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People v. Wanda H.

May 21, 2001

IN RE D.H., L.H., AND E.H., MINORS
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
WANDA H., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Not Released For Publication

IN RE D.H., L.H., AND E.H., MINORS
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
WANDA H., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Lynne Kawamoto, Judge Presiding.

Respondent Wanda H. appeals from the circuit court's orders finding her an unfit parent and terminating her right to parent D.H., E.H., and L.H. On appeal, respondent contends that the State failed to prove that she was unfit and that the court erred by terminating her right to parent D.H., E.H., and L.H. We affirm.

 I. BACKGROUND

D.H. was born to respondent on November 2, 1991, and tested positive for cocaine at that time. In March 1992, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) took custody of D.H. after he was taken to the hospital for chemical burns he sustained when nail polish remover spilled on his mouth and chest while he was unsupervised. On December 3, 1992, the circuit court entered an adjudication order, finding D.H. neglected due to lack of care. On April 26, 1994, the circuit court entered an order adjudicating D.H. a ward of the court.

Respondent gave birth to E.H. on September 11, 1988, and to L.H. on February 17, 1993. DCFS obtained custody of L.H. and E.H. in July 1994 after determining they were at risk based on respondent's lack of progress in treating her drug addiction. On August 3, 1995, the court entered an order adjudicating L.H. and E.H. abused and neglected based on an injurious environment, and on November 1, 1995, it entered orders adjudicating L.H. and E.H. wards of the court.

On December 16, 1996, the State filed petitions to terminate respondent's right to parent D.H., L.H., and E.H. and to appoint a guardian with the right to consent to adoption. The petitions for all three children alleged that respondent was unfit because she (1) failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to their welfare; (2) failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions which were the basis for their removal and/or failed to make reasonable progress toward their return home within 12 months after the adjudication of neglect or abuse; (3) failed to protect them from conditions in their environment injurious to their welfare; and (4) was a habitual drunkard and/or addicted to drugs for one year immediately prior to the commencement of the action. The petitions also alleged that terminating respondent's parental rights and appointing a guardian with the right to consent to adoption would be in D.H.'s best interest because he had resided with his foster parent(s) since March 1992, in E.H.'s best interest because she had resided with her foster parent(s) since October 1996, and in L.H.'s best interest because she had resided with her foster parent(s) since June 1996. The petitions further alleged that termination was in the best interests of all three children because their respective foster parents were considering adoption.

The State called two witnesses at the fitness hearing, Ardella Alberts, a foster-parent recruiter with the Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA), and Colleen Hoy, a former social worker with ECFA.

Alberts testified she was assigned to the cases of D.H., E.H., and L.H. from May 1995 to February 1996 and had numerous contacts with respondent during that time. Alberts stated that respondent's file reflected a history of drug abuse and noted that respondent failed to submit documentation verifying her attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA) meetings as required by her DCFS service plan. Although respondent tested positive for cocaine in June 1995 and appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at an August 1995 court appearance, she did not follow Alberts' recommendations that she complete a drug treatment program.

Between June 1995 and March 1996, respondent only visited D.H., E.H., and L.H. two or three times despite the fact that she was allowed to meet D.H. once a month and to meet E.H. and L.H. once a week until November 1995 and thereafter on a monthly basis. Alberts had to end the first visit early because respondent was belligerent and verbally abusive. During the second visit, respondent appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When Alberts inquired about her appearance, respondent stated her eyes were red because she had been crying. Alberts could not recommend unsupervised visitation with the children because of respondent's drug use and belligerent behavior. In November 1995, the permanency goals for L.H. and E.H. were changed from return home to foster care placement due to respondent's failure to comply with recommended services, her inconsistent visitation with the children, and her failure to stop using drugs.

Colleen Hoy testified that she had frequent telephone and in-person contact with respondent while she was assigned to her case from August 1994 until approximately May 1995 and from March 1996 until February 1997. When Hoy first became involved in the case, respondent was not involved in any services. Hoy noted that respondent had previously been enrolled in a drug treatment program at Doctors Hospital in May 1994. Although the program required a 10-day inpatient stay, six weeks of intensive outpatient therapy, and six months of follow-up therapy, respondent only completed the 10-day inpatient program and dropped out of the outpatient program after attending only one session.

Respondent told Hoy on two separate occasions that she did not have a drug problem and claimed that she was unable to attend the intensive outpatient program because she did not have a child care provider. Respondent subsequently agreed to attend an outpatient drug treatment program through the Brass Foundation if child care was provided. Although the foundation offered her child care, respondent failed to complete the program. Hoy noted that in June 1996, respondent enrolled in the South East Drug and Alcohol Abuse Center (SEDAC) but did not give Hoy documentation verifying her completion of the program. Furthermore, respondent failed to provide Hoy with documentation confirming her participation in AA and NA as required by her service plan. Hoy stated that respondent's visitation with D.H., E.H., and L.H. was inconsistent during the entire time she worked with the family. Respondent was 30 minutes late to at least two visits, frequently spent more time trying to convince Hoy to return the children home than she would interacting with her children, and repeatedly accused Hoy "of anything and everything." Although required to bring nutritional snacks to the visits for her children to eat, respondent normally brought candy and chips. Based on respondent's failure to comply with services and the inadequate nature of her visits, Hoy did not recommend unsupervised visits while she was working with the family.

Respondent testified that she had seven children, that her son D.H. was born cocaine-exposed, and that shortly after his birth, his cousin climbed onto a dresser and spilled nail polish remover on his face while they were under the supervision of respondent's mother. Respondent was not present at the time of the incident but did take D.H. to the hospital upon her return.

Respondent stated that she last used cocaine in 1995 and noted that during the preceding eight years, she had given over 100 drug and alcohol drops, only one of which tested positive. Respondent further stated that she never refused any counseling services after DCFS became involved with her family. She completed a parenting class at the Woodlawn Organization, received counseling through the Brass Foundation, successfully completed a substance abuse program at SEDAC, and went to "about a hundred" AA or NA meetings. Respondent explained that she also received inpatient treatment at Doctors Hospital and subsequently received treatment through Gateway. Doctors Hospital records presented at the hearing show that respondent was admitted there during May 1994 for detoxification and rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. A "Discharge Summary" from the hospital indicates that she stayed there for over a week and was diagnosed upon her release with alcohol dependence, cocaine abuse, and a history of depression.

In addition to participating in drug treatment programs, respondent participated in an after- school tutoring program called "We Have Not Forgotten You." A letter from the organization's program coordinator reflects that respondent began tutoring there in September 1996.

Respondent acknowledged she had misunderstandings with Alberts and Hoy and stated she was concerned with how the system was treating her children. According to respondent, she asked employees of various agencies working in conjunction with DCFS why her children had not been returned to her, but they never had an answer. Respondent got new furniture for her ...


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