Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. Nos. 95-J-934 & 95-J-935 Honorable Lola P. Maddox, Judge, presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Chapman
This appeal arises from the termination of the parental rights of Linda A. and Richard A. to their daughters, A.A. and B.B. Linda and Richard argue that the trial court abused its discretion in terminating their parental rights. They also argue that the termination of rights was inappropriate since the State failed to prove the alleged sexual abuse which was the basis for the removal of the children from the home. On June 6, 2000, this court filed this decision as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 Ill. 2d R. 23). On June 29, 2001, the Illinois Supreme Court entered a supervisory order vacating our Rule 23 order and ordering this court to reconsider our decision in light of the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in In re M.H., No. 89599 (May 24, 2001). Therefore, in addition to the issues raised and resolved in our original disposition, we now consider this case in light of the supreme court's holding in In re M.H. We affirm.
On October 30, 1995, juvenile petitions were filed on behalf of minors A.A. and B.B., Linda and Richard's children. The petitions alleged that the minors were abused because of their brother's sexual abuse of A.A. and that they were neglected minors whose environment was injurious to their welfare in that the minors' mother failed to take reasonable steps to protect the minors from sexual abuse.
The court entered an order as to shelter care on October 30, 1995. It found that there was probable cause to believe that the minors were neglected and abused. The court also found that it was a matter of urgency for the protection of the minors that they be placed in shelter care. The court placed the minors in the temporary custody and guardianship of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and scheduled a hearing on the juvenile petitions.
At the hearing, Richard and Linda admitted the allegations of the petition. The court determined that A.A. and B.B. were abused and neglected, ordered that they remain in the custody of DCFS, and ordered a dispositional hearing.
The dispositional hearing was held on April 30, 1996. The court found that it was in the minors' best interest that they be made wards of the court and placed in the custody of DCFS. The court also ordered Richard and Linda to make sure their son J.A., the brother who allegedly sexually abused A.A., completed sexual abuse counseling. The parents were to provide the results of the counseling to DCFS. The court further ordered Richard and Linda to attend and complete counseling for the prevention of sexual abuse, to complete parenting classes, and to cooperate with DCFS.
A service plan was completed for Richard, Linda, and J.A. on November 27, 1995. The plan required, among other things, the following: J.A. was to obtain a psychological assessment, J.A. was to cooperate with the psychological assessment, J.A. was to cooperate and comply with any and all recommendations of treatment, J.A. was not to reside in the home with the minors, Richard and Linda were to receive a clinical/psychological/ psychiatric assessment, Richard and Linda were to attend counseling to learn about sexual abuse and ways to prevent it, Richard and Linda were to participate in counseling to prevent sexual abuse, Richard and Linda were to comply with counseling and attend all scheduled sessions, Richard and Linda were to prevent J.A. from having contact with, providing child care for, or residing in the home with A.A. and B.B., and Richard and Linda were to cooperate with DCFS. Richard and Linda discussed the service plan with a DCFS employee and signed an acknowledgment that the service plan was explained to them and that they received a copy.
A service plan review was held on June 3, 1997. At that time, it was determined that Richard and Linda failed to meet minimum parenting standards. J.A. had failed to meet any of the goals set out for him in the service plan. Richard and Linda had not submitted to a clinical/psychological/psychiatric assessment but had undertaken some counseling. Since the goals of the service plan had not been met, DCFS determined that the minors would remain in foster care, with a goal to return home by December 31, 1997.
On April 7, 1998, a petition to terminate parental rights and for the appointment of a guardian to consent to adoption was filed regarding A.A. and B.B. The petitions alleged that Richard and Linda were unfit persons as described in section 1 of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D) (West 1994)), because: (1) they had failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the welfare of the minors, (2) they had failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the bases for the removal of the children from them, and (3) they had failed to protect the minors from conditions in their environment that were injurious to their welfare.
At the hearing on the petition to terminate parental rights, the court heard testimony from Gary Crone, a child welfare specialist with DCFS. Crone first became familiar with Richard and Linda in 1979, when there was a report of cuts, welts, and bruises to L.H., Richard's daughter. Crone also testified that there had been a previous indicated report involving an older son of Richard and Linda, M., who reportedly sexually abused B.B. Crone stated that he became involved in the current case when A.A. and B.B. were taken into protective custody after an adjudication of abuse and neglect. The reported incident was that A.A. had been sexually abused by her brother, J.A. A.A. and B.B. were allowed to return home with Richard and Linda after this incident, but Linda was told that she should not allow the minors to be unsupervised with J.A. That night, however, Linda allowed A.A. and B.B. to sleep in the same room with J.A. This incident caused the girls to be adjudicated abused and neglected and taken into DCFS custody.
Service plans in the case had the goal, according to Crone, for Richard and Linda to change their home environment and to learn adequate skills to protect their children. DCFS has received no proof that these goals have been sufficiently met.
Crone testified that when A.A. and B.B. were first taken into protective custody, Linda was told that she should lock J.A. out of the house so he could get the treatment he needed. Linda was told that DCFS would help the family find living arrangements for J.A. and that he would receive assistance from DCFS. Crone stated that Linda told him that she refused to lock J.A. out because she needed his supplemental security income check.
Crone stated that J.A. has been referred to counseling several times but has consistently failed to show up for or to follow up on the treatment for sexual offenders. Crone stated that despite the fact that they were told that the treatment for J.A. was in the best interest of A.A. and B.B., Richard and Linda have not accepted the responsibility for seeing that J.A. follows up on his treatment.
The service plan also called for both Linda and Richard to complete a sexual perpetrator and protection assessment through Alternative Counseling. The first referral was made for Richard and Linda in 1996. However, neither of them submitted to the assessment until 1998. Crone testified that even though treatment was recommended after the assessments, he has not received any proof that Linda or Richard received this treatment.
Richard and Linda did attend some counseling to deal with stress at home. Crone stated that the progress reports he received from the counselors working with Linda and Richard stated that the parents had reached their potential, but the counselor did not believe that the parents could protect their children. The counselor recommended that both parents obtain sexual abuse counseling. Although Crone conveyed the need for Richard and Linda to obtain this counseling, they have failed to obtain it.
Crone stated that Richard and Linda have completed a parenting class. The class, however, did not include specific information about protecting children from sexual abuse. Crone also stated that in the three years after the adjudication of abuse and neglect, he had concerns over some people who lived in Richard and Linda's home. In March 1996, Crone found that Lisa Hardester was living in the home, even though the service plan required her not to live in the home because of her potential to cause danger to the minors. Another man, known to Linda only as Ed, was also living in the home. Crone testified that Ed was ...