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In re M.V.

February 05, 1999

IN THE INTEREST OF M.V., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, PATRICE AND PHILLIP MCGUIRE, INTERVENERS-APPELLANTS AND ALLEN AND ROSELYN JONES, INTERVENERS-APPELLEES.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zwick

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

No. 92 J 09918

Honorable Patricia Martin, Judge Presiding.

Appellants, Patrice and Phillip McGuire, the former foster parents of M.V., appeal an order entered by the juvenile division of the circuit court of Cook County, which found that the placement of M.V. with her current foster parents, appellees Allen and Roselyn Jones of Texas, was necessary, appropriate and in the best interests of the minor child.

The McGuires claim on appeal that the juvenile court exceeded its statutory authority in finding the current foster-care placement necessary and appropriate. They also contend that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the placement decision because appellees Allen and Roselyn Jones had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies available through a service appeal. Lastly, the McGuires argue that the decision of the circuit court was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

This court previously issued its opinion in In re M.V., 288 Ill. App. 3d 300, 681 N.E.2d 532 (1997) (M.V. I), which held that the trial court lacked statutory authority to order a specific placement of M.V. The facts pertaining to the initial stages of this litigation are set forth in detail in that opinion and will not be restated here, except as necessary.

After the issuance of M.V. I, the biological parents of M.V., the Joneses, and the McGuires notified the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) of their interest in becoming permanent caretakers of M.V. Thereafter, DCFS contracted with the Juvenile Protection Agency (JPA) to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of M.V. and of her relationship with each of the parties seeking to obtain permanent custody of her. JPA ultimately tendered to DCFS its report which recommended that custody of M.V. be transferred from the Joneses to the McGuires, M.V.'s former foster parents in Illinois. Pursuant to that recommendation, DCFS initiated plans to effectuate the transfer. The Joneses thereafter commenced a service appeal, challenging the anticipated transfer of M.V. from their home in Texas to the McGuires in Illinois. However, all of the parties agreed that the matter should be decided finally by the trial court after a permanency hearing. DCFS then withdrew its transfer notice, pending the permanency hearing, and the service appeal was abandoned.

The court conducted a permanency hearing and heard voluminous and detailed evidence regarding M.V.'s well-being and her relationships with all parties involved. This evidence included reports from child-welfare professionals as well as testimony from experts and members of the families desiring to adopt M.V. Specifically, the court heard testimony by the following people: Timothy Gebel, the Director of Foster Care for the Children's Shelter of San Antonio; Roselyn Jones, M.V.'s current foster mother; Allen Jones, M.V.'s current foster father; Vonetta Jones, the daughter of Roselyn and Allen Jones; Dr. Le'Roy Reese, a licensed as a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Chicago State University, with a Ph.D. in psychology, specializing in clinical child psychology; Nan Parson, the clinical supervisor for JPA; Bill Maffy, the caseworker for DCFS who has worked on M.V.'s case since February 1996; Debbie Palmer Thomas, a field service manager for DCFS with a master's degree in clinical social work, who was responsible for overseeing M.V.'s case; Barbara White, a licensed child social worker with a master's degree in social work and an expert hired by the public guardian to conduct an assessment of M.V.; Phillip McGuire, M.V.'s former foster father; Patrice McGuire, M.V.'s former foster mother; Megan McGuire, the daughter of Phillip and Patrice McGuire; and Aaron McGuire, the son of Phillip and Patrice McGuire.

The court also considered the written report prepared by JPA, the written report of Barbara White, the psychological evaluation of M.V. prepared by Dr. Reese, as well as certain other memoranda prepared by social workers involved in the case.

At the Conclusion of the permanency hearing, the court determined that it was necessary, appropriate, and in the best interests of M.V. to remain with the Jones family in Texas, and the McGuires have appealed that decision.

We initially address the McGuires' claim that the juvenile court exceeded its statutory authority in finding M.V.'s current foster-care placement necessary and appropriate to achieve the goal of adoption. The McGuires assert that this ruling was improper because it constituted a specific placement. We disagree.

As we held in M.V. I, 2-28(2) specifically precludes the juvenile court from ordering a specific placement or foster home person after DCFS has been appointed guardian of the minor. 705 ILCS 405/2-28(2) (West 1996). However, the Juvenile Court Act mandates that the permanency goal and service plan devised by DCFS be subject to periodic review by the court. Section 2--28(2) requires the juvenile court to hold permanency review hearings "until the court determines that the plan and goal have been achieved." 705 ILCS 405/2--28(2) (West 1996). At the permanency hearing, the court is required to consider (i) the permanency goal contained in the service plan, (ii) the appropriateness of the services contained in the plan and whether those services have been provided, (iii) whether reasonable efforts have been made by all the parties to the service plan to achieve the goal, and (iv) whether the plan and goal have been achieved. 705 ILCS 405/2--28(2) (West 1996). Section 2-28(3)(a) of the Act requires the juvenile court to address the question of custody at each permanency review hearing. 705 ILCS 405/2-28(3)(a) (West 1996). Additionally, section 2-28(3)(b)(iii) mandates that, following the permanency hearing, the court must enter a written order which includes a determination as to whether the minor's placement is necessary and appropriate to the plan and goal. 705 ILCS 405/2--28(3)(b)(iii) (West 1996).

In the instant case, the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction and acted in accordance with the authority and mandates of the statute. It is beyond dispute that the hearing conducted by the court on May 5, 1998, was a permanency hearing. Its purpose was to review the propriety of the foster placement of M.V. All of the parties involved had designated it a permanency hearing, and, at the hearing, the trial court reviewed the permanency goal, the current placement decision, and plan devised by DCFS. In addition, the order entered on that date reflected that the cause had been called for a permanency hearing, and the order was entitled a "Permanency Order." Upon consideration of all of the evidence presented, the court determined that the placement of M.V. with the Jones family was necessary and appropriate. We hold that the trial court was statutorily authorized to conduct such a hearing. See In re A.L., 294 Ill. App. 3d 441, 446, 689 N.E.2d 1167 (1998); In re Chiara C., 279 Ill. App. 3d 761, 665 N.E.2d 404 (1996).

We also reject the McGuires' assertion that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the placement decision because appellees Allen and Roselyn Jones failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. In support of this assertion, the McGuires cite the section of the Children and Family Services Act which provides that the service appeal process is the exclusive ...


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