Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 96 JA 04961 97 JA 03609 The Honorable Noreen M. Daly Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman
On June 20, 2001, the parental rights of the respondent, Shulanda D., were terminated as to her two children, J.D. and M.G. Respondent does not appeal the substance of the trial court's decision to terminate her parental rights; rather, respondent asks this court to review several procedural decisions made by the trial court. Upon review of the trial court's decisions, we affirm.
At the time of her birth in September of 1996, J.D. tested positive for cocaine and, as a result, was placed in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). M.G. was born in September of 1997 and came into the system shortly thereafter because respondent used drugs during her pregnancy. Since June of 1997, J.D. has resided with Elizabeth DeJesus, her foster mother, and since September of 1997, M.G. has resided with her foster mother, Ruth Dabney.
In December of 1998, the State filed supplemental petitions for appointment of a guardian with right to consent to adoption. The State alleged that respondent was unfit due to her failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to J.D. and M.G.'s welfare and that respondent failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions which were the basis for removal within nine months after adjudication and/or failure to make reasonable progress toward the return of the children within nine months after adjudication. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), (D)(m) (West 2000).
At trial, George Udhub, a caseworker for DCFS, who was assigned to J.D's and M.G.'s cases in August of 1999, testified that respondent was noncompliant with the services requested of her. Specifically, Udhub testified that he was unsure of whether respondent participated in the required programs to an extent that allowed her to learn essential parenting skills. Moreover, Udhub stated that respondent was inconsistent in visiting J.D. and M.G.
Elizabeth DeJesus and Ruth Dabney, J.D.'s and M.G.'s respective foster mothers, also testified at trial. DeJesus testified that respondent interacted inappropriately with J.D. during their few visits, while Dabney testified that she never saw respondent interact inappropriately with M.G. Both foster mothers testified that respondent did not visit her children consistently.
Next, the State called Alicia Pickett to testify, but she was unavailable. Consequently, the State continued its case.
On February 20, 2001, the assistant public guardian called Baleria Baltazar, J.D.'s therapist, to testify. Respondent objected to Baltazar testifying because she was never listed as a witness prior to trial. Moreover, not until Baltazar was called as a witness did respondent receive a copy of the intake report that Baltazar prepared almost three weeks prior to being called as a witness. In response to defendant's objection to Baltazar testifying, the court allowed the parties to file briefs and set the motion hearing for February 28, 2001.
The assistant public guardian called Patricia Hightower, a case manager at Sullivan House, to testify. As the case manager for one of respondent's other children's cases, Hightower had the opportunity to observe several family visits between respondent and her children. Hightower testified that at these visits, respondent did not interact very much with J.D. and that M.G. appeared very upset at these visits.
On February 28, 2001, the trial court was to hear arguments on respondent's request to bar the testimony of Baleria Baltazar. There is no transcript of what occurred on February 28, 2001, and there is no written order stating the trial court's decision; however, the record does include the minors' response to interrogatories filed on March 12, 2001. The minors' response includes information on what Baltazar would testify to and Baltazar's intake report.
On March 20, 2001, respondent filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's decision to allow Baltazar to testify. The trial court's ruling on this motion is not included in the record.
On April 9, 2001, the State resumed its case and called Alicia Pickett, a DCFS caseworker assigned to the minors' cases from November of 1997 through December of 1998, to testify. Pickett testified that respondent completed a parenting program; however, it was not the intensive program in which the judge wanted respondent to enroll. Pickett also stated that respondent began counseling through the Salvation Army and enrolled in an aftercare program at Haymarket. Lastly, Pickett stated that respondent claimed she attended support meetings, but Picket never received proof of her attendance. The State rested.
Next, the assistant public guardian called Baleria Baltazar to testify. Baltazar testified that she had been J.D.'s therapist since January of 2001 and that J.D. had been referred to her as a result of the fear she experienced before visiting with respondent. Baltazar testified that at these visits respondent did not interact appropriately with J.D. For instance, Baltazar stated that respondent did not show genuine interest in her conversations with J.D. and continuously told J.D. not to forget that her last name is different from her foster mother's last name. Furthermore, Baltazar testified that at these visits M.G. refused respondent's requests for him to sit on her lap.
At the conclusion of Baltazar's testimony, the assistant public guardian rested and respondent called Jane Rooney, a counselor at the Salvation Army Family Services, to testify. Rooney testified that beginning in March of 1998, she counseled respondent on the issues of drug abuse and depression. Respondent reported to Rooney that she had not used drugs since June of 1997 and that she had been participating in therapy consistently since the fall of 1998. Further, respondent told Rooney that during the fall of 1998 she received training as a certified nursing assistant and obtained a car. According to Rooney's testimony, in May ...