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11/09/89 In Re C.P. Et Al.

November 9, 1989



Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v.

Phil Phillips, Respondent-Appellant)

547 N.E.2d 604, 191 Ill. App. 3d 237, 138 Ill. Dec. 437 1989.IL.1761

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. John L. Davis, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE SPITZ delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH, P.J., and STEIGMANN, J., concur.


Respondent Phil Phillips appeals from an order of the circuit court of Macon County finding him to be an unfit parent and terminating his parental rights to his five minor children, S.P., C.P., T.P., P.P., Jr., and J.P. We affirm for the following reasons.

The record reveals that a petition was filed on December 18, 1980, alleging that S.P., one-year old son of respondent Phil Phillips, was "a neglected minor in that his environment is injurious to his welfare." S.P. was adjudicated a neglected minor by order dated May 18, 1981, and on the same date an order was entered removing S.P. from the custody of his parents. A second petition was filed on December 9, 1985, alleging that respondent's other four children (ages one, two, three, and four years) were in an injurious environment in that these minors' father, the respondent, caused the mother great bodily harm by striking her in the face. The petition further alleged that this violent act created a substantial risk of physical injury to the children because they were present at the time. On March 12, 1986, an order was entered declaring C.P., T.P., P.P., Jr., and J.P. to be abused minors and directing their removal from the custody of their parents.

On February 5, 1987, the mother, Rose Phillips, surrendered her parental rights as to all five of her children and consented to their adoption. On August 24, 1988, a supplemental petition was filed alleging the respondent to be an unfit person "because: he has failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions which were the basis for the removal of the minors from the respondent father." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 1501(m).) Another supplemental petition was filed on the same date, for the remaining minor S.P., alleging two counts against the respondent. The first count was the same as the previous petition for the other children. The second count alleged that the respondent was unfit, having failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minor to the respondent father since the adjudication of S.P. as a neglected minor.

A consolidated hearing concerning these allegations was held on January 11, 1989. At the hearing, Jo Lee McElrath testified she served as a child welfare specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services . She explained her duties included overseeing placement of the respondent's five children, formulating objectives for respondent that would enable him to regain responsibility for his children and attending administrative case reviews. She also testified she had been working with the Phillips children from 1985 until the time of the hearing. During 1987 and 1988, there was improved parent-child bonding. Her primary concern was the failure of respondent to provide housing for the children. Respondent was living with his parents, and the children could not live there. In July 1988, approval had been given for two of the children to be returned to respondent, but he never obtained a residence in which the children could reside. In the event respondent obtained housing and two children were returned to him, within two or three weeks public aid would begin to assist them financially. At the time, respondent was only receiving $149 per month as township assistance. Even though respondent's visitation with the children was unsupervised, in this witness' estimation these children would be too much of a task for the respondent if he were responsible for them all, because they were too difficult to control. Respondent needed counseling to help him control his temper.

Eleanor J. Bridgeman, a case worker supervisor of the Social Adjustment and Rehabilitation Program at the Youth Advocate Program, testified she worked with the Phillips family from April 1982 until January 1987. During this time she spent 447 3/4 hours on the case. She worked with the family to improve parenting and discipline techniques. Bridgeman disclosed that in addition to her services, two homemakers were dispatched from the preteen program between October of 1984 and the end of December 1986, working a combined total of 644 1/2 hours to assist the Phillips family. Bridgeman personally supervised the office visits, which were scheduled on a weekly basis. From August 1986 to January 1987, respondent did not participate in these visits. During the visits he kept, respondent made a lot of progress in learning how to discipline the children and learning that each child had special needs. However, since he had not participated in these visits for four months at the time the Department terminated the youth advocate service, the witness did not believe respondent was making reasonable progress at the time the service was terminated. Bridgeman or a homemaker also accompanied the family on visits to doctors to make sure she was aware of the doctor's findings.

The State's next witness was psychologist Dan Hocking. He testified he had evaluated and tested the respondent and had recommended that, on the basis of his evaluation, the respondent should be involved in weekly counseling and vocational training. Hocking examined and tested respondent on March 3 and 9, 1987. As a result of these tests, Hocking recommended respondent become involved in an ongoing program of weekly visits with a clinician. Hocking also suggested that the respondent should be monitored to establish that he was not abusing drugs or alcohol, that respondent participate in some type of vocational training, and that any increase in contact with the children or responsibility for the children be done gradually so respondent's capabilities of handling this extra stress could be evaluated. In addition, if respondent attempted to assume responsibility of all the children, constant ongoing supervision and assistance such as a homemaker would be sufficient to allow respondent to be successful. Finally, Hocking recommended having Phillips evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine whether a mild antidepressant medication would be helpful.

Mary Wade Powell, a psychotherapist who practices with her husband William, testified the respondent had been referred to her for counseling by DCFS. Although a weekly schedule of appointments was set up, respondent kept only two appointments with Powell. During her two counseling sessions with the respondent, Powell encouraged the respondent to make an effort to find gainful employment so he could rent living quarters large enough to accommodate at least some of his children. She further testified respondent failed to secure employment because his hair was too long and there was no work. He indicated he could not rent a place to live on the money provided by the township. Powell agreed that the respondent seemed to place greater significance on his hairstyle than his desire to have custody of his children and that he did not ...

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