Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County-No. 99JA9 Honorable James E. Souk, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough
In July 1999, the State filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of respondent, Michael Bose, regarding his minor children, G.B. (born October 13, 1989), M.B. (born June 3, 1991), and S.B. (born November 11, 1993). In January 2000, the trial court conducted a hearing on the termination petition and found respondent unfit. The court later determined that it would be in the children's best interests to terminate respondent's parental rights. Respondent appeals the trial court's termination of his parental rights, arguing that the trial court exceeded its statutory authority under section 2-29 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 1998)). We affirm.
Because the parties are familiar with the evidence, and respondent neither challenges the sufficiency of the evidence nor contends that it was not in the best interests of the minor children that his parental rights be terminated, we will discuss only the facts relevant to our determination of the issue on appeal.
Respondent and Kimberly Butts were married, and two children were born of the marriage, M.B. and G.B. The parties divorced but shared joint custody of the minors with physical custody remaining with respondent. Respondent later married Darci Poppe, and one child, S.B., was born of the marriage. Subsequently, respondent and Poppe separated. Physical custody of S.B. remained with Poppe.
In January 1999, the State filed a petition for the adjudication of wardship of respondent's minor children, alleging that the minor children were (1) abused because respondent created a substantial risk of injury to S.B. (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(ii) (West 1998)); (2) neglected because their environment was injurious to their welfare due to (a) respondent's unresolved issues of anger control and (b) the fact respondent subjected S.B. to acts constituting emotional abuse (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 1998)); and (3) dependent because respondent was unable to provide safe and proper care for them due to suffering from various mental disorders. The State sought shelter care of M.B. and G.B. but did not seek shelter care of S.B. Poppe, though, requested the court to place S.B. under the shelter-care order also. The trial court, without objection from respondent, awarded temporary custody and guardianship of the minor children to their respective mothers and placed all three minor children under the shelter-care order.
In May 1999, the trial court held a hearing where respondent stipulated to the allegation of neglect concerning his unresolved issues of anger control and the allegation that the minors were dependent. The State dismissed the remaining allegations. The trial court entered an adjudicatory order adjudicating the minor children neglected and dependent pursuant to sections 2-3(1)(b) and 2-4(1)(b) of the Juvenile Act. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b), 2-4(1)(b) (West 1998).
On July 1, 1999, the court held a dispositional hearing, adjudged the minors wards of the court, and ordered guardianship and custody to remain with the mothers of the minor children. On July 12, 1999, the State filed a petition under sections 1(D)(h), (D)(p), and (D)(i) of the Adoption Act to terminate respondent's parental rights, alleging that respondent was unfit because (1) he committed acts of misconduct against S.B., (2) he has an inability to discharge his parental responsibilities due to mental impairment, mental illness, or mental retardation, and (3) he is depraved. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(h), (D)(p), (D)(i) (West 1998).
In January 2000, at the fitness hearing, the trial court granted the State's request to dismiss the unfitness allegations pursuant to sections 1(D)(h) and (D)(i). Respondent stipulated to the State's exhibit No. 1, Dr. French's psychological evaluation of respondent, wherein Dr. French indicated that respondent's clinical scale elevations were similar to those possessed by persons diagnosed with paranoid personality or paranoid delusional disorder. Additional test results suggested that respondent experiences an anxiety disorder and a somatoform disorder. After considering this evidence, the trial court found respondent to be unfit because of his inability to discharge his parental responsibilities due to mental illness. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(p) (West 1998).
At the subsequent dispositional hearing, i.e., the best interests hearing, the trial court, without objection, took judicial notice of the file and respondent's criminal convictions in case Nos. 99-CF-106 (residential burglary and criminal trespass), 99-CF-169 (violation of an order of protection in connection with S.B.'s mother), and 99-CM-200 (violation of an order of protection regarding another woman). At the time of the hearing, respondent was incarcerated, serving a nine-year sentence for his convictions of residential burglary and criminal trespass.
The trial court conducted in camera interviews with the children and heard testimony from several witnesses, including the mothers of the minors and the respondent. Respondent testified that he is incarcerated in the Department of Corrections in Jacksonville, Illinois, which has no programs to help him address the concerns Dr. French raised in his evaluation. After considering the evidence and arguments of counsel, the trial court found it was in the children's best interests to terminate respondent's parental rights. The trial court terminated respondent's parental rights and ordered that the mothers of the minor children had the power to consent to the adoption of their respective children.
Terminating parental rights is a two-step process. First, the trial court must find a parent unfit. Second, the court must consider whether termination is in the best interests of the children. See In re A.P., 277 Ill. App. 3d 592, 597-99, 660 N.E.2d 1006, 1010-11 (1996). In the present case, the trial court found respondent unfit and terminated his parental rights. Respondent does not appeal the trial court's finding of unfitness. Respondent appeals only the trial court's order terminating his parental rights, arguing that the trial court exceeded its statutory authority under section 2-29 of the Juvenile Act. 705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 1998). Specifically, respondent argues that section 2-29 does not permit a court to terminate the parental rights of one parent, where the minor child was never placed in substitute care, but continuously resided with the other parent. The ...