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In re A.M.

May 19, 1998

IN RE A.M., A MINOR (THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PETITIONER,
v.
G.M., RESPONDENT (PATRICK T. MURPHY, GUARDIAN AD LITEM ON BEHALF OF A.M., APPELLANT))



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cousins delivered the opinion of the court:

1-97-1259

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY

THE HONORABLE LEE PRESTON, JUDGE PRESIDING.

A.M., a minor female, was the subject of a child abuse and neglect proceeding under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (704 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 1992)). At an adjudicatory hearing in the proceeding, the parties stipulated that A.M. had been sexually abused and neglected by being exposed to an injurious environment. The stipulation and admitted evidence identified, by name, the perpetrator of the sexual abuse as the paramour of A.M.'s mother. The court denied the request of the State's Attorney and the guardian ad litem to make a judicial finding naming the perpetrator, reasoning that to do so would violate the perpetrator's due process rights. On appeal, A.M., through her guardian ad litem, argues that the trial court erred in refusing to name the perpetrator of sexual abuse, as he was a nonparty to the proceeding whose due process rights were, therefore, not implicated.

BACKGROUND

A.M. is an 11-year-old girl who was the subject of a child abuse and neglect proceeding. On October 7, 1996, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed petitions for adjudication of wardship on behalf of A.M. and her two older siblings. That same day, the juvenile court Judge granted temporary custody of the three children to the DCFS guardianship administrator without prejudice to their mother, G.M.

On October 8, 1996, the circuit court held a contested temporary custody hearing. The court heard evidence of the outcry statements that A.M. had made to her school officials and to others in a victim- sensitive interview. In this interview, A.M. described fondling, exposure, and digital and penile penetration by her mother's paramour, G.R. The court also heard evidence of the findings of the Pediatric Ecology Program of Grant Hospital, where A.M. had been evaluated. Finally, the court heard testimony regarding A.M.'s relationships with her family members.

At the Conclusion of the hearing, the court found probable cause to believe that the children had been abused or neglected, but it found no urgent and immediate necessity to support their removal from G.M.'s custody. The court entered an order of protection against the mother, requiring, inter alia, that G.M. ensure that her children have no contact with her former paramour, G.R.

In January 1997, a stipulated trial as well as a Dispositional hearing were held. The parties agreed to facts establishing that A.M. had been sexually abused by G.R. The court ultimately made the following findings with respect to A.M.:

"[A.M.] has been both neglected and abused having been exposed to an injurious environment, which under Illinois law is neglect[,] and having been the victim of sexual abuse, which under Illinois law is abuse. I'm not naming a perpetrator of that abuse because the allegation is that it was a paramour of [the] mother; and, while that paramour is named, it is my feeling that it would be denial of his due process rights to make such a finding since he is not permitted to participate in these proceedings ***. He had been asked to leave. He is not a party to these proceedings and can present no response to the allegations; and, because of that, *** I believe it would be denial of due process under the United States [and] Illinois Constitution[s] to make that finding, to name him as a perpetrator."

In addition, the court found that A.M.'s siblings were neglected based on living in an injurious environment. Consequently, the Dispositional hearing concluded with the court's adjudication of the children as wards of the court and its order stating that the children remain in G.M.'s custody under an order of protection with terms identical to the previous order of protection prohibiting G.M. from allowing any contact between G.R. and her children.

At the above adjudicatory hearing, the guardian ad litem asked the court to reconsider its decision not to make a finding that specifically named G.R. as the perpetrator of the sexual abuse. The trial court once again denied the request on reconsideration, reiterating its concern over a possible due process violation. The guardian ad litem made an additional request to reconsider this issue by written motion. The court heard and denied that motion on March 5, 1997. The guardian ad litem brings this appeal from the trial court's order refusing to name the perpetrator of sexual abuse in its findings and the denial of A.M.'s posttrial motion to reconsider.

We affirm.

ANALYS ...


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