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In re Z.Z.

April 06, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 97--J--80 Honorable R. Peter Grometer, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

Respondent, K.P., appeals the circuit court's order finding her daughter, Z.Z., neglected. She contends that the court erred by failing to state in writing the factual basis for its determination and that its finding that Z.Z. was neglected was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Z.Z. was born May 16, 1998. She was immediately removed from respondent's custody because respondent had used marijuana just before the minor's birth.

On September 23, 1998, the State filed a petition to have the minor adjudicated neglected. The minor's father, J.Z., was also named but is not a party to this appeal. The petition alleged that the minor's environment was injurious to her welfare because her sister, A.Z., was then in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), her parents had been unsuccessful in their efforts to regain custody of A.Z., and respondent had a history of violent and impulsive behavior that created a risk of harm to Z.Z. In addition, the petition alleged that the minor's environment was injurious because respondent had tested positive for marijuana.

At a hearing on the petition, Officer Matt Udelhoven of the Elgin police department described an encounter with respondent in August 1997. He was flagged down by someone who had seen a female climbing a second-floor balcony at a nearby apartment building. When he arrived, he found respondent on the balcony. An infant was in the hallway nearby. Respondent said that the apartment was her mother's, that respondent lived there, and that she had forgotten her key.

Udelhoven and respondent knocked on the door, but no one answered. Respondent gradually became "excited or uncooperative" and increasingly angry at the baby. A neighbor brought a bottle of milk and respondent shoved it in the baby's mouth. Respondent repeatedly swore at the baby, demanding that she "just drink the F-ing milk."

As Udelhoven pressed respondent about where she would stay and what she would eat, respondent became agitated. She began swearing at the officer, stating that "she didn't care what would happen to her or the F-ing baby." When respondent again put the bottle in the baby's mouth, telling her to "shut the F up," Udelhoven took the baby into protective custody.

Toni McWilliams, a DCFS investigator, saw respondent in October 1997 at the DCFS office. Respondent had with her an unknown child with a bloody nose. When McWilliams asked respondent about the injury, she became upset and swore at McWilliams. State police officers eventually escorted respondent from the building.

In May 1998, McWilliams received a hotline call about respondent. McWilliams visited respondent in the hospital, where she had just given birth to Z.Z. Respondent said she would "go insane" if DCFS took the new baby. However, respondent admitted that she had smoked marijuana the day before she delivered Z.Z. McWilliams thus took Z.Z. into protective custody.

Julie Klco conducted a court-ordered psychological examination of respondent. The latter expressed her displeasure at being there by repeatedly swearing at Klco. However, respondent eventually calmed down and the evaluation was completed in one day.

Klco subsequently counseled respondent. Klco found that respondent had suffered significant trauma, having been poorly parented and abused by her mother's paramours. As a result, she began using alcohol and marijuana in her early teens. Respondent said that at one time she was drinking alcohol every day.

After conducting several tests, Klco found respondent's full-scale IQ to be 77, which is in the borderline range. Klco found respondent to be needy, depressed, and low in self-esteem. Klco concluded that respondent was then incapable of parenting because she was impulsive and prone to violence. During cross-examination, respondent's counsel repeatedly asked Klco whether respondent's score on the IQ test could have been the result of malingering. Klco did not think it was likely.

J. Chris Hinde, a follow-up caseworker for DCFS, testified that respondent was cooperative when he first received the case. However, her cooperation deteriorated after she lost her job. Among the tasks respondent had to complete after A.Z. was adjudicated neglected was a substance abuse evaluation. Respondent never had an evaluation, although each of her subsequent drug tests was negative. Hinde questioned the validity of the results because respondent had bragged to him that she could "beat the test."

Hinde recounted instances where respondent "snapped" at people, although she always calmed down afterward. Hinde had reservations about respondent's parenting ability until she completed anger management evaluation and counseling. According to Hinde, respondent completed a ...

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