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May 2, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Jeffrey M. Arnold, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication June 25, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Zwick delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA, J., and Leavitt, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zwick

JUSTICE ZWICK delivered the opinion of the court:

The subject of this appeal is an interlocutory order entered by the juvenile court of Cook County which required the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to remove the minor from her current foster parents in the State of Texas and to place her with the previous foster parents in Illinois within 48 hours. We stayed that order pending our resolution of this appeal.

DCFS argues that this order must be vacated because (1) the juvenile court exceeded its statutory authority in requiring DCFS to place the minor with the former foster parents in Illinois within 48 hours, (2) the Illinois foster parents failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to seeking judicial review of the placement decision made by DCFS, and (3) the court abused its discretion in ordering that the minor be returned to Illinois and placed with the Illinois foster parents within 48 hours.

The record reveals that M.V., was born November 7, 1991, the only child of her natural parents. On May 14, 1992, M.V. was removed from her parents' home and placed in protective custody with DCFS pursuant to a physician's report that M.V.'s natural parents stated they had attempted to suffocate her.

The following day, counsel for DCFS filed a petition on behalf of M.V., seeking an adjudication of wardship, which alleged that the conduct of M.V.'s parents created a substantial risk of physical injury to her. The trial court granted a motion by DCFS for temporary custody of M.V. and appointed the Guardianship Administrator for DCFS as temporary guardian. In addition, the Cook County Public Guardian was appointed attorney of record and guardian ad litem for M.V.

After a trial on July 18, 1992, the court found that M.V. had been abused and neglected due to a lack of care and exposure to an injurious environment. DCFS placed M.V. in the care of Illinois foster parents on July 30, 1992. On September 11, 1992, the court entered an adjudication order which reflected its findings of abuse and neglect. The court set a date for a dispositional hearing and ordered DCFS to conduct an investigation and to prepare a report. On April 28, 1993, the juvenile court entered a dispositional order adjudicating M.V. to be a ward of the court and awarding guardianship to the Guardianship Administrator for DCFS, with the right to place the child. M.V. continued to remain in the physical custody of the same Illinois foster parents.

In May 1993, M.V.'s natural mother, who was employed by the United States Armed Forces, was transferred to Texas. In approximately October 1993, M.V.'s natural father also moved to Texas to be with M.V.'s mother.

On July 18, 1995, the natural parents filed a motion requesting that M.V. be returned to their custody. This motion asserted that the natural parents had performed all of the duties required under the service plan previously established by DCFS, that the caseworker believed they were able to care for M.V., and that they had a good relationship with M.V. The trial court denied this motion on September 12, 1995, but ordered DCFS to immediately make all reasonable efforts to place M.V. in a foster home in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, the court determined that it was in the best interest of M.V. to change the permanency goal from long term foster care to reunification with her natural parents, and the court entered an order to this effect.

On January 24, 1996, the court ordered that M.V. be placed in foster care in San Antonio, Texas, and that all visits between M.V. and her natural parents be supervised. The court also ordered DCFS to file documentation that the natural mother was participating in individual counseling and that the natural father was also participating in individual counseling as well as random drug testing and an aftercare drug and alcohol abuse program.

On February 14, 1996, M.V. was placed with foster parents in San Antonio, Texas. On February 28, 1996, the court again ordered the filing of the documentation specified above. This documentation required that the natural parents execute "release of information" forms authorizing the disclosure of confidential information. On May 3, 1996, the court ordered each of the natural parents to have a psychological evaluation performed in Illinois and required that their travel and lodging expenses would be paid for by DCFS. The "release of information" forms were executed by the natural parents on or about July 22, 1996.

On July 29, 1996, M.V.'s former foster parents in Illinois filed an emergency motion to intervene which requested that M.V. be returned to Illinois. On August 6, 1996, the Illinois foster parents filed an amended motion, seeking that M.V. be returned to their home and seeking to change the permanency goal to adoption. In support of this motion, the Illinois foster parents alleged that M.V.'s natural parents had failed to submit the ...

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