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06/21/89 Janet L. Nees Et Al., v. Marianne Lynn Doan

June 21, 1989





540 N.E.2d 1046, 185 Ill. App. 3d 122, 133 Ill. Dec. 180 1989.IL.949

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. Joseph C. Moore, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE SPITZ delivered the opinion of the court. KNECHT and GREEN, JJ., concur.


This is an appeal by the petitioners from the denial by the circuit court of Vermilion County of their adoption petition. The petitioners James and Patricia Nees filed their petition on July 30, 1987. On that same day, the natural mother Marianne Doan executed a final and irrevocable consent to the adoption of her infant daughter. On the following day, the natural father also consented to the adoption. The trial court ordered termination of parental rights on January 31, 1987. Temporary custody of the child was given to the petitioners, an attorney was appointed guardian ad litem for the infant, and the county department of probation services was ordered to investigate the petitioners and report to the court.

A hearing was held on the Neeses' petition to adopt on December 8, 1987. The parties agreed to waive a six-month waiting period. At the time of the hearing, the child had been living with the petitioners since July 29, 1987. She was covered by medical insurance and had a room of her own in the petitioners' two-bedroom home. The home had a value of approximately $70,000 and there was no outstanding mortgage. The petitioners indicated they were able to meet their current financial obligations. The monthly income of the family is approximately $1,000 and the expenses are about $900. Of this $678 per month came from pension and disability payments to Patricia Nees. The parties had filed for bankruptcy in 1985. Evidence was presented to suggest the petitioners' current comfortable financial situation was due primarily to an inheritance of $135,000 received by the petitioners from the estate when James Nees' father died after their bankruptcy.

James Nees testified he graduated from high school in 1960 and had taken some courses at a junior college. The evidence showed James Nees had a history of criminal activity and continual difficulty holding a job for long periods of time. In 1979, he was charged with burglary in Vermilion County. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and the petitioner was given two years' probation. In 1976, the petitioner was charged with retail theft in Vermilion County. However, these charges were later dismissed. In 1975, defendant was charged and convicted of burglary in Champaign County. He was again placed on probation and completed it successfully.

James Nees' employment history showed he has generally been employed as a janitor or maintenance worker since his graduation from high school. Nees was fired twice from employment with the University of Illinois. The first time in 1975 was for theft and led to his burglary conviction in Champaign County. He was rehired by the University and was shortly thereafter fired for sexual harassment of a female co-worker in 1977. Prior to that, Nees had worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and had been fired for taking workers' compensation from the hospital while working a similar job at a second employer. More recently, the petitioner had been fired in 1987 from a maintenance job with the Sheraton Inn in Danville for forging a letter of recommendation from his employer. At the time of the adoption hearing, he held two part-time jobs earning around $4 an hour. The petitioner was 45 years old.

Patricia Nees testified she was 37 years old. The evidence showed she was diabetic, had a heart condition, arthritis, and was obese. The Social Security Administration determined she was disabled and her income was largely derived from social security disability payments. She also worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital for 17 years and received pension payments as a result of this employment. Despite her health problems, the petitioner claimed she was able to take care of the child. She also testified that she had a history of caring for other people's children and worked at a church nursery.

Carol Fisher of the Vermilion County Probation Department testified she had carried out an investigation at the order of the court in this matter. She stated the Neeses had withheld employment information from her and withheld financial information by understating their assets. She also stated she visited the petitioners' home and it was clean, of fair size, and well furnished. There was no indication of any danger to the child and the child appeared to be clean and well cared for.

Mary Ann Heinrich testified she worked for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services . She investigated the Neeses for certification as foster care parents. She also testified the Neeses had misled her concerning their background. Specifically, Mr. Nees had not indicated any conviction for serious crime or having received mental health counselling. She recommended the Neeses not be licensed as foster care parents. Her recommendation was not based so much on the past criminal activities of James Nees, but primarily on the Neeses' failure to be forthcoming and honest in dealing with DCFS.

Dr. Stanley Hogsett testified on behalf of the petitioners. Dr. Hogsett is a clinical psychologist and examined James Nees on two occasions. On these occasions, he administered several psychological and intelligence tests. He testified James Nees was of normal intelligence and did not suffer from any psychopathology. Nothing revealed in the tests indicated the petitioner would not be an appropriate parent.

On December 28, 1987, the court denied the Neeses' petition for adoption. The child was made a ward of the court, and the court services department was directed to place the child in foster care. On January 18, 1988, the petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration. On January 20, 1988, the natural mother Marianne Doan filed a petition to void or revoke her consent to the adoption. On January 26, 1988, the court ordered any proceedings concerning the adoption of the child stayed. On October 17, 1988, the petitioners' post-trial motions were denied, and on October 28, 1988, the motion by the natural ...

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