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In re Interest of J.P.

May 20, 2002

IN RE INTEREST OF: J.P. AND T.P., MINORS RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
CATHERINE P. AND THOMAS P. RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Department of Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Division Nos. 90 JA 22960 & 98 JA 00676 The Honorable Paul P. Biebel Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Tully

UNPUBLISHED

Respondents, Catherine P. and Thomas P, the natural parents of minors, J.P. and T.P., appeal separately from: (1) the trial court's June 8, 1999 adjudication order, finding T.P. neglected and abused, being subject to an injurious environment and at substantial risk of physical harm, as defined in sections 2-3 (1)(1)(b) and 2-3 (2)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-3 (1)(1)(b), 2-3(2)(ii) (West 1999)), and (2) the trial court's November 30, 1999 dispositional order finding respondents unable or unwilling to care for or protect T.P., adjudging T.P. a ward of the court and placing T.P. in the custody of the DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) Guardianship Administrator with the right to place him, pursuant to section 2-27 of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-27(West 1999). Thomas also separately appeals the trial court's November 30, 1999 modified dispositional order changing the goal for J.P. to private guardianship. Catherine P.'s appeal (No. 1-99-4165) and Thomas P.'s appeal (No. 1-99-4405) were consolidated for purposes of review. For the following reasons, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

The record indicates J.P. was born on August 23, 1990. T.P. was born on January 17, 1998. Catherine P. (Catherine) and Thomas P. (Thomas) are their parents. On December 4, 1990, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of J.P., alleging J.P. was neglected and subject to an injurious environment. A temporary custody hearing was held on December 18, 1990, at the conclusion of which, the trial court entered an order of protection ordering Catherine and Thomas to: (1) provide all necessary care, including proper medical care, for the well being of J.P., (2) submit to psychological and drug evaluations, (3) enter and complete marriage counseling, (4) notify DCFS of any change of address, cooperate with all reasonable requests of DCFS, and give DCFS caseworkers full home access at reasonable times.

Thomas was further ordered not to abuse Catherine mentally or physically. On November 4, 1991, DCFS filed a petition for supplemental relief alleging that Thomas violated the order of protection by not providing all necessary care for J.P.'s well being, not cooperating with DCFS's reasonable requests, not submitting to psychological and drug evaluations and by continuing to abuse Catherine. The court thereafter entered an order of protection ordering Thomas to have no contact with J.P., Catherine, or Catherine's family. On May 8, 1992, the trial court entered an adjudication order finding that J.P. was neglected and subject to an injurious environment. The trial court found the conditions in respondents' household to be violent and chaotic, and that Catherine was subject to domestic violence by Thomas. On October 2, 1992, the court entered an order of protective supervision ordering that Catherine provide all necessary care for the well-being of J.P., cooperate with all reasonable requests by DCFS, continue in counseling and participate in parent/child development classes, and not to allow any unsupervised contact between Thomas and J.P. On March 17, 1993, the DCFS filed a motion to vacate the order of protective supervision on the basis that Catherine violated the protective order by allowing unsupervised contact between Thomas and J.P. On March 25, 1993, the trial court issued a juvenile arrest warrant for J.P. The warrant was extended through August 24, 1995. On November 4, 1996, the warrant was quashed and recalled and temporary custody was taken of J.P. On November 15, 1996, a supplemental protective order for supervised visitation was entered allowing Catherine and Thomas supervised visitation with J.P. in the presence of DCFS, prohibiting respondents from attempting unsupervised contact with J.P., and ordering respondents to cooperate with all reasonable requests of DCFS, including undertaking parenting classes and substance abuse assessments.

On January 17, 1998, T.P. was born. On February 22, 1998, T.P. was taken into protective custody at Cook County Hospital. On February 24, 1998, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of T.P. alleging (1) injurious environment, in that a finding of abuse and neglect had previously been entered with respect to T.P.'s sibling, J.P., and respondents had not been compliant with recommended services, including psychiatric and mental health treatment and (2) physical abuse and substantial risk of physical injury, in that T.P. was admitted to the hospital on February 17, 1998 for rectal bleeding and a swollen stomach, the cause of which was suspected trauma, and respondents had threatened the hospital staff and attempted to remove T.P. from the hospital against medical advice. On February 24, 1998, the court entered a temporary custody order that T.P. be removed from respondents' custody and that respondents be allowed supervised visitation. On February 4, 1999, the trial court entered a plenary order of protection, ordering that Thomas refrain from physical abuse, harassment, stalking, exploitation, neglect, willful deprivation or intimidation of T.P. or T.P.'s guardian, and ordering Thomas not to come within 100 yards of T.P.'s home or remove T.P. from Illinois.

Adjudication Hearing

On March 16, 1999 an adjudication hearing was held in T.P.'s case. Lilliana Morfin (Morfin), a caseworker, testified on behalf of the State and the Guardian. Morfin represented that J.P.'s case first came into the system in 1990 and she was assigned to the case in 1997. The case plan in 1997 allowed respondents monthly supervised visits with J.P. Morfin stated that the reason the visits were supervised was because two juvenile arrest warrants were previously issued in 1993 and 1996, when respondents and J.P. could not be located. When contact with respondents was reestablished in 1997, Morfin referred respondents for services. Prior to 1997, referrals had been made for parenting classes, a psychological evaluation, and a drug and alcohol assessment, but respondents ignored the referrals. In September and October of 1997 Morfin referred Thomas for parenting classes, a psychological assessment, a drug and alcohol evaluation, and counseling, but Thomas did not attend scheduled appointments or pursue the referrals. Morfin also referred Catherine for parenting classes, a psychological assessment, a drug and alcohol evaluation, and counseling in August, September and October of 1997, but Catherine ignored the referrals. At the end of 1997, the goal for J.P. was changed from return home to termination of parental rights because respondents would not comply with the referrals. Morfin stated that in December of 1997, she met with respondents in court, at which time both respondents acted belligerently and indicated that they would not utilize any services.

Thomas was rude, loud and aggressive towards Morfin, and at one point, threatened her that if anyone adopted J.P., he would kill that person and anyone who had helped in the adoption. In November of 1997, Morfin visited respondents' home and Catherine informed her that she was 7 months pregnant. Following a court appearance on December 12, 1997, Morfin advised Catherine of the tasks expected of her under the administrative case review, including prenatal checkups and medical checkups to monitor her pregnancy. Catherine at that time denied that she was pregnant. Between December and January, Catherine did not attend visits with J.P., although Thomas attended visits and kept in regular contact with Morfin. On January 20, 1998, during a visit with J.P., Thomas made Morfin aware that Catherine had given birth on January 17, 1998 to T.P. Thomas told Morfin that the reason Catherine had not attended the visits with J.P. was that she was at home with T.P. Morfin thereafter made an unannounced visit to respondents' residence to check on T.P., but no one was at home. Morfin subsequently called to the DCFS hotline, and the juvenile court took temporary custody of T.P. Morfin stated she repeatedly advised respondents of the importance of following through with the services in order to get their children back, but respondents refused to comply. On the State's motion, the trial court admitted into evidence and took judicial notice of a 1996 juvenile arrest warrant entered in J.P.'s case.

On cross-examination, Morfin admitted that the referrals she gave for services were offered prior to the time of T.P.'s birth. Morfin also represented that at some point prior to 1997, she believed respondents had submitted to psychological evaluations, although Morfin had not read the evaluations. Morfin admitted that Thomas had never struck her or physically intimidated her. Morfin represented she made only one unannounced visit to respondent's residence, which occurred shortly after January 20, 1998.

Kari Blackmore (Blackmore), a caseworker employed by Aunt Martha's Youth Center also testified on behalf of the State and the Guardian at the adjudication hearing. Blackmore stated that in February of 1997 she was assigned to J.P.'s case, at which time, she referred Thomas and Catherine for psychological, psychiatric, alcohol and drug assessments and referred Catherine to a battered woman's counseling group, which respondents ignored. Blackmore scheduled an appointment for March 24, 1997 for Thomas and Catherine to undergo a psychological evaluations and alcohol and drug assessments, but respondents did not attend. Blackmore referred respondents for the same services the following week, but respondents again did not comply with the services. For the next four months, Blackmore referred Catherine for services, but Catherine would not comply with any service referrals. As part of the service plan, respondents were provided with weekly supervised visits with J.P., but respondents did not visit weekly. Blackmore stated that between March and April of 1997 difficulties arose regarding the location of the supervised visits, as Thomas expressed dissatisfaction with the chosen location because of the ethnicity of the neighborhood . On April 29, 1997, Blackmore and Thomas resolved this problem by finding a new location for visitation, but respondents attended the scheduled visitation only sporadically. Sometimes, the visits went very well and Thomas was very good with J.P., at other times, Thomas acted in an inappropriate manner, and the visits would have to be terminated.

Blackmore recounted that on one occasion, in May of 1997, a visit was terminated when Thomas and Catherine told J.P. that his foster parents had taken him away from them illegally, that the judge had done this to hurt respondents, and that it was a game and J.P. was supposed to fight back. When Blackmore attempted to terminate the visit, Thomas and Catherine became very angry, J.P. began crying, and a chair was knocked over. Security was called, and from that point on Blackmore brought an additional case aide worker to visits. Blackmore stated that a similar incident occurred with respondents on February 27, 1997 in a court conference room. Blackmore was attempting to engage respondents in services when Thomas became extremely angry, began yelling at Blackmore, and followed her out of the conference room when she left. Thomas threatened Blackmore that if J.P. was not returned to him, everyone involved in the case, both past and present, would be killed. The Sheriff was called and Blackmore was taken to the Guardian's office until Thomas left the building. Blackmore testified that she repeatedly advised Thomas it was necessary for him to engage in services in order to be reunited with his children and to show DCFS that he was an adequate parent. Blackmore stated that Thomas expressed no interest in services, was uncooperative, and indicated to her that he did not have to complete the services because he had not done anything. Blackmore testified that she sent Thomas letters by both regular and certified mail regarding the need for services, but Thomas told her to stop sending him letters. Blackmore represented that the last time she spoke to Thomas and referred him for services was in June of 1997, and at that time, neither Thomas nor Catherine had complied with any of the services offered.

On cross examination, Blackmore admitted that she had no personal knowledge of whether respondents complied with any service referrals prior to 1997. Blackmore denied that Thomas expressed reservations about going to the initial visitation location because he had problems with gang members in that area. Blackmore agreed that the second visitation location was closer to respondents' residence. Blackmore stated that between April and July of 1997, quite a few of the scheduled visits with J.P. had to be cancelled because respondents failed to call and confirm 24 hours in advance, as required. Blackmore agreed that respondents called to confirm the visits in advance approximately 50% of the time. Blackmore represented that when the visits went well, respondents would play with J.P. and when the visits did not go well respondents would talk with J.P. about the case.

Sharon Wolford (Wolford), a DCFS investigator, testified on behalf of the State and the Guardian. Wolford stated that on February 17, 1998, she received a call from Morfin on the DCFS hotline indicating that T.P. was at risk of physical harm. Wolford went to respondents' home to investigate, and spoke to a neighbor, but she could not locate respondents. Subsequently, Wolford learned that T.P. had been admitted to Cook County Hospital and had been taken into protective custody.

Over the objection of Thomas' counsel, the court allowed into evidence a certified half sheet indicating that an order of adjudication was entered in J.P.'s case on May 8, 1992, with a finding of neglect and injurious environment. Also admitted into evidence was a certified dispositional order entered in J.P.'s case on October 2, 1992, adjudging J.P. a ward of the court. On the State's motion, and without objection, the court allowed into evidence T.P.'s medical records from his admission to the hospital on February 17, 1998. The information contained in the records and published at trial was as follows.

On February 17, 1998, Catherine took T.P. to the hospital because he had blood in his stool on three occasions. T.P. was admitted. A social worker consultation report dated February 19, 1998 indicated:

" 34 day old white male admitted *** During history and physical discovered that Mom has [a] son living with aunt for 1 year. DCFS was notified. Father had several episodes of being extremely frustrated with baby crying at hospital. Please see attending's note about specific concerns and abnormal behavior of both parents. *** Brought in by Mom and Dad with blood in stool x 3. ***Per mom, baby cries a lot at home. Per Mom, Dad tries to keep him quiet- not to bother the neighbor-but she won't let him do this anymore. Mom refuses to tell how he tries to quiet the baby. Per Dad, if baby comes home and bleed[s] per rectum again, "there is gonna be trouble." *** Per Dad -demanded repeatedly on 2/17/98 to give baby something to knock the child out and get him ear plugs because he's going crazy from the child crying. [Assessment] Child At Risk: Sibling placed by DCFS with Aunt; Mom refusing to let DCFS follow up with baby; Parents statements very scary; Unknown etiology rectal bleed/ abdominal distension- Rule out Trauma.*** October 1990- Dad hit mom while holding [J.P.]. Head Injury. March 1993- Hid child. Violated protective order. J.P. placed with aunt by DCFS for 1 year. Mom doesn't miss him."

A resident's note dated February 19, 1995 indicated:

"Conference with father [Thomas] and [social worker] Brenda*** [Thomas] appeared very angry and trying to restrain himself from lashing out. In his own words, ' I usually act first and ask questions later but this time I am giving you the courtesy of asking questions first.' ***[Thomas] repeatedly insisted that, 'Your only goal should be to find out what the baby's problem is, treat it and send the baby home.' He said, ' His past is not anyone's business and everyone should stop voicing their opinions or he will start giving ...


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