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In re Precious W.

August 29, 2002

IN RE PRECIOUS W., A MINOR
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
BLANCHE B., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 99-JA-252 Honorable Jerelyn D. Maher, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

UNPUBLISHED

The trial court found the respondent, Blanche B., to be an unfit parent because of her habitual drunkenness and drug addiction (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(k) (West 2000)), and because she failed to make reasonable progress (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2000)). The court terminated her parental rights regarding her daughter, Precious W. (705 ILCS 405/2--29(2) (West 2000)). On appeal, the respondent argues that (1) the trial court erred in finding her unfit due to habitual drunkenness and drug addiction because it considered evidence exceeding one year prior to the State filing its petition to terminate her parental rights; (2) the State did not prove her habitual drunkenness and drug addiction by clear and convincing evidence; (3) the State did not prove that she failed to make reasonable progress by clear and convincing evidence; (4) the court abused its discretion at the fitness hearing by admitting certain health care records under a hearsay exception; and (5) it was not in her daughter's best interest to terminate respondent's parental rights. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The State filed a juvenile petition on December 15, 1999, alleging that Precious was neglected because her environment was injurious to her welfare. The petition contended that the respondent was abusing drugs and alcohol during the pregnancy and after Precious' birth. At a shelter care hearing that same day, the court placed Precious in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

The court found Precious to be neglected on January 11, 2000. The court's February 22, 2000, dispositional order stated that the respondent was unfit.

On December 5, 2000, the State petitioned to terminate the respondent's parental rights. In this petition, the State alleged that she was unfit because she had failed to make reasonable progress. The State filed a supplemental petition on March 19, 2001, contending that the respondent was also unfit because of her habitual drunkenness and addiction to drugs for at least one year immediately prior to the supplemental petition. In an order issued the same day, the court found that "the one year period commences with today's filing and does not relate back to [the] filing of [the] original [petition for termination of parental rights]."

At the fitness hearing, the parties disagreed concerning the time period for the habitual drunkenness and drug addiction count. The respondent argued that the evidence should be limited to the one-year period from March 19, 2000, to March 19, 2001. The State contended that the time period included, but was not limited to, that one-year period. The court agreed with the State.

Later during the unfitness hearing, the respondent objected to the admission of various health care records of the respondent and an older child of hers. The respondent argued that the records were not admissible under the hearsay exception in section 2--18(4)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2--18(4)(a) (West 2000)). The court overruled the respondent's objections and admitted the records. These records show that the respondent was admitted to the hospital smelling heavily of alcohol four days before giving birth to one of Precious' siblings in 1994. At the time of that child's birth, the respondent was described as a severe alcoholic with a consistent history of drug abuse. That baby was born exposed to cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol.

On September 20, 1999, while pregnant with Precious, the respondent's urine specimen tested positive for cocaine. On November 11, 1999, she reported that she drank alcohol daily, ingested cocaine nightly, and smoked marijuana once every two to three months. On November 19, 1999, the respondent had a blood- alcohol level of .075. She was diagnosed as alcohol dependent and abusing cocaine and marijuana. Precious was born on December 10, 1999.

During the fitness hearing, Pamela Coats testified that she was the DCFS caseworker when Precious was born. Coats referred the respondent to a drug and alcohol treatment program and a parenting program on March 6 or 7, 2000. The record shows that the respondent committed the offense of possession of cocaine on March 9, 2000.

The DCFS case was transferred to Dana Coventry, who urged the respondent to begin her drug and alcohol treatment program several times between April 6, 2000, and June 7, 2000. During one of her visits, Coventry asked the respondent to complete a urine specimen drop, but the respondent refused, complaining that she was ill. Coventry testified that, other than this one time, she did not schedule the urine specimen drops with the respondent. The drops were to be scheduled by the drug and alcohol treatment program, which the respondent was not attending at that time.

The respondent went for a drug and alcohol assessment on June 14, 2000. At this assessment, the respondent admitted that she had drunk 6 to 12 beers daily since she was 13 years old. She said that she last drank alcohol on May 25, 2000.

The drug and alcohol treatment staff attempted to contact the respondent several times during the remainder of the summer of 2000. The respondent first attended treatment on September 18, 2000, but her attendance was sporadic thereafter. Her urine specimens tested positive for cocaine on September 25, 2000, and October 25, 2000. On November 14, 2000, the respondent began serving a two-year prison sentence for the above-mentioned cocaine possession conviction. The judge in this case ruled that the respondent was unfit both because she failed to make reasonable progress and because of her habitual drunkenness and drug addiction.

At the best interest hearing on October 10, 2001, the court considered the best interest report prepared by DCFS. The report states that Precious was doing well and appeared to be happy in her foster home. She had bonded with her foster parents and their children. The foster parents were willing to adopt Precious. She was attending preschool, which she seemed to enjoy. DCFS recommended that the respondent's parental rights be terminated so that Precious could be adopted by her foster parents.

The parties stipulated that the respondent's release date from prison would be December 21, 2001. While in prison, she had completed eight months of voluntary substance abuse treatment. The respondent's attorney urged the court to consider the respondent's rehabilitative potential.

The court ruled that it was in Precious' best interest to terminate the respondent's parental ...


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