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10/13/94 BEATRIZ S. AND EDNA S. v. IRENE T.

October 13, 1994

IN RE BEATRIZ S. AND EDNA S., MINORS (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
IRENE T., RESPONDENT-APPELLEE).



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE R. MORGAN HAMILTON, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Hoffman, Cahill, Johnson

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoffman

PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an appeal from a Dispositional order entered in a juvenile court proceeding which granted Irene T. weekly unsupervised visitation with her minor daughters. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to qualify two State witnesses as experts and in granting Irene unsupervised visitation rights. We agree with the State and therefore reverse and remand this case for further proceedings.

On June 21, 1988, Irene along with her three daughters, eight-year-old Beatriz S., four-year-old Edna S., and three-year-old Lilly S., resided with Irene's paramour, Leonardo Nunez. While Lilly was taking a bath, Leonardo poured a bucket of boiling water over the child. Lilly suffered thermal burns over 60% of her body and died on July 10, 1988. Prior to her death, Lilly was confined to the burn unit at Cook County Hospital. Physical examinations of Lilly conducted both before and after her death revealed: 12 scars on the top of her head consistent with blunt trauma; old untreated fractures of the right femur, radius, and ulna also caused by blunt trauma; two vaginal tears; and an enlarged hymenal opening consistent with sexual penetration.

On June 30, 1988, Beatriz and Edna were taken into protective custody and were subjected to physical examinations. The examination of Beatriz revealed evidence of physical and sexual abuse consistent with violent sexual assault. And while Edna's physical examination was normal, the physician's psychological findings were consistent with physical abuse. On July 1, 1988, petitions for adjudication of wardship were filed on behalf of Beatriz and Edna and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was appointed their temporary custodian.

On March 12, 1990, Leonardo Nunez was convicted of Lilly's murder and on April 20, 1990, Leonardo's son, David Nunez, was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual assault against Beatriz and Edna.

On August 9, 1990, a stipulated bench trial was conducted on the petitions for adjudication of wardship. The court was presented with evidence relating to the circumstances surrounding Lilly's death. Although denied by Irene, the parties stipulated that both Leonardo and Beatriz would testify that Irene was present when Leonardo poured boiling water on the child and that she told Beatriz to lie to the police and say that Lilly pulled a pot of boiling water over onto herself. The parties stipulated to the testimony of a number of witnesses including Beatriz, Leonardo Nunez, David Nunez, three physicians, and a police officer. Although no stipulation was made as to the truth of that testimony, and without specific attribution, the testimony revealed the following: both Irene and Leonardo struck all three of the children with their fists, belts, sticks, and an electrical cord; Irene and Leonardo made Lilly sleep on the floor, eat off the floor, and eat hot peppers; Beatriz was raped both vaginally and anally by David Nunez; and Edna was raped by David Nunez.

At the Conclusion of the trial, the court found, inter alia, that: the State had met its burden on all counts; Irene was present on more than one occasion when Beatriz and Edna were injured; both Irene and Leonardo physically abused Beatriz; both Leonardo and his son David sexually abused Beatriz; both Irene and Leonardo physically abused Edna; Leonardo sexually abused Edna; and Irene was unfit to have custody of Beatriz and Edna.

After a Dispositional hearing, the trial court entered an order on May 1, 1991, declaring both Beatriz and Edna wards of the State but granted Irene the unsupervised visitation which is the basis of the State's appeal.

For purposes of the Dispositional hearing, the trial court had before it various reports generated by agencies rendering services to the minors and their parents. (705 ILCS 405/2-22 (West 1992); In re J.H. (1991), 212 Ill. App. 3d 22, 570 N.E.2d 689, 156 Ill. Dec. 213; In re L.M. (1989), 189 Ill. App. 3d 392, 545 N.E.2d 319, 136 Ill. Dec. 795.) One such report was a DCFS Supplemental Social Services Investigation Report dated November 9, 1990, signed by both Ana Campos and her supervisor, Naida Valdes, which recommended that both Beatriz and Edna be declared wards of the State and that Irene be allowed supervised visitation. Additionally, the State called three witnesses to testify with respect to Irene's fitness to care for Beatriz and Edna: Pat Utigard, Samuel Acosta, and Campos. No other witnesses were called.

Utigard holds a bachelor's degree in sociology, a master's degree in social work, and is licensed by the State as a clinical social worker. At the time of her testimony, Utigard was the director of social services at the Lydia Home, a licensed residential facility which cares for children who, because of abuse or neglect, have been declared wards of the State. She was the social worker assigned to Beatriz and Edna.

Acosta has a bachelor's degree in divinity, a master's degree in the sociology of religion, a master's degree in psychology, and a doctorate degree in ministry with a specialty in counseling. He was trained in both individual and family psychotherapy at Lutheran General Hospital where he was employed for 10 years. Acosta acted as a therapist for both minors, Irene, and the father of the minors.

Campos is a child welfare specialist employed by the DCFS. At the time of her testimony, she had been a child welfare specialist for six years. She and her supervisor, Valdes, ...


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