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01/13/98 A.L. AND T.L. v. T.R.

January 13, 1998

IN RE A.L. AND T.L., MINORS (THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
T.R., RESPONDENT-APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. Nos. 93--J--201, 93--J--202. Honorable James W. Jerz, Judge, Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Bowman delivered the opinion of the court. Doyle and Colwell, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bowman

The Honorable Justice BOWMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) appeals from an interlocutory order entered by the juvenile court of Du Page County granting appellee T.R.'s petition for change of foster placement and requiring DCFS, legal guardian of minors A.L. and T.L., to remove the minors from the care of their foster parents and select alternative foster placement. We affirm.

The following summary of facts is taken from the record. On March 4, 1993, the juvenile court found that there was an immediate and urgent necessity to place A.L. and T.L. in temporary shelter care. The juvenile court entered an order removing the minors from the home of their natural mother and step-father, respondent and her husband, and placing them in DCFS's temporary custody. In July 1993, DCFS placed A.L. and T.L. in the foster care of Michael and Becky Turner.

While in foster care, A.L. and T.L. underwent medical treatment for their health problems. Dr. Nagamani Reddy, a child psychiatrist, conducted a psychiatric evaluation of A.L. and T.L. in August 1993. A.L. was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. T.L. was diagnosed with major depression. In January 1995, A.L. was admitted to the hospital and underwent a five to six week "comprehensive treatment program" as a result of his "voicing thoughts of wanting to die." Dr. Reddy also evaluated A.L. during his stay at the hospital and recommended that visitation with respondent stop as a result of A.L.'s agitated, anxious, and aggressive behavior after visits with respondent. Both A.L. and T.L. took medication to treat their conditions.

On December 13, 1993, the juvenile court appointed a special advocate on the minors' behalf. On May 2, 1995, the juvenile court adjudicated A.L. and T.L. neglected and made them wards of the court. Furthermore, it appointed DCFS custodian and legal guardian of A.L. and T.L. DCFS had articulated a permanency goal, a goal set by the service plan or during an administrative case review, of returning the children to respondent's home. However, during an administrative case review held on March 4, 1996, DCFS changed the permanency goal from "return home" to "foster family placement." In an order entered on May 29, 1996, the juvenile court found that the change in the permanency goal was not in the best interests of the children and remanded the matter to DCFS for a redetermination of the permanency goal. The juvenile court found, inter alia, that, "there are issues and questions surrounding the foster home placement of [A.L.] and [T.L.] which indicate that their foster home placement may have negatively impacted the natural mother's ability to see her children and reunify with them." Although a permanency review hearing was set for July 9, 1996, no such hearing was held.

On October 29, 1996, T.R. filed a petition for change of foster home placement. In her petition, she maintained that it was not in the best interests of the children to remain in the Turners' care. On November 12, 1996, DCFS filed a motion to strike respondent's petition for change of foster home placement. The juvenile court denied DCFS's motion to strike on November 15, 1996, and a hearing on respondent's petition followed. On December 17, 1996, the juvenile court granted the petition and ordered DCFS to remove A.L. and T.L. from the Turners' home and select alternative placement. Specifically, the juvenile court found:

"The service plan in this case consistently has been return home to the natural parents. It has interfered with this plan that the boys have not been able to see the mother, they have not been able to progress towards this role or make progress with the therapists who have been appointed for them.

I believe that at this time it would be in their best interests to take a fresh start. That they be relocated and to see if this plan can still be accomplished.

***

But I'm looking to what is in the best interests of these children, and if there was not discussion with the Turners earlier, that does not change the fact that things have happened which have impaired the ability of the boys to progress towards the goal that's been set by DCFS."

Subsequently, DCFS filed a timely appeal.

DCFS's primary contention on appeal is that the juvenile court exceeded its statutory authority when it ordered the removal and transfer of the minors from the Turner foster home. DCFS maintains that a juvenile court's authority is limited to that which is specifically prescribed by the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/1--1 et seq. (West 1996)). In short, absent the ...


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