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298 Ill.App.3d 905

August 07, 1998

298 Ill.App.3d 905


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

In re DAVONTE L., a Minor Respondent-Appellant, (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Tawanda R., Respondent-Appellee).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Child Protection Division

No. 92 J 17110

Honorable Marsha D. Hayes, judge Presiding.

The minor respondent-appellant, Davonte L. (Davonte), through the office of the public guardian, appeals from a circuit court order dismissing the State's petition for the appointment of a guardian with the right to consent to Davonte's adoption. For the following reasons, we find that the decision of the trial court was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and we reverse.

On September 15, 1992, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a petition for adjudication of wardship on behalf of Davonte, alleging that he was neglected because he had been exposed to an injurious environment and was born testing positive for cocaine.

On February 9, 1993, the juvenile court found that Davonte was neglected due to exposure to an injurious environment. On March 23, 1993, Davonte was adjudicated a ward of the court, and DCFS was appointed as Davonte's guardian and Davonte was placed in foster care.

On March 16, 1995, the State filed a supplemental petition for appointment of a guardian with the right to consent to Davonte's adoption. The supplemental petition to terminate parental rights alleged the following grounds of parental unfitness: (1) failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to Davonte's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 1994)); (2) desertion of Davonte for more than three months before the commencement of proceedings for the termination of parental rights (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(c) (West 1994)); (3) that the parents were habitual drunkards or addicted to drugs for at least one year immediately prior to the commencement of the unfitness proceeding (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(k) (West 1994)); (4) that the parents failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis of Davonte's removal from their custody within 12 months after the adjudication of neglect and/or failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the child within 12 months after the adjudication of neglect (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 1994)); and (5) that the parents evidenced intent to forego parental rights by their failure to visit Davonte or communicate with him or DCFS for a 12-month period (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(n) (West 1994)).

Davonte's father, Kermit L., was defaulted in the case on April 17, 1995.

The hearing on the petition for appointment of a guardian with the right to consent to Davonte's adoption took place from January 2, 1997 to June 10, 1997. At the hearing on the petition, testimony and evidence were presented from various caseworkers from DCFS, child specialists, workers in other private service organizations that were involved with Davonte's case over the past six years, and respondent-appellee, Tawanda R. The following facts were adduced at the hearing.

On October 25, 1990, Tawanda gave birth to her first child, Hakeem. Hakeem tested positive for cocaine. On October 26, 1990, a social worker at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Hospital where Tawanda gave birth advised Tawanda that DCFS had been notified of Hakeem's prenatal drug exposure. Tawanda admitted that she needed drug treatment. Tawanda was allowed to take Hakeem home upon being discharged from the hospital after Tawanda's mother agreed to provide close supervision and cooperate with the DCFS investigation.

According to a November 21, 1990, DCFS report prepared by William Blackmon, Tawanda admitted using drugs regularly before her pregnancy, but only periodically after she discovered she was pregnant. Tawanda denied that her drug use was a problem. Tawanda's family, however, stated that her drug use was a problem and that Tawanda had spent all of her money on drugs, had lost most of her clothing, and did not care about anyone. Later, Blackmon was also assigned to Davonte's case. Before Davonte was born, Blackmon referred Tawanda to a drug treatment program, but Tawanda did not enroll in one.

Tawanda did not bring Hakeem to scheduled appointments at the UIC Pediatric Clinic on January 9, 1991, January 16, 1991, or February 10, 1991. On February 26, 1991, Tawanda brought Hakeem to the hospital because he had been vomiting. Hakeem was diagnosed with an acute viral syndrome. The emergency room staff advised Tawanda to return to the pediatric clinic in two to three days, but Tawanda again missed scheduled appointments on March 1, 1991, and March 20, 1991. On May 13, 1991, a UIC social worker called the DCFS hotline because Tawanda missed Hakeem's sixth consecutive scheduled appointment. At that time, Hakeem was five months old but had not had any immunizations. On May 30, 1991, a DCFS investigator called the UIC clinic to notify it that Hakeem's grandmother had made a report to the DCFS hotline that Hakeem was not being supervised. The investigator said that Tawanda was "sarcastic and uncooperative with the investigation." On June 4, 1991, the UIC Pediatric Clinic sent Tawanda a letter, asking her to call as soon as possible because Hakeem needed treatment for anemia. After sending two more letters and rescheduling three missed appointments, the clinic threatened to report Tawanda to DCFS for medically neglecting Hakeem. Tawanda came to the clinic on June 28, 1991.

Tawanda then later violated a protective order by neglecting Hakeem and failing to provide him with adequate supervision. On December 7, 1992, Hakeem was placed in foster care.

Tawanda gave birth to Davonte on July 8, 1992, at Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center. Toxicology reports showed that Davonte, like Hakeem, tested positive for cocaine. Davonte also tested positive for opiates. Tawanda admitted to the attending physician that she used cocaine during her pregnancy and said that she last used cocaine three weeks before Davonte was born. Tawanda told a hospital social worker that she was reported to DCFS after Hakeem was born and that she attended an outpatient drug rehabilitation program. The social worker explained the DCFS investigative procedure to Tawanda and encouraged her to cooperate.

On September 15, 1992, DCFS filed a petition for adjudication of wardship on behalf of Davonte, alleging that he was neglected because he had been exposed to an injurious environment and was born testing positive for a controlled substance. That same day, DCFS was appointed as temporary custodian of Davonte. DCFS initially placed Davonte with his maternal grandmother. Tawanda had asked that her mother take care of Hakeem. However, DCFS removed Davonte from his grandmother's home due to additional medical neglect. Davonte was placed in a DCFS shelter and then placed in the foster home of Ida Palmer.

On December 16, 1992, Palmer brought Davonte to La Rabida Children's Hospital because he had been suffering from diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration during the six weeks he had been in her care. During that time, Palmer had taken Davonte to a pediatrician several times, but his condition persisted. A Family Care Services case report dated December 18, 1992, noted that Davonte had symptoms of withdrawal and tremors.

From July 1992 to July 1993, Tawanda did not participate in any drug treatment program, nor did she maintain contact with Blackmon. Blackmon tried to contact Tawanda at least once a month, visiting her house, leaving messages under her door, and talking to her mother. He also had several Discussions with Tawanda about her drug problem, and she agreed to seek treatment on several occasions but failed to follow through.

The next time Blackmon saw Tawanda was at Haymarket House in November 1995, where he gave a speech to the women in treatment about DCFS. Blackmon recognized Tawanda in the audience.

During December 1992, Tawanda was not regularly visiting Hakeem or Davonte. Tawanda also was not providing money and food for Hakeem from her public aid check, as she had promised her mother she would do. Tawanda did not return Blackmon's messages, and her whereabouts were unknown.

On February 9, 1993, the juvenile court found that Davonte was neglected due to lack of care, exposure to an injurious environment, and due to the fact that he was born exposed to drugs. At a Dispositional hearing held on March 23, 1993, Davonte was adjudicated a ward of the juvenile court, and DCFS was appointed as Davonte's guardian. The court found that Tawanda was unwilling or unable to care for Davonte.

Tawanda did not attend the May 1993 administrative case review. Her progress from December 1992 to May 1993 was rated unsatisfactory.

Teresa Craufel, a social worker from Family Care Services, a foster care agency with which DCFS contracted to provide care for Davonte and Tawanda, was assigned to Davonte's case from December 1992 to December 1993. Tawanda did not contact Craufel from January to October 1993. Craufel did not know where Tawanda was living, so she attempted to contact her through her grandmother, Eva Sturdivant, in September 1993, when she gave her a card and phone number to give to Tawanda.

In mid-November 1993, Tawanda called Craufel and asked if she could visit Davonte before entering a drug rehabilitation program. Craufel testified that Tawanda seemed "cohesive and put together" and that she did not think Tawanda was on drugs or alcohol. Craufel told Tawanda how Davonte was doing and explained the process for obtaining visitation and regaining custody. Tawanda asked repeatedly to see Davonte that day or the following day. Craufel told Tawanda that she would call her at her mother's house as soon as she scheduled a visit. Ten days later, Craufel called Tawanda's mother and told her Tawanda had scheduled a visit with Davonte. However, Tawanda's mother told Craufel that she had not seen Tawanda in a week. Tawanda did not go to the scheduled visit, and she did not contact Craufel again.

On November 18, 1993, Tawanda called Vanessa Muse, her DCFS caseworker at that time, and asked about Davonte. Tawanda told Muse that she talked frequently with Hakeem. Muse made an appointment for Tawanda to come to the office so she could enroll her in a drug treatment program. However, Tawanda did not go to this scheduled appointment and made no further contact with Muse. On March 8, 1994, Muse reported to the court that she had not seen Tawanda or Kermit, Davonte's father, for the past three months and did not know where they were living.

On March 9, 1994, the juvenile court heard a progress report. Bridget Joyce, a Family Care Services worker who was assigned to the case on February 9, 1994, reported to the court that Tawanda had made no effort to contact Family Care and her progress in regaining custody of Davonte was unsatisfactory. The court scheduled Davonte's case for permanency planning review on March 9, 1995, but the review was rescheduled to June 19, 1995.

On March 25, 1994, Muse spoke with Tawanda at Haymarket House, where Tawanda had enrolled in a drug treatment program and was undergoing a five-day in-take assessment. During her initial assessment on March 28, 1994, Tawanda reported that she had been incarcerated for six days for child neglect. Tawanda stated that she used no more than $50 worth of crack cocaine daily. Tawanda stated the last time she used drugs was March 18, 1994. She stated that the longest time she was able to stay sober was two months, around August 1991. Tawanda was diagnosed as suffering from cocaine and alcohol dependence, and cocaine, alcohol, and mixed drug abuse. Haymarket House also took a substance use history and psychosocial assessment of Tawanda on March 30, 1994. Tawanda reported that she smoked $100 worth of rock (crack) cocaine daily. Haymarket House records also indicate that Tawanda stated she had stolen, engaged in prostitution, lied, and manipulated to support her drug habit. The same day, Tawanda was sent for a physical examination, but she broke Haymarket House's rules when she left the program with some other patients to go buy food at a store. According to Haymarket House rules, patients could only leave when supervised by staff members. Tawanda was discharged and given phone numbers to other treatment facilities. Tawanda had completed only three weeks of the program.

While Tawanda was enrolled in the program, she did not request any visits with her children. After her discharge, ...


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