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11/14/96 V.O. v. JONATHAN P.

November 14, 1996

IN RE V.O., D.P., J.P., T.P., J.P., P.P., J.P., J.P., & M.P., MINORS (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
JONATHAN P., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. No. 92--J--519. Honorable Stuart P. Borden, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication December 20, 1996.

Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice, Honorable John F. Michela, Justice. Justice Lytton delivered the opinion of the court. Michela and Slater, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton

The Honorable Justice LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:

The respondent, Jonathan P., appeals from the judgment of the circuit court which found him to be an unfit parent and terminated his parental rights. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On February 25, 1993, seven of the respondent's nine children were adjudicated neglected. The counts of neglect were based upon their mother's drug addiction and the injurious nature of their environment stemming from that addiction. 705 ILCS 405/2--3(b) (West 1992). The remaining two children were subsequently adjudicated neglected after they were born with cocaine in their systems. 705 ILCS 405/2--3(c) (West 1992). The children ranged in age from 12 years to 6 months.

The unfitness hearing was held on November 8, 1995. Elizabeth Clayton, a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker, testified that she had been involved in this case since March 1, 1993. At that time, the respondent's service plan objectives were to obtain employment, attend parenting classes, and receive drug, alcohol and psychological evaluations. When that service plan was later evaluated, the only goal the respondent had completed was the psychological evaluation. In November 1993, the respondent began unsupervised visits with his children. However, in April 1994, those visits were terminated because he repeatedly allowed the children to see their mother in violation of a court order.

His next service plan, devised in April 1994, required him to participate in a 12-step program to learn about substance abuse and the effects of such abuse on his family. However, he had not attended the program at the time of his next evaluation. Clayton further testified that the respondent made poor progress with the November 1994 service plan. He eventually went to a drug and alcohol evaluation in January 1995. The evaluators told him that they thought he had an alcohol problem and that he should participate in a weekly class. He refused to participate, however, because he did not believe that he had a problem.

According to Clayton, during the time she was the respondent's caseworker, he failed to attend 25% of the scheduled visits. She also said that from about October 1993 to January 1995, the respondent had the same address as the children's mother, Bunny P. The court had prohibited Bunny from seeing the children due to her drug addiction. To the best of Clayton's knowledge, the respondent and Bunny lived together during the time they shared an address. At other times, Clayton did not have an address for the respondent.

Kelly Anderson, a caseworker for Counseling and Family Services, testified that she evaluated the respondent's compliance with the May 1995 service plan. At that time, he still had not completed a 12-step program which DCFS had requested in 1994. Anderson also observed the respondent's visits with the children beginning in June 1995. The respondent would sit in a chair and occasionally ask one of the children to sit in his lap. He would direct the children from the chair to stop fighting and hitting each other. At one point, however, the respondent said, "go ahead and tear up the room, because we have to be in such a small place anyway."

The State then called the respondent as an adverse witness. He testified that he lived alone at the Shamrock Hotel and had lived there for about three months. However, he admitted that his wife had spent the night with him there about a month before. He said that he and his wife last lived together on a full-time basis in September 1994, when he was found in contempt for allowing her to have contact with the children. He said that they have continued to see each other and she sometimes spent the night with him. Finally, the respondent denied allowing any contact between the children and their mother other than yelling out the window, which he did not consider "contact" with the children. He denied having previously told the court at a review hearing that he had allowed contact between the children and his wife.

Clayton was recalled as a rebuttal witness. She testified that in a court review on January 28, 1994, the trial judge asked the respondent if he was allowing contact between his wife and the children. The respondent said that he was allowing her to see them and that she was their mother and would not harm them.

The respondent then testified on his own behalf. He admitted that he did not complete the 12-step program. He said he did not do so because its purpose was to understand the effects of drug abuse on the family and, since he no longer lived with his wife, he did not need to attend the sessions. He said he had not lived with his wife for 1 1/2 to 2 years and did not intend to live with her again. He said he ...


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