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People v. Black

April 05, 2001

IN RE: S.E., A MINOR, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
BERNICE BLACK, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.
IN RE: L.H., A MINOR, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
BERNICE BLACK, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 98JA121 No. 98JA122 Honorable Thomas J. Fahey, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Steigmann

In August 2000, the trial court entered a permanency review order, pursuant to section 2-28 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-28 (West Supp. 1999)), changing the permanency goal for L.H. (born August 18, 1993) and S.E. (born September 22, 1998), the minor children of respondent, Bernice Black, to substitute care pending the court's decision on termination of parental rights. Respondent appeals, arguing that (1) the court's decision to change the permanency goal was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (2) the court erred by failing to indicate in writing its reason for changing the permanency goal, pursuant to section 2-28(2) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-28(2) (West Supp. 1999)). We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The record before us establishes the following. In December 1998, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging that respondent failed to provide a clean, safe, and healthy home environment in that she and S.E.'s father, Clarence Ewing, were intoxicated to the point of being unable to supervise L.H. and S.E. and had a history of failing to provide for respondent's children due to substance abuse. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 1998). Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order granting temporary custody of L.H. and S.E. to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

In January 1999, the trial court conducted an adjudicatory hearing at which respondent stipulated to the facts contained in the State's petition. After a February 1999 dispositional hearing, the court made L.H. and S.E. wards of the court and ordered respondent to cooperate with DCFS and any services recommended by DCFS. The court further ordered respondent and Ewing to (1) attend and participate in alcohol-abuse treatment, parenting education classes, and domestic-violence programs; and (2) submit to psychological and psychiatric evaluations. DCFS set a permanency goal of returning L.H. and S.E. home.

According to a permanency review hearing report filed in the trial court in September 1999, respondent had made minimal progress as an outpatient at the Prairie Center. She had tested positive for alcohol and cocaine within the previous six months and had been terminated from participating in group sessions for violating confidentiality rules. She was participating in parenting classes and had completed a psychological evaluation.

In October 1999, the trial court conducted a permanency review hearing and determined that the permanency goal would remain return home.

According to a status review report filed in December 1999, respondent and Ewing had both been terminated from drug and alcohol treatment at the Prairie Center for nonattendance or uncooperative behavior. Respondent admitted to Dennis Gaugler, the DCFS caseworker assigned to her case, that she continued to drink and had tested positive for cocaine within the previous six months. Respondent had completed parenting classes and the psychological and psychiatric evaluations. The psychologist reported that respondent either did not understand the seriousness of her problems or did not wish to understand them. She had not obtained suitable housing despite the help of a home interventionist and was not employed.

The report also showed that S.E. and L.H. continued to live in the foster home where they had lived for one year. S.E. was thriving. L.H. was struggling academically but was receiving additional assistance from the school and her foster parents, who were tutoring her at home.

A permanency review report filed on May 15, 2000, showed that respondent had completed the intensive phase of alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment at New Directions Treatment Center (New Directions) and was participating in aftercare treatment. She had not entered into a domestic-violence program, and she had not found suitable housing. Ewing had not entered substance-abuse or alcohol treatment and had been drinking prior to one of his visits with L.H. and S.E. DCFS recommended that the trial court change the permanency goal to substitute care pending the court's decision on termination of parental rights.

A letter from James Calvert, the executive director of New Directions, was also filed in May 2000. Calvert reported that respondent had been doing well in treatment but manifested a sudden change in attitude and behavior after Ewing had been released from prison. Her attendance dropped, her grooming ceased, and she stopped attending support group meetings and church.

At the June 2000 permanency review hearing, Gaugler testified that L.H. and S.E. had been in the same foster home for 17 months and were doing very well. Their foster parents were interested in adopting them. Calvert testified that respondent's participation in the aftercare phase of her drug treatment had become inconsistent after Ewing's release from jail. Respondent had stopped spending time with sober individuals and was spending time with drug users. When she attended treatment she was not attentive. Gaugler concluded that she had a high potential for relapse. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court ruled that the permanency goal would remain return home.

In a status report filed on August 1, 2000, DCFS again recommended that the permanency goal be changed to substitute care pending the court's decision on termination of parental rights and filed another letter from Calvert along with the report. According to Calvert, respondent was not responding appropriately to treatment and very seldom participated in group discussions. Her attendance was inconsistent and it appeared to him that she attended the aftercare treatment only to appease the court and DCFS. His agency had been working with respondent since December 1999, and she still had not obtained housing. Calvert also expressed concern that respondent remained in a relationship with Ewing.

At the August 4, 2000, permanency review hearing, Gaugler testified that DCFS sought to change the permanency goal for the following reasons: (1) Calvert's report regarding respondent's substance-abuse treatment was not favorable, and she had been in treatment for several months; (2) in June 2000, Ewing battered respondent, requiring stitches in her lip; and (3) respondent and Ewing had not ...


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