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05/02/95 S.O. v. ROLAND DEFORD

May 2, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois. No. 92-J-10. Honorable J. Peter Ault, Judge, Presiding.

Present - Honorable Allan L. Stouder, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice. Stouder, P.j., and Mccuskey, J. concurring.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Holdridge

The Honorable Justice HOLDRIDGE delivered the opinion of the court.

On January 23, 1992, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of the minors, S.O., N.D. and C.D., alleging that their father, respondent Roland Deford, had sexually abused S.O. (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(iii) (West 1992)). The court granted the State's petition. The State subsequently filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. The court found respondent unfit for failure to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for the removal of the minors, and failure to make reasonable progress toward their return (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 1992)). The court granted the State's petition and terminated respondent's parental rights. Respondent appeals. We affirm.

The record establishes that respondent obtained custody of the three minors upon the dissolution of his marriage to their mother, Geraldine, in October of 1990. Geraldine testified that her mother had advised her to talk to S.O. about possible sexual conduct because of an incident in which S.O. had reportedly asked a cousin to "hump" her. Based on this conversation, Geraldine asked S.O. during a visitation on January 21, 1992, whether anyone had been touching her in wrong places. S.O. said, "Yes," and then admitted that respondent had been molesting her. Geraldine testified that S.O. stated that on several occasions respondent had touched her "privates" with his hand and rubbed his "privates" between her legs, and that "white stuff" that he called "spit" had come out. S.O. told Geraldine that respondent had threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone what he had done.

Based on S.O.'s statements, Geraldine took S.O. to the hospital. S.O. repeated her statements to Deputy Dick Ganschow of the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department and to Ameen Ashshakoor Azim, a child welfare specialist for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

At the adjudicatory hearing on May 14, 1992, eight-year-old S.O. testified that respondent had put his hand and his "private" between her legs and had moved up and down on her "private" and made a sound like a bear. Then "white stuff" came out. She stated that this had happened more than two times in the living room and in his bedroom. He told her not to tell anyone.

Testifying on his own behalf, respondent denied any sexual conduct with S.O. Respondent also introduced witnesses who testified that S.O. was angry with him, she wanted to live with her mother, and she had made untrue statements on other occasions.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found S.O.'s testimony of abuse believable and respondent's denial unbelievable. Accordingly, the court adjudicated the minors abused and made them wards of the court. The court also ordered respondent to submit to a full psychological evaluation.

At the dispositional hearing of July 15, 1992, the court considered reports of psychological evaluations of S.O. and both parents. At that time, the psychologist recommended that S.O. remain in foster care and that respondent be reevaluated for substance abuse. The psychologist's impressions of respondent's parenting ability was uncertain because of invalid personality test results. The court also considered reports of Catholic Social Service (CSS) caseworker Lisa Sherwood recommending that DCFS be awarded guardianship of the minors and that DCFS be granted authority to return the minors to Geraldine's custody.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the court granted Geraldine custody of N.D. and C.D. and granted respondent supervised visitation with them. The court ordered that S.O. remain in foster care for a few more weeks before returning to Geraldine and that respondent cooperate with DCFS and sex abuse counseling requirements, with the goal that he could ultimately resume a normal parent-child relationship with the minors.

On December 20, 1993, the State filed its petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. At the hearing on the petition, Brenda Ennis, the children's DCFS caseworker, testified that she had encouraged respondent to attend weekly sex abuse counseling sessions prior to the State's petition. However, respondent attended only 18 sessions between November of 1992 and May 19, 1993. Then he discontinued any participation until after the State filed its petition to terminate his parental rights. Respondent's participation in the sessions was deemed unsatisfactory by his counselor because he had failed to make any progress in addressing his pedophile tendencies. The counselor testified that it was not safe for the children to be with respondent.

Respondent testified that he had quit counseling in May of 1993 because he believed his counselor was lying about him to DCFS. He resumed attending the sessions in January of 1994 after learning that he was going to lose his parental rights. Respondent testified that he had admitted doing something wrong, and he understood that children should not be abused. He denied some of the things he was accused of doing, and he disagreed with the diagnosis of his problem as pedophilia. He testified that his problem was "being accused of stuff I don't do."

After taking the cause under advisement, the trial court determined that respondent was unfit pursuant to section 1(D)(m) of the Adoption ...

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