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In re S.W.

July 31, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Stephen Y. Brodhay, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hartman


Following an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the minor, S.W. (born July 6, 1989), was dependent through no fault of her mother, defendant C.D. See 705 ILCS 405/2-4(1)(c) (West 2000). After a dispositional hearing, S.W. was adjudged a ward of the court and placed in the guardianship of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). On appeal, defendant contends that (1) the court's dependency finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) the court failed to comply with the statutory time limit for conducting the adjudicatory proceeding.

On August 3, 2001, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship and a motion for temporary custody for S.W., alleging inter alia that defendant was unable to provide the care necessary for the minor's well being through no fault of the defendant. On August 7, 2001, the court found probable cause and temporary custody was awarded to DCFS due to defendant's inability to care for S.W.

On September 19, 2001, N.W., S.W.'s father, was served with notice of the petition. *fn1 On October 2, 2001, N.W. entered his appearance and a formal paternity finding was entered. On October 2, 2001, all parties agreed to waive the statutory time limit for the adjudicatory hearing.

On February 19, 2002, the State moved to dismiss the petition for adjudication of wardship and the guardian ad litem objected. Following a "J.J. hearing," *fn2 the court denied the motion, finding it was in the best interests of S.W. that the petition not be dismissed. At the end of the hearing the court, on its own motion and over defendant's objection, continued the matter for adjudicatory hearing within 30 days. During the February 19, 2002, proceedings, the court summarized a prior court proceeding stating "mother did not waive the 90 days on the last court date; and, therefore the 90 days will be up either today or tomorrow." The record on appeal contains no reports of proceedings for any court dates prior to February 19, 2002.

An adjudicatory hearing was held on March 1, 2002. DCFS child protection specialist Charles Dorothy testified that on August 1, 2001, he received a hotline report that defendant and S.W. were at the emergency room at Evanston Hospital and defendant was refusing to take S.W. home with her. After seeing S.W. at the hospital, he described her as clean, well-fed, and with no visible signs of abuse or neglect. When asked why she took S.W. to the hospital, defendant responded that S.W. was out of control, would not listen, and was hitting defendant. Defendant explained that she wanted to get more structure for S.W. than she could provide in the home.

Defendant indicated that S.W. was being seen by the social worker at her school and that there was a behavior specialist from Little City Foundation coming to the home once a week. Defendant stated that S.W. previously had been hospitalized on numerous occasions for psychiatric reasons. Dorothy explained to defendant that his intent was to work with her to make an alternative plan for S.W. and to try to avoid taking protective custody. Dorothy also spoke to N.W. at the hospital, who indicated that he was not able to care for S.W. and that he had no family members who could care for her. Prior to Dorothy's arrival at the hospital, S.W. had been assessed and it was determined that she would not be hospitalized.

While at the hospital, Dorothy had a telephone conversation with a youth officer at the Evanston Police Department who suggested that Dorothy bring S.W. and defendant to the police station. After discussions at the police station, it was determined that S.W.'s problems needed to be dealt with by DCFS.

Dorothy then took S.W. and defendant to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in an attempt to have S.W. hospitalized rather than take protective custody. S.W. was assessed and it was determined that she would not be hospitalized. Defendant still indicated that she would not allow S.W. to return home with her that night. Dorothy then took protective custody of S.W. He stated that lockout was the only reason protective custody was taken and that if defendant had agreed to take S.W. home on August 1, 2001, he would have allowed her to do so.

Dorothy noted that while in the car traveling from Evanston Hospital to the Evanston police station, defendant asked to stop at her bank. While defendant was in the bank, S.W. became agitated because her favorite television program was about to start and she wanted to go home. S.W.'s brother was able to calm her down. When defendant returned to the car there was a physical exchange between S.W. and defendant in which S.W. tried to hit defendant. Defendant was able to calm S.W. down quickly.

Dorothy testified that based on defendant's assertion that she would not allow S.W. to return home because she could not control S.W., it was his opinion that defendant could not care for S.W. According to Dorothy, after August 1, 2001, defendant never stated that she wanted S.W. to come home. On August 7, 2001, defendant indicated that she wanted S.W. to be taken out of the system and to go stay with a cousin.

The State presented S.W.'s medical records from Evanston Hospital, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, and Riveredge Hospital. The Riveredge Hospital records indicated that S.W. was hospitalized from June 17, 2001 through July 3, 2001, due to "aggressive destructive behavior and attempting to kill her mother." S.W. was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and mild to moderate mental retardation.

The Evanston Hospital records show that S.W. was seen on April 2, 2001, due to aggressive behavior. S.W. was again seen in the emergency room on June 17, 2001, due to agitation and combative behavior. C.D. told hospital personnel at that time "I cannot control her." S.W. was seen again in the emergency room on July 12, 2001, when it was determined that she needed to be hospitalized for an oppositional defiant ...

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