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09/26/89 In Re L.M. Et Al.

September 26, 1989



Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v.

English M., Respondent-Appellant)

545 N.E.2d 319, 189 Ill. App. 3d 392, 136 Ill. Dec. 795 1989.IL.1492

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Gerald T. Winiecki, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE DiVITO delivered the opinion of the court. HARTMAN and SCARIANO, JJ., concur.


After a juvenile court adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that respondent, English M., had abused and neglected her two minor sons, L.M. and D.M. At the Dispositional hearing, the circuit court made L.M. and D.M. wards of the court; vacated a temporary custody order; and appointed as guardian Walter M., their father. Respondent appeals from this order contending that the circuit court erred because it: (1) lacked jurisdiction over L.M. and D.M.; (2) improperly found that respondent used excessive corporal punishment; (3) improperly admitted hearsay testimony concerning a psychological report during the Dispositional hearing; (4) improperly found that respondent was an unfit parent; and (5) improperly ordered the termination of respondent's unsupervised visits with her sons.

Respondent and her husband had two sons, L.M. and D.M. In 1984, when L.M. was seven years old and D.M. was nine years old, respondent had been separated from her husband for approximately three years. On Saturday, March 24, 1984, L.M. and D.M. left home in the morning to play and did not return until late in the evening. Respondent stated that on this date she looked for her sons while en route to the currency exchange and to the gas station, but could not find them.

The next day, in the early morning, their father saw the boys in the front yard of a friend's house. They stayed with their father most of the day, and before nightfall went back to respondent's home, 2 1/2 blocks away, but were unable to gain access. The boys returned to their father's home and, at approximately 9 p.m., he accompanied them to respondent's house, where he knocked several times and then pounded on the door with a rock, but there was no answer.

After several phone calls and an unsuccessful attempt by respondent's brother to gain access to the house, L.M. and D.M. stayed the night with their father. That evening, their father gave the boys a bath and washed their hair "so they wouldn't have to go to school smelling like urine." For some time the boys had been dirty. Their father recalled that the Parent-Teacher Association president had spoken with him, requesting that he contact respondent about the condition of the boys. While washing the younger boy, L.M., his father noticed five "whip marks" across his back.

The father described the marks on L.M.'s back as 6 to 10 inches long, going diagonally in different directions. The marks had become pink-fleshy lines after the scabs that had initially formed had fallen off. In response to his father's questions about how he had gotten the marks, L.M. said that he had been whipped with a belt and a stick by respondent because he had been playing ball in the house. D.M. told his father that respondent had also struck him.

Because the boys had colds, their father took them to Michael Reese Hospital, where they were examined by Dr. Berman, who diagnosed the colds, noted the marks across L.M.'s back, and told their father that they were caused by being whipped. After L.M. confirmed he had been whipped, Dr. Berman telephoned the hotline for child abuse and neglect of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and reported that respondent had struck L.M. with a belt and had left the boys unsupervised.

DCFS filed petitions for adjudication of wardship which alleged that respondent abused and neglected the two boys, in violation of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 37, pars. 702-4(1)(a), (2)(a), (2)(b)).

On April 3, 1984, a guardian ad litem having been appointed to represent L.M. and D.M., a probable cause hearing was held. Marlon Daniels, a DCFS employee, testified that on March 27, 1984, he had visited the boys' elementary school and had spoken with L.M. and D.M. about being left unsupervised by their mother. Daniels had examined L.M. and discovered five whip marks on his back. He recommended that the boys remain in foster care placement until respondent, their father, and a service worker for DCFS could determine a service plan for the return of the boys to respondent. The circuit court found that ...

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