The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Fe Fernandez, Judge Presiding.
This is an appeal brought by four minors, represented by their guardian ad litem, from entry of the trial court's orders of May 29, 1998, and June 3, 1998, allowing Leonard M. supervised overnight visits with the minors. The appealed orders of protection permit Leonard M. to participate in supervised day and overnight visitation with the children, and require him to cooperate with all reasonable requests of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and its assigns, provide samples for random drug and alcohol screens, refrain from using or possessing illegal substances or alcohol, and attend sexual abuse counseling.
The minors at issue in the present case are K.C., S.C., J.M. and T.M., who are 19, 18, 14 and 12 years old, respectively. Clovia, mother of all of the children, is married to Leonard M., who is the biological father of J.M. and T.M. and the stepfather of K.C. and S.C.
Juvenile court proceedings were initiated against Leonard M. in June 1995, after his stepdaughter S.C. alleged he had fondled her breasts, buttocks and between her legs and watched her and K.C. undress through holes in the bathroom and bedroom of their home. On July 5, 1995, the court entered an order of protection against Leonard M., removing the children from Leonard M.'s custody and giving custody of the children to Clovia.
According to the record, Leonard M. is an alcoholic. He also has a history of deviant sexual behavior and admitted to looking at his stepdaughters through holes in the walls of his home. The "peeping" behavior began at age 14. One of the counselors who evaluated Leonard M. noted his deviant sexual behavior spanned 25 years, and his alcoholism contributed to this pattern.
All parties agree that family reunification is the ultimate goal in this case. From the time the order of protection was entered against Leonard M., he has been attending counseling and also Alcoholics Anonymous group meetings. There was testimony that, in early March of 1997, Leonard M. appeared at an evaluation and admitted to a relapse in that he had consumed alcohol. In March of 1997, after a hearing, the court entered an order giving DCFS the discretion to increase the frequency and duration of supervised visitation with K.C., J.M. and T.M., to run from a minimum of 2 hours per week to a maximum of 12 hours daily. The visitation was to be supervised by Clovia. Visitation was permitted with S.C. only if supervised by an approved DCFS worker.
The court received various progress reports indicating compliance with the orders of protection. Various counselors and the DCFS caseworker who worked with Leonard M. and the family testified at these court dates. In February of 1998, the court was informed that Leonard M. had moved back into the home for approximately a month and a half, in violation of the order of protection. After a hearing, the trial Judge concluded it was not in the best interest of the children to remove them from the home, but ordered that Leonard M. remain out of the home and continue treatment. No evidence of any unusual incidents related to any visitation has ever been reported.
The record indicates that Leonard M. had been submitting random urine drops for a period of time, but they were not tested for alcohol until after February of 1998. At the May 6, 1998, progress report, the court was presented with the results of five urine drops, all of which had tested negative for alcohol use.
At the May 29, 1998, hearing, the court granted a week-long extended visit, allowing Leonard M. to live in the home until June 3, 1998, but requiring supervision of all his contact with the children. At the June 3, 1998, hearing, the court increased the supervised visitation privileges from 12 hours a day to include supervised overnight visits up to 2 times weekly.
The minors, represented by their guardian ad litem, now appeal the May 29, 1998, and June 3, 1998, court orders. In response to this appeal, Leonard M. brought a motion to dismiss the appeal on jurisdictional grounds.
It should be noted that, while this appeal was pending, the trial court received at least one progress report, on August 14, 1998. During the progress report on August 14, 1998, the DCFS caseworker, Marilyn Melin, indicated a written safety plan was in effect and there had been no violation of the order of protection. Both the father and mother were in treatment at Midwest Family Counseling. Leonard M. had been moved up a step in therapy because of his progress. Leonard continued AA meetings three times per week and he had been randomly dropped for alcohol with all negative results. Leonard held a full-time job and was supporting his family. Since June 1998, Leonard had ...