Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 92--J--425 Honorable Michael E. Brandt Judge, Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Holdridge
The respondent-mother, Kimberline B., was found to be an unfit parent for her failure to make reasonable efforts or reasonable progress toward the return of her children, J.J., C.J., D.B., and Q.B. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 1996). After a best interest hearing, her parental rights were terminated. The respondent appeals, and we affirm.
On June 28, 1993, the State filed a neglect petition alleging that five-year-old J.J., three-year-old C.J., one-year-old D.B., and newborn Q.B. were dependent because the respondent was in in-patient drug treatment and was unable to care for them. On June 29, 1993, the respondent admitted the allegations in the petition and the minors were adjudicated neglected. The court made the minors wards of the court and named DCFS their guardian.
At the July 30, 1993, review, the court ordered that the minors remain in foster care and ordered the respondent to complete drug and alcohol treatment and to cooperate with DCFS and its designees. On May 31, 1994, the court also ordered the respondent to undergo a psychological evaluation, undergo a chemical dependency test, complete recommended treatment, complete developmentally disabled parenting classes, and regularly visit the minors.
The first permanency review hearing was held on May 14, 1996. The court found that the services toward the permanency goal of return home were appropriate but unsuccessful and the new permanency goal of substitute care pending court decision was appropriate but not achieved. The court found that the respondent had not made reasonable efforts and again ordered her to attend drug and alcohol treatment, attend developmentally delayed parenting classes, participate in counseling, and cooperate with DCFS.
At the next two permanency review hearings, the court found that the permanency goal of substitute care pending court decision was appropriate and that the respondent had failed to make reasonable efforts. At the fourth review hearing, the court allowed visitation at DCFS discretion, and the State filed a petition seeking termination of the respondent's parental rights. The fitness hearing was held on September 9, 1998. Dawn Steck testified that she had been the Catholic Social Services (CSS) caseworker for this case since November 1994. She said the respondent had not successfully completed a drug treatment program although she had been ordered to do so. The respondent's last attempt at drug treatment had begun in April 1998, but she had quit on May 16, 1998. In July 1998, the respondent telephoned her and asked for the telephone number of the treatment center because she said she wanted to go back into treatment. Steck asked the respondent if she had been using alcohol and drugs again and the respondent said she had. Steck also said the respondent did not submit proof of the completion of counseling.
According to Steck, the respondent had last visited her children almost three years before, on December 27, 1995. Steck said that the respondent had visited regularly with the children in 1993, but otherwise the visits were sporadic. The respondent was incarcerated in the summer of 1994 and from September until December 1995. There were no jail visits in 1995 because the respondent had not been in contact with the caseworkers or visited the children since May 1995 and her whereabouts had been unknown.
On October 24, 1996, the respondent appeared at Steck's office, they discussed treatment, and Steck arranged for an evaluation for her the next morning. The respondent told her that she did not have a place to stay, so Steck took her to a mission and told her she would pick her up at 8:00 the next morning. When Steck returned to the mission the next morning, she learned that the respondent had left the previous evening. Prior to that occasion, it had been more than a month since she had heard from the respondent.
Steck said that in July or August 1997, she spoke with the respondent in jail. The respondent requested a visit with the children and said that she wanted to resume treatment again when she was released. Steck told her that since it had been so long since the respondent had visited the children, it would not be in their best interest to begin visits at that time. Steck said the respondent must at least begin her service plan tasks before Steck would allow visitation. The respondent did not attempt to complete any service plan task until March 1998, when she contacted Steck about starting another drug treatment program.
The respondent testified that she knew that her service plan required drug treatment and parenting classes. However, she did not know that she had to participate in counseling or that visitation was a task in her service plan. She said she was in drug treatment at White Oaks but was asked to leave. She said she left the drug treatment at Proctor Hospital because her mother had cancer and she and her sisters had to take care of her. She said her mother's cancer was also the reason that she could not see her children on several occasions. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and died that year.
The respondent said that she got back into drug treatment in 1998 but that she then had an "accident." The accident involved getting hit in the eye with a broken beer bottle that someone had thrown at her. According to the respondent, when she got hurt and could not see out of her eye, another caseworker told her that she would recommend that she be considered to have finished the second phase of treatment and she could progress to the third phase, aftercare. However, Steck told her that she was considered to have stopped going and she would have to start over to successfully complete treatment. She said she had made arrangements to enter long-term in-patient treatment at Proctor the following Friday.
When Steck visited her at the jail, Steck asked her to "sign my rights over" which she did not want to do. She said she believes that she is addicted to alcohol and cocaine. She acknowledged that she had not completed drug treatment or counseling. She admitted that she had three glasses of beer the night before this hearing and used cocaine on a daily basis the month before.
Following arguments by both parties, the court found the respondent unfit for failing to make reasonable ...