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02/09/96 DAWN H. v. ROBERT H.

February 9, 1996

IN RE DAWN H., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT H., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Stephen F. Brodhay, Judge Presiding.

Presiding Justice McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court: Gordon and Hourihane, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcnulty

PRESIDING JUSTICE McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court:

Robert H. appeals from an order by the juvenile court finding him to be an unfit parent and terminating his parental rights in his daughter, Dawn H. We affirm.

Dawn H. was born to Kathy K. and Robert H. on October 31, 1984. Robert H. and Kathy K. were not married and at the time of Dawn's birth, Robert H. was serving time in prison. In 1985, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a report that Kathy K.'s son Jimmy B., Dawn's half-brother, was being physically abused. A DCFS case worker began assisting and providing services to Kathy K. and her children and, on February 20, 1987, temporary custody was taken of Dawn and Jimmy and they were placed in foster care because Kathy K. had made no progress despite the services provided to her. Petitions for adjudication of wardship containing allegations of physical abuse and neglect against Dawn and Jimmy were filed on February 19, 1987. At trial on June 23, 1987, Kathy K. admitted the allegations of physical abuse and neglect. Robert H. defaulted as to the petitions, and the children were made wards of the court and remained in substitute care.

On February 20, 1991, the State filed supplemental petitions for appointment of a guardian with right to consent to adoption regarding Jimmy and Dawn. Because Kathy K. had signed voluntary surrenders of her parental rights to both Dawn and Jimmy, the trial on those petitions with respect to Dawn concerned only Robert H.'s fitness. The supplemental petition alleged that Robert H. is an unfit parent because he: (1) failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to Dawn's welfare; (2) deserted Dawn for more than three months prior to the commencement of these proceedings for termination of parental rights; (3) failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for removal of Dawn from her parent within 12 months after adjudication or failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of Dawn to such parent within 12 months after adjudication; (4) evidenced an intent to forego parental rights as manifested by a failure for a period of 12 months to visit Dawn, communicate with Dawn or the agency and/or to maintain contact with or plan for Dawn's future; and (5) is depraved.

Betty Jenkins testified at the hearing that she was the DCFS worker on the H. family case from 1985 until the spring of 1987. She stated that when she was first assigned to the case in September of 1985, Robert H. was not living with Dawn's mother. Jenkins' first contact with Robert H. occurred almost two years later, in February 1987, when he telephoned her at her request shortly after Dawn was taken into custody. They arranged to meet at Jenkins' office on February 25, 1987. During that meeting, Robert H. informed Jenkins that he was in fact Dawn's father, that he had been incarcerated at the time of Dawn's birth, and that after his release from prison in 1986, he began living in a condemned building as its caretaker. Robert H. told Jenkins that he had seen Dawn approximately a week and a half prior to his meeting with Jenkins. Robert H. told Jenkins that "he didn't really have that much of a relationship with [Dawn] because he had been incarcerated *** all of her life." He wanted Kathy K. to keep Dawn "but if there was any problem *** he would try to take her." Jenkins testified that Robert H. admitted to her that he had a drug problem; however, she could not recall which drug he named.

Jenkins testified that Robert H. visited Dawn in her office in early March 1987, and that visit, which lasted over an hour, went well. Jenkins stated that when Robert H. called to arrange a second visit, she explained that Dawn was in Mt. Sinai Hospital and that he could visit her there. Jenkins could not recall whether Robert H. visited Dawn in the hospital.

Jenkins testified that she spoke to Kathy K. on March 30, 1987, and Kathy K. stated that she had no idea where Robert H. was. Jenkins explained that a few months later, in May of 1987, a private agency became the primary service provider for the H. family although she continued to be assigned to the case until July 1988, when she was promoted to supervisor. After her promotion, she continued to receive messages at her former telephone number, but never received one from Robert H. Jenkins testified that from March of 1987 to the time of trial, January 1992, she had no contact with nor message from Robert H.

Jenkins explained that it is not DCFS policy to include in family service plans parents who are missing or whose location is unknown. She testified that if Robert H. had been available, services would have been offered to him, but he was not available after March 1987.

Sandra McKoi, a case worker with Bensenville Home Society, testified that Jenkins transferred the H. family case to her in June of 1987. McKoi worked as either the direct supervisor or supervisor of the case for approximately two years, until July of 1989. At the time the case was transferred to her, Jenkins informed McKoi that she did not know Robert H.'s whereabouts.

McKoi stated that she tried unsuccessfully to locate Robert H. through Kathy K. McKoi testified that as far as she knew, Robert H. never visited Dawn during the entire period McKoi was assigned to the case. She was never contacted by Robert H.

Cynthia Johnson, a social worker employed by Bensenville Home Society, testified that she was assigned to Dawn and Jimmy's case in July of 1989 and was still their case worker at the time of trial. She stated that when she first spoke to Kathy K. in June 1990, she asked where Robert H. was, but received no information. In March 1991, she conducted a diligent search for Robert H., but was unable to locate him. She requested a "rap" sheet from the State's Attorney's office and completed a Department of Public Aid records check, which revealed an address for Robert H. She sent several certified letters to that address, but they were returned.

Johnson met Robert H. for the first time in May of 1991 when he appeared in court. She spoke with Robert H. briefly and she obtained an address from Robert's attorney where she could reach Robert H. after his release from prison. Johnson testified that Robert H. never came forward and never sent any cards or letters. She also stated that none of Robert H.'s relatives came forward to request that Dawn be placed with them and that she did not know his relatives.

Cameron Forbes, supervisor of the records office for the Illinois Department of Corrections at Joliet, Illinois, testified to the authenticity of the mittimus documents and certified copies of Robert H.'s convictions over the last 20 years. The convictions and sentences included: (1) a sentence of from 3 to 10 years for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery; (2) a sentence of from 6 to 18 years for armed robbery; (3) a sentence of four years for retail theft; (4) a sentence of three years for robbery; and (5) a sentence of 14 years for armed violence. Robert H. was serving the last sentence at the time of this trial.

Robert H. testified that Kathy K. telephoned him while he was in East Moline Correctional Center to tell him that she was pregnant. He acknowledged that he was the father of Dawn, born while he was still incarcerated.

Robert H. stated that he wrote to Kathy K. approximately four times a week while he was in prison. When he was released on January 6, 1986, he visited Dawn and Kathy K. and ...


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