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In re D.D.

April 19, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 96--JD--530 98--JD--567 Honorable Victoria A. Rossetti, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN


The appellant, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), appeals an order of the trial court ordering the Department of Probation to place a minor, D.D., in Maryville Academy and ordering the DCFS to reimburse Lake County for half of the cost of placement. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

The following facts are taken from the record. D.D. was born in 1985. In 1995 D.D., his mother, older brother, younger brother, and sister became temporarily homeless. Shortly thereafter they moved to Waukegan, and D.D.'s mother received public aid.

On December 10, 1996, D.D. was found to be a delinquent minor having committed residential burglary. 720 ILCS 5/19--3(a)(West 1996). The trial court adjudged D.D. a ward of the court and put D.D. on probation for five years. The State also alleged that D.D. committed the offense of criminal damage to property (720 ILCS 5/21--1(1)(a) (West 1996)) in September 1996, but the State withdrew this petition.

A 1997 report indicated that, late in 1996 or early in 1997, D.D.'s mother became employed full time. In 1996, D.D. was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was prescribed medication. D.D. stopped taking the medication because his condition did not improve. D.D. received counseling, was not involved in gangs, did not use alcohol or drugs, and was involved with someone from the Big Brother's organization. However, a psychological report indicated that D.D. was attracted to negative influences like gangs, was combative, was unable to relate to other children, frequently engaged in physical fights in school, and needed a structured environment.

On April 8, 1997, the State filed a petition to revoke D.D.'s probation, alleging that D.D. committed a battery (720 ILCS 5/12--3(a)(1) (West 1996)) when he struck a girl in the head. The State later withdrew this petition.

A May 1997 report indicated that D.D.'s behavior had improved. However, on June 23, 1998, D.D. ran away from home. A warrant was issued, and D.D. was taken into custody and remanded to secure detention. A report indicated D.D.'s mother stated that she was not able to control her son and that his friends were a bad influence on him. D.D.'s parole officer reported that D.D. was out of control. D.D. was released to his mother but ran away again the following month. D.D. was again taken to secure detention and was again adjudicated a delinquent minor. The court ordered D.D.'s probation to be continued.

At an October hearing, the supervisor of juvenile probation, the public defender, and the guardian ad litem recommended a residential placement for D.D. The assistant State's Attorney agreed with this recommendation. The DCFS did not agree and recommended foster care for D.D.

On October 2, 1998, the State filed a petition for a hearing on a violation of probation, alleging that theft (720 ILCS 5/16-- 1(a)(2)(A) (West 1996)) occurred when D.D. stole a bicycle. At the hearing on the State's petition, Bob Schroeder, D.D.'s probation officer, opined that Maryville was the appropriate placement for D.D.

On November 12, 1998, after a hearing to determine the placement of D.D., the trial court ordered that the probation department place D.D. in Maryville Academy in Durand, Illinois, a residential placement facility. The court stated that "placement in foster care, whether it's traditional, specialized, or a group home facility, based on the background and the continued runaway behavior and continued delinquent behavior by the minor [sic], and I will not allow DCFS to place [D.D.] in foster care." On November 16, 1998, D.D. was sent to Maryville Academy. The trial court ordered the Department of Probation to place D.D. at Maryville and ordered the DCFS, as guardian, to reimburse Lake County for one-half of the cost of placement.

On December 10, 1998, after a hearing, D.D. was readjudicated a delinquent minor. D.D. was made a ward of the court and placed on probation. The trial court ordered D.D. to "cooperate with and successfully complete placement at" Maryville.

Subsequently, the DCFS filed a motion to vacate the trial court's December 10, 1998, order regarding placement. At the hearing on the DCFS's motion, Assistant State's Attorney Pierson asked the court to deny the DCFS's motion. Pierson stated that the court acted within its discretion and acted in the best interests of the minor. Guardian ad litem Moorman agreed with the State's position. The trial court denied the DCFS's motion to vacate. The DCFS filed a timely notice of appeal. The State failed to file an appellee's brief.

On appeal, the DCFS argues that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and had no authority under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/5--1 et seq. (West 1996)) to place D.D. and order the DCFS to pay half of the cost. The DCFS argues that, since it was the child's custodian and guardian, it had the sole authority to decide which placement was in the child's best interest. The State Appellate Defender argues that the trial court had the authority to place D.D. because D.D. was a ward of the court and the Act did not limit the trial court's power to place the ...

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