APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT
of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v.
Patty Boothe Knell, Respondent-Appellant). -- In re A.L.B.
et al., Alleged to be Neglected Minors (The People of
the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v.
Patty Boothe Knell, Respondent-Appellant)
506 N.E.2d 360, 153 Ill. App. 3d 704, 106 Ill. Dec. 653 1987.IL.374
Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. William D. DeCardy, Judge, presiding.
Justice Green delivered the opinion of the court. Spitz, P.J., and Lund, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE GREEN
On June 2, 1982, the circuit court of McLean County entered an order finding A.C.B., born March 31, 1982, to be a neglected child (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 37, par. 702-4) and making her a ward of the court. On September 11, 1984, that court found A.L.B., born December 30, 1980, and M.A.B., born September 29, 1979, to also be neglected children and made them wards of the court. All three children were the offspring of respondents Patty Boothe Knell and Avery Boothe. On January 22, 1986, a petition was filed in that court to terminate the rights of the parents as to A.L.B. and M.A.B., and on September 18, 1986, a similar petition was filed in regard to A.C.B. Avery Boothe was defaulted, the petitions were consolidated, and an evidentiary hearing was held. On August 11, 1986, the court entered an order finding the parents to be unfit parents and terminating their rights.
Respondent Patty Boothe Knell has appealed, contending: (1) the State failed to prove that she was an unfit parent; and (2) the State erred in considering evidence of sexual abuse of the minors and of her failure to recognize that the abuse and the sex play among the children was a serious problem. We hold that the evidence was sufficient to support a determination that she was unfit, but, in order to make the finding, the court had to consider the allegedly improper evidence. We conclude that the evidence was improperly received, not because it lacked probative value, but because it concerned an issue not pleaded with sufficient specificity to give the mother a fair opportunity to prepare to respond to it. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new hearing after the State is given an opportunity to make any necessary amendments to the petitions.
The basis of the June 2, 1982, decree finding A.C.B., then only a few months old, to be neglected was that the baby had not received necessary care and had failed to thrive. The basis of the September 11, 1984, decree of neglect in regard to the two older children was that the parents had (1) failed to provide a preschool environment which allowed for the necessary developmental and learning skills to prepare them for early levels of their formal education; and (2) failed to provide appropriate supervision to control their behavior. The petitions to terminate parental rights were brought under section 1 of "An Act in relation to the adoption of persons . . ." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 1501). In regard to respondent Patty Boothe Knell, they alleged that she "failed to make reasonable progress" toward the return to her custody of the children in that she:
"1. Failed to make any progress through counseling, as directed in the case plan, missing numerous counseling sessions without a legitimate excuse, and failing to discuss any meaningful issues ...