finding the infant "has been abused and is now a ward of the Court" and continued temporary custody and guardianship with DCFS.

On April 29, 1985, a dispositional hearing was held to determine whether or not the respondents were unfit. At the hearing, among the facts adduced was the fact that on three occasions the law enforcement authorities were called out to the respondents' trailer court. On two of those occasions, the police were specifically called to the respondents' trailer and on the other occasion, they were called to a neighbor's trailer but the incident involved the respondents. On February 21, 1985, Roxanna signed a complaint against Richard for simple battery. On March 9, 1985, Roxanna did not sign a complaint. On March 17, 1985, Roxanna signed a complaint against Richard for aggravated battery. On that date he had broken a beer bottle during a heated argument and cut Roxanna on her cheek. At the hearing, the respondents stated that they would seek help.

After the hearing, the court found the parents unfit under section 1 of the Adoption Act, as required by section 5-9 of the Juvenile Court Act, on the following grounds of unfitness: (1) extreme cruelty to the child; (2) failure to protect the child from conditions within his environment injurious to the child's welfare; (3) depravity; (4) open and notorious adultery or fornication; and (5) failure by the mother to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions which were the basis for the removal of the child from the respondents. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 1501; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 705-9.) Although the court found the parents unfit, it reserved judgment on the termination of parental rights because it found that the requirement under section 5-7 of the Juvenile Court Act that appropriate services aimed at family preservation and family reunification be offered was not fulfilled. The court continued the hearing for 60 days. During that time, the court did not believe that the respondents could regain fitness but the respondents should be granted time to attempt to rectify the conditions.

On July 9, the court held the continued hearing to determine whether appropriate services aimed at family preservation and reunification were provided and whether these services were successful.

Wendy Manna, the DCFS social worker assigned as a follow-up worker on the respondents' case, testified. She stated that, on April 29, both of the respondents came to her office but she was unable to speak to them. Another meeting was arranged for May 2 but the respondents failed to show up and they did not explain their absence. On May 2, she mailed a letter to them setting up a meeting for May 7. Again, no one showed. On May 8, Roxanna called and set up a visit on May 14 for a service planning conference and a visit with the infant. On May 14, both showed up and they devised a plan for reunification. There was disagreement as to what respondents and Manna believed were their problems. She told them their problem was alcohol abuse with domestic violence. However, the respondents believed that the problem was a lack of parenting skills. For both respondents, she set up psychological evaluations. For Roxanna, Manna was to initiate a referral to the Women's Clinic for Domestic Violence counseling. For Richard, Manna advised counseling at the Alcoholics Resource Center. Manna stated that the program was very simple and the respondents had agreed to the plan.

Manna and another DCFS worker set up the appointments for the psychological evaluation and provided transportation. She also sent a letter of confirmation of the dates to the respondents. The respondents made it to the first appointment. However, when their ride arrived for their second day of evaluation, they were still asleep and told the ride there was no test scheduled for that date. When Manna confronted Roxanna about the missed meeting, Roxanna told her a different story.

When Manna called the Alcoholics Resource Center to find out if Richard kept his May 21 appointment, she found that he had not. At the next regularly scheduled appointment with the respondent on June 3, Richard stated that he did not keep his appointment because he did not believe he needed any help. Later, Manna talked to the woman whom Roxanna was to see at the Women's Resource Center. She found out that Roxanna also failed to show up for her June 14 appointment.

The respondents failed to appear at another scheduled appointment of June 11, and they failed to notify her of any change of plans. No visit was planned for June 18 or 25 because the infant was out of town with his foster parents. The next scheduled visit was set for July 2. On July 2, only Richard came. On July 3, she visited with Roxanna at the respondents' trailer. Roxanna stated that she did not show up for her appointment because of her work schedule.

Altogether, the respondents visited Dr. Kathryn Hamilton twice for a psychological evaluation. They failed to show up for four of the seven scheduled visits with the infant and Manna. Roxanna only called for the second visit to tell Manna that she would be late. Richard missed his appointment with the Alcohol Resource Center and no others were planned during the 60-day period. Roxanna failed to show up for her initial appointment with the Women's Resource Center.

Dr. Kathy Hamilton, psychologist at the Counseling Center at Southern Illinois University, examined the respondents. She stated that although these tests were only preliminary, she was able to draw some conclusions. Regarding Richard, she stated that he had a consistent pattern indicating difficulty in managing aggressive impulses, difficulty in establishing close emotional attachments in significant figures, and an inability to establish an empathic feeling toward another. However, she stated that the evaluation was not an adequate measure of his personality. The tentative diagnosis was antisocial personality disorder. She stated that Richard is not prepared to handle a child of Charles' age. Dr. Hamilton stated that she could not offer any psychiatric diagnosis, not even a tentative one, regarding Roxanna. She did find a problem with impulse control and difficulty in mediating stress. She did not see evidence of any empathic responses toward a child's discomfort. Dr. Hamilton recommended against returning the infant to Roxanna. From both respondents, she found an unwillingness to participate in any psychotherapy and denial of their problems. She also found an inconsistency in their words and actions.

On July 10, the court entered its written order finding:

"That the parents have been given every opportunity for appropriate services aimed at family preservation and reunification of the family. The court finds that the parents have rejected the services and done nothing to rectify the conditions which lead to the child's abuse and that the court has explored alternatives short of parental termination but has found none. The court finds that it would be dangerous to permit the respondents to raise the minor Charles Lewis and that it is in the best interest of Charles Lewis that the parental rights and residual rights of Roxanna ...

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