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People v. T.A.

November 10, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Lee Preston, Judge Presiding.

Respondent, T.A., appeals from the order of the circuit court of Cook County that ruled that the permanency goal for one of respondent's children, J.L., should continue to be long-term foster care with his paternal grandmother rather than his return to respondent's custody. We affirm.


On October 16, 1991, petitioner, State of Illinois, pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-13 (West 1996)) (the Act), filed a petition for adjudication of warship for J.L., an infant who was born on June 18, 1991. On the same date that the petition was filed, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was awarded temporary custody of J.L., based on a finding that there was probable cause to believe that J.L. was neglected, abused, or dependent. Respondent had a drug addiction and abused alcohol. On November 26, 1991, respondent's other children, T.A. (here and hereinafter "T.A." is used to refer to respondent's child and not to respondent herself), who was born June 23, 1984, and M.A., who was born March 26, 1990, were adjudicated wards of the court. M.A. had been born with cocaine in her system and had been removed from respondent's care when she was three days old. T.A. lived with respondent for 4½ years before being removed from respondent's custody in 1990.

At a September 14, 1992, dispositional hearing, the court heard evidence that J.L.'s parents had been arrested for robbery in October 1991 and that respondent had not completed all the requirements of a DCFS service plan. In a dispositional order, the court made the finding that J.L. was neglected and that appropriate services aimed at family preservation and family reunification had been unsuccessful. J.L. was made a ward of the court, pursuant to section 2-22(1) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-22(1) (West 1996)). (According to respondent's testimony at a later time, the robbery charge against her had been dismissed.)

After respondent's children were removed from her custody, respondent received intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment and conventional outpatient treatment; some of her participation was voluntary. She attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, support groups, parenting classes, and individual counseling sessions, the latter which she initiated on her own. Respondent was given random drug tests twice a month.

The record does not contain the exact dates, but at some point all three children were placed with their maternal grandmother in Chicago. J.L. lived with his maternal grandmother only for a few months; he was removed from her care when he was about nine months old because she failed to obtain emergency medical treatment for his third-degree burn. He was then placed in his paternal grandmother's home in Wisconsin, where he has remained.

In February 1993, respondent was granted supervised visits with J.L. In May 1993, DCFS was ordered to provide the means for respondent's transportation to Wisconsin so that she could exercise visitation. In December 1994, the trial court granted respondent unsupervised day visits with J.L. and the other children once a month and gave DCFS the discretion to increase visitation.

On July 20, 1995, upon respondent's motion alleging negative drug tests for 2½ years, the trial court granted unsupervised overnight visits at DCFS's discretion. Beginning January 27, 1996, respondent was allowed once-a-month weekend visitation with an overnight visit on Saturday night.

On May 6, 1996, DCFS completed a client service plan for respondent that selected the goal of all the children returning home to respondent.

On July 23, 1996, respondent filed a motion to vacate the placement orders for her children, seeking the return of their custody. The motion was apparently made pursuant to section 2-28(4) of the Act, which permitted application to the court for restoration of the minor to a parent's custody. 705 ILCS 405/2-28(4) (West 1996)).

The hearing on respondent's motion was held on October 15, 1996. At that time respondent had been visiting weekly with M.A. and T.A. and monthly with J.L., who was then five years old. The trip for respondent to see J.L. in Wisconsin was 1½ hours if she drove and three hours if she used public transportation. By the time of the hearing, respondent had completed all the requirements set by DCFS and was continuing in individual and family counseling. Respondent's drug tests had been negative for three years. Since recovering from drug addiction, respondent had consistently been employed in office or store clerk positions. Respondent was living in her own home.

Cheryl Conner testified at the hearing that she was a DCFS worker and that she had been assigned to the J.L. case only recently, in April 1996. She worked with the father, and Central Baptist Family Service worked with respondent. Respondent's visits had been going well. She agreed with the goal of the service plan that was prepared by a previous DCFS worker that J.L. return home. She did not recommend that the return of custody be ...

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