Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 97--J--010 Honorable Thomas E. Mueller, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Modified Upon Denial of Rehearing
Following a disposition hearing, the trial court found that it was in the best interest of J.B., S.B., D.B., L.B., and T.B. (the minors) to be made wards of the court. Respondents, A.B. and G.S., appeal, arguing that the trial court's judgment must be reversed because (1) the State failed to amend its petition to reflect the basis upon which the State was seeking a neglect adjudication; (2) the trial court failed to consider all of the relevant factors needed in determining that the minors were left unsupervised; and (3) the trial court erred in finding that the minors were neglected. We reverse.
On July 2, 1998, a supplemental petition for adjudication was filed alleging that the minors were neglected. The petition was entitled a "supplemental petition" because respondents were already going through adjudication and disposition proceedings with one of their other children. The supplemental petition provided that the minors' environment was injurious to their welfare because A.B., the minors' mother, left the minors home alone for approximately 30 minutes. The petition further alleged that A.B. had a history of leaving the minors home alone without supervision.
At the adjudication hearing, the testimony revealed that on February 12, 1998, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a hot line call about the minors. The call was placed because the minors had been left at home alone. At the time of the call, the minors were nine years old, six years old, five years old, two years old, and five or six months old.
The facts surrounding the hot line call revealed that A.B. left the minors home alone at approximately 3:30 p.m. She was gone from the home for between 30 and 45 minutes. A.B. left the minors at home while she went to look for an apartment. The apartment she went to look at was about two to three blocks away from the family's current home. The family had to leave the house they were living in because the owner of the house failed to pay the mortgage on the home. Thus, the bank was seeking to foreclose on the property. A.B. was informed that if the bank took over ownership of the property, she and her family would be forced to leave.
When A.B. left the minors home alone, she put J.B., her nine-year-old child, in charge of watching the other children. While A.B. did not think that J.B. was responsible enough to watch the minors, she believed that she had no other choice but to leave the children in J.B.'s care. She also thought that J.B. would be capable of watching the minors on this particular occasion because the two youngest children were sleeping.
A.B. did not want to take the minors with her to go look at the apartment because she was afraid the landlord would not rent the apartment to her if the landlord knew about the minors. A.B. testified that she did not have any money to pay a baby-sitter, and she did not ask a neighbor to watch the minors because she did not want the neighbors to know about her personal affairs.
The day after the incident, Jerry Waite, a DCFS investigator, interviewed A.B. and J.B. Prior to the interview, Waite ran a history on the family's previous involvement with DCFS. The history showed that DCFS made three earlier reports against the family for inadequate supervision. The three prior incidents arose in March 1991, September 1993, and January 1997. The history further showed that DCFS made two reports against the family in 1991. These reports alleged that the minors suffered from bruises, cuts, and welts.
During the hearing, the State asked the trial court to take judicial notice of the other case involving respondents' other child. The State claimed that this other case also involved inadequate supervision allegations. The State withdrew its request when the trial court pointed out the fact that this prior case did not involve inadequate supervision charges.
After all of the testimony was taken, the trial court adjudicated the minors neglected. The trial court made this determination under section 2--3(1)(d) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2--3(1)(d) (West 1998)). The trial court recognized that the petition alleged neglect under section 2--3(1)(b) of the Act, but it chose to find neglect, consistent with the testimony, under section 2--3(1)(d) of the Act. In adjudicating the minors neglected, the trial court stated that it was not taking into account the prior allegations that A.B. left the minors unsupervised because it did not even know the circumstances surrounding the prior reports.
Following the adjudication hearing, a disposition hearing was held. At this hearing, the trial court found that the best interests of the minors would be met by making the minors wards of the court. This timely appeal followed.
Respondents first argue that the trial court's judgment should be reversed because respondents were not given notice that the State was going to proceed under section 2--3(1)(d) of the Act. Respondents claim that in the supplemental petition the State only indicated that it was proceeding ...