Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign CountyNo. 00JA75 Honorable Ann A. Einhorn, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough
In February 2001, the trial court entered a disposi-tional order awarding custody of E.S. (born April 18, 1987) to his father, Everett Shreve, and awarding custody of R.S. (born December 15, 1996) to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Respondent mother, Tammy Shreve, appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court's finding that it was in the best interests of E.S. to place him in the custody of his father was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (2) the trial court lacked jurisdiction over R.S. We affirm.
In October 2000, the State filed a two-count petition for adjudication of wardship (petition) alleging, inter alia, that the minors were neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2000)) because they resided in an environment injurious to their welfare: specifically, when the minors resided with their mother, they were exposed to the risk of physical harm and substance abuse. On October 2 and 3, 2000, the trial court conducted a shelter-care hearing. The trial court heard testimony that respondent was highly intoxicated in a hotel room with the minor children. E.S. called the police because respondent was yelling at one of the children and E.S. was scared. The police officers took E.S. and R.S. into protective custody because they felt that respondent lacked the ability to care for the minors in her intoxicated condition. The trial court also heard testimony that respondent became pregnant with R.S. by artificial insemination. Rachel Braunigan, child welfare specialist with DCFS, testified that she learned of two indicated reports from Kentucky involving respondent--in the fall of 1998, emotional abuse to E.S., and in December 1997, physical abuse to A.S. (respondent's daughter who is not part of this case). At the close of evidence, the trial court found probable cause to believe that E.S. and R.S. were neglected. In addition, the trial court found that it was a matter of immediate and urgent necessity that a temporary custodian be appointed and awarded DCFS temporary custody of E.S. and R.S.
In November 2000, the trial court admonished Everett as to the allegations in the State's petition. Specifically, the trial court admonished Everett that the State filed a petition naming him the father of E.S. and R.S. Everett informed the trial court that he was the father of E.S. only. At that point in the hearing, respondent's attorney stated: "We discussed that at the last court hearing. [R.S.] was born by artificial insemination. There is no father." The State then moved to amend the petition to list the father of R.S as unknown. The trial court then noted that Everett was the father of E.S. only, delayed amending the petition further until such time as the court had more information, and completed the admonitions.
On December 29, 2000, the trial court conducted an adjudicatory hearing. Respondent agreed to admit and stipulate to count II of the petition--that the minors are exposed to an injurious environment when with respondent due to her substance abuse. The State withdrew count I of its petition (neglected due to risk of physical harm). The parties agreed to tender to the court the shelter-care report prepared in October 2000, as an adequate factual basis for the admission and stipulation. Everett waived his right to an adjudicatory hearing. The trial court accepted the admission and stipulation and found E.S. and R.S. neglected minors because when they resided with respondent they were exposed to substance abuse. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2000).
On January 8, 2001, the State filed an amended petition listing the father of R.S. as follows: "unknown; via anonymous sperm donor." On January 18, 2001, the trial court filed its written adjudicatory order. On January 29, 2001, the trial court conducted the dispositional hearing. Everett testified that he lives in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. He has been married for eight years. He and his wife live in a three-bedroom home overlooking the Allegheny River. Everett and his wife would like E.S. to come live with them. E.S. would attend the middle school that is located less than one mile from the house, and E.S. could participate in programs and activities in the neighborhood. Everett is employed as a quality engineer with Penn United and earns approximately $40,000 per year. He has health insurance and has listed E.S. on his policy. Everett is aware that E.S. has been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and informed the court that counseling would be available for E.S. in Pennsylvania.
Everett testified that he did not have contact with E.S. for a long period of time. When he was first divorced, he sent cards and letters to E.S.; but in 1991, the cards were returned with no forwarding address. He inquired about respondent's whereabouts but in 1993 lost contact with them because they moved and left no forwarding address. He pays child support through the circuit clerk's office in Terre Haute, Indiana, but that office would not give him an address for respondent. He learned of E.S.' whereabouts in early 2000 when he was informed that a case had been filed against respondent involving the minors. He hired an attorney and was present for the hearing, but the case was dismissed because the charge was too broad. It was not until this case arose that Everett reestablished contact with E.S. Since then, Everett has been visiting with E.S. approximately once a month. Everett would like to build a relationship with E.S., and E.S. expressed an interest in living with Everett.
Everett testified that he has no criminal convictions or charges filed against him. He acknowledged that when he was married to respondent, some domestic violence occurred for which he attended and completed counseling. No domestic violence has occurred in his current marriage. He testified that he did not have an alcohol problem when he was married to respondent and does not presently have a problem. Everett and his wife live alone in their home. In the past, however, two of his wife's children resided with them--a daughter for six years, and a son for three years.
Everett's wife, Margaret, testified that she and Everett have the income, ability, and other basics necessary to take care of E.S. She does not have any problem with E.S. maintaining contact with R.S. and would probably encourage E.S. to do so. She does not have any criminal convictions and has never been found unfit to care for a child.
The trial court received the dispositional report prepared by Jennifer Martin with DCFS. The report indicated that respondent was married and divorced twice. Respondent reported that her marriage with Everett involved domestic violence. She and Everett divorced in 1990, and the divorce decree allowed Everett no contact with the children due to past violence. Respondent reported, though, that Everett was not present at the divorce hearing and presented no evidence on his behalf.
Respondent later married Michael Walker, who was unable to have any children. She was, therefore, artificially inseminated and gave birth to R.S. Respondent apparently provided some kind of documentation to DCFS that Michael went into court in Arizona and claimed that he was not R.S.' biological father and that he was not aware of the artificial insemination. In addition, respondent told DCFS the divorce order states that Michael was not legally responsible for R.S.
The report further indicates that respondent had prior involvement with social services in Kentucky where, in the fall of 1998, her children were removed from her care due to an allegation of neglect. In addition, in August 1999, in Indiana, there was a report that respondent could not control E.S. and that E.S. continued to run away from home. Reports documented that respondent refused to pick up E.S. from the youth detention center. ...