APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. THE HONORABLE HARRY B. ARON JUDGE PRESIDING.
Released for Publication April 19, 1994.
Gordon, McNULTY, Cousins, Jr.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon
JUSTICE GORDON delivered the opinion of the court:
On July 12, 1991, Angela S. executed a document entitled "Final and Irrevocable Consent to Adoption" which provided that she did "consent and agree to the adoption" of her son, J.B. Pursuant to court order, J.B. was placed with his godmother (Z.S.) who initially agreed to adopt him. In April 1992, however, Z.S. changed her mind and that adoption did not proceed. At that time, DCFS took J.B. from Z.S.'s home and placed him in a foster home. On August 13, 1992, approximately thirteen months after Angela signed the original consent and without any further notice to Angela, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sought and obtained an order terminating her parental rights and authorizing it to consent to J.B.'s adoption. On November 16, 1992, Angela filed a motion to void her consent of July 12, 1991, and vacate the August 13, 1992, order terminating her parental rights. In an order entered May 14, 1993, the trial court denied that motion and Angela now appeals.
In 1989, Angela lived with her husband and their four children, one of whom was J.B. On April 10, 1989, a neglect petition was filed in juvenile court by the Department of Children and Family Services. In that petition, DCFS alleged that J.B. had been neglected and that his environment was injurious to his welfare. On May 11, 1989, the trial court entered an order of protection with respect to J.B. which provided that J.B.'s parents must provide all care necessary for his well-being, attend counseling and not engage in any domestic violence in the presence of J.B. On September 12, 1990, DCFS filed a petition for supplemental relief in which it was alleged that J.B.'s parents had violated the protective order in that Angela had cut J.B.'s father with a knife and threatened to kill him. Pursuant to that petition, the trial court ruled that J.B. remain under the order of protection. At some point after this petition was filed, Angela and J.B.'s father separated and began living apart.
On July 12, 1991, Angela appeared in court and moved to vacate the order of protection. During that appearance her attorney, a public defender, stated that Angela was "asking to be relieved of her parental responsibilities." The following colloquy then occurred:
"THE COURT: The mother is asking that the 2-25 [order of protection] be vacated and custody be placed with the Department of Children and Family Services?
[ANGELA'S ATTORNEY]: Yes, Judge.
THE COURT: Is that correct, mother?
THE COURT: Do you understand you don't have to do this if you don't want to? Do you understand that?
THE COURT: Do you understand that I will be vacating the existing 2-25 order? That I will be placing temporary custody with the Department of Children and Family Services. This is what you want to do?
THE COURT: Are you doing it freely and voluntarily?
THE COURT: By agreement, I vacate the 2-25 protective order. By agreement, combining probable cause, and immediate necessity shown, I grant temporary custody to the DCFS with the right to place."
At that point the guardian ad litem moved that J.B. be placed with Z.S. who according to the record had expressed an interest in adopting J.B. and who was purportedly caring for Angela's three other minor children. Angela joined in this motion and pursuant thereto J.B. was so placed.
The following colloquy then occurred:
"[ANGELA'S ATTORNEY]: At this time, resident mother is seeking to sign, in open court, an irrevocable consent of adoption with respect to each of the four minors.
THE COURT: Mother, at this time, your attorney tells me you wish to sign what is called a final and irrevocable consent of adoption; is that correct?
THE COURT: Now ma'am, do you understand you do not have to sign this document if you do not want to?
THE COURT: Do you also understand if, in fact, you sign this document, it is irrevocable and it is permanent? You cannot come into this court or any other court and seek to have this turned around. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: Do you understand that, by signing this document, you are consenting to the child being adopted? Do you understand that?
THE COURT: You're giving up your parental rights; do you understand that?
THE COURT: And, again, I want you to understand, clearly, that it is an irrevocable act and you cannot come into this court or any other court to seek to have it overturned; do you understand that?
THE COURT: And that is what you want to do?
As long as their placement is with [Z.S.]"
Angela then proceeded to sign a final and irrevocable consent for adoption with respect to J.B. In response to questions posed by her attorney, she again stated that it was her wish to give up J.B. for adoption and that she was doing so freely and voluntarily. The following exchange then occurred:
"[ANGELA'S ATTORNEY]: Do your understand, even if you sign the documents, these documents today, that [J.B.] will not be immediately placed for adoption? Do you understand that?
Q. Do you understand that, when and if the parental rights of the parties are terminated, it is still uncertain?
Q: Do you understand -- Is it you wish that the children be ...