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02/11/88 In Re Sabrina Enis (the People of the State of Illinois

February 11, 1988

IN RE SABRINA ENIS (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,


SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

Appellant, v.

Larry Enis et al., Appellees)

520 N.E.2d 362, 121 Ill. 2d 124, 117 Ill. Dec. 201 1988.IL.185

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Second District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County, the Hon. Richard C. Christian and Charles F. Scott, Judges, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. JUSTICE SIMON, specially Concurring. JUSTICE MILLER joins in this special concurrence.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WARD

The State's Attorney of Lake County, on May 5, 1983, filed a petition in the circuit court of Lake County under section 5-9 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 37, par. 705-9) to terminate the parental rights of the defendants, Larry and Cynthia Enis, in their natural child Sabrina, who is now six years old and in foster care. The petition alleged that the Enises were "unfit persons" under sections 1(f) and (m) of the Illinois Adoption Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, pars. 1501(f), (m)). These sections state grounds for the termination of parental rights under the Juvenile Court Act. The Enises moved to strike the allegations that under section 1(f) they were unfit persons on the ground that the section violates the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The circuit court denied the motion and, after a hearing, granted the State's petition. The appellate court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. (145 Ill. App. 3d 753.) The court held that section 1(f) of the Adoption Act violates the due process clause and that there was insufficient evidence in the record to terminate the Enises' parental rights under section 1(m). We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal under Rule 317. 107 Ill. 2d R. 317.

Earlier, on May 25, 1982, the State filed a petition in the circuit court of Lake County asking that Sabrina, who was in the custody of her parents, be adjudicated a ward of the court pursuant to section 4-8 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 37, par. 704-8). The petition stated that Sabrina was an "abused minor" as defined in section 2-4 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 37, par. 702-4), and alleged that while she was in the custody of her parents, Sabrina had suffered serious burns to her thighs, buttocks, genital area and feet and that bruises found on various parts of her body had been inflicted at various times. The court granted the motion on September 2, 1982, and ordered Sabrina transferred to the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services , which was appointed as her guardian. The court also ordered the Enises to cooperate with the DCFS and granted them rights to weekly visitations with Sabrina.

On December 2, 1982, the court returned Sabrina to the custody of the Enises but ordered that she was to remain a ward of the court. The court also directed the Enises to continue to cooperate with the DCFS and with a number of other social services.

In March of 1983 the State filed a supplemental petition for adjudication of wardship in the circuit court of Lake County, alleging that Sabrina had suffered further physical abuse, viz., on March 7, 1983, Sabrina had received a severe head injury which required emergency surgery. The State further alleged that bruises inflicted at different times were discovered on various parts of her body. The court granted the petition and ordered that Sabrina be placed in foster care again, with visitation for the parents to be scheduled twice a month.

Two months later, on May 5, 1983, the State filed the petition, which we consider here, to terminate the Enises' parental rights. It alleged that under section 1of the Adoption Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, par. 1501) the Enises were "unfit persons" on the ground that there had been the two prior findings of their physical abuse of a child (Sabrina) (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, par. 1501(f)), and on the ground that they had failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions which caused the court to enter its order of September 2, 1982, adjudicating Sabrina a ward of the court (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, par. 1501(m)).

The Enises moved to strike the allegations of unfitness based upon the two prior findings of abuse referred to in section 1(f). The Enises contended that a termination of parental rights requires proof of unfitness by clear and convincing evidence and that an order of termination could not be based upon ...


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