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In re Paul J.

September 24, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Sandra R. Otaka, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hoffman


The respondents, John J., Sr. (John J.) and Ardell J., bring the instant appeal from circuit court orders finding that their infant son, John Paul J. is a neglected minor and adjudicating him a ward of the court For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

John Paul J. was born on June 20, 2001. On June 26, 2001, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of John Paul J. in which it alleged that he was both a neglected minor pursuant to section 2-3(1) of the Juvenile Court Act (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a), (b) (West 2000)) and an abused minor as defined by section 2-3(2)(ii) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(ii) (West 2000)). That same day, the trial court appointed the public guardian to serve as John Paul J.'s guardian ad litem and conducted a temporary custody hearing. After the parties presented their evidence, counsel for the respondents moved to dismiss the case. Counsel asserted that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had taken temporary protective custody of John Paul J., not at 3:29 p.m. on June 25, as alleged in the State's petition for adjudication of wardship, but on June 21 when John Steele, a child protective investigator employed by the DCFS, instructed personnel at the hospital where John Paul J. was born not to release the child to the respondents' care. Counsel argued that, as the temporary custody hearing was not conducted within 48 hours of the child having been taken into protective custody, as required by section 2-9 of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-9 (West 2000)), the trial court lacked jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion. It went on to find that probable cause existed to believe that John Paul J. was neglected and awarded temporary custody of the child to D. Jean Ortega Piron, Guardianship Administrator of the DCFS. The court then granted the State leave to amend the petition for adjudication of wardship by adding allegations that John Paul J. was a neglected minor as defined under section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2000)) in that his environment was injurious to his welfare.

An adjudicatory hearing was held over a period of several dates commencing on September 26, 2001, and concluding on October 26, 2001. The following evidence was presented at the hearing.

At the State's request, the trial court admitted into evidence court orders pursuant to which the respondents' daughters Sapphire J. and Jasmine J. were found to be neglected minors in that their environment was injurious to their welfare and adjudicated wards of the court. The orders regarding Sapphire J. were entered in 1997, and the orders regarding Jasmine J. were entered in 1998. Also admitted into evidence were court orders, entered in 1994, pursuant to which Ardell J.'s children Krystle D. and Joshua D. were adjudicated dependent minors in that they were without proper care because of the physical or mental disability of their parent and adjudged wards of the court. Additionally, Ardell J.'s medical records from MacNeal Hospital, where John Paul J. was born, were admitted.

The State presented the testimony of Dr. John Murray, a clinical psychologist who conducted a psychological evaluation of Ardell J. in May and June of 2000. Dr. Murray testified that this evaluation consisted of interviewing Ardell J. on two occasions and reviewing "numerous records and reports," including records from the DCFS, Ardell J.'s school records, reports from Catholic Charities and Hepzibah Child Protection Agency, a parental capacity evaluation, and records from the Fillmore Center, MacNeal Hospital, and the Illinois Department of Public Health. In addition, Ardell J. completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test.

Dr. Murray testified that he diagnosed Ardell J. as suffering from major depression, alcohol abuse, and cocaine abuse, all of which were in remission at the time of his evaluation. He also diagnosed her as having learning disabilities and borderline personality disorder. According to Dr. Murray, he based his diagnosis of borderline personality disorder on the following symptoms exhibited by Ardell J., as revealed during his interviews with her or by information in her records: unstable relationships with various people in her life; unstable and somewhat extreme mood and emotional presentation; extremely limited insight into the motivation for her behavior; and impulsive behavior. Dr. Murray characterized Ardell J.'s borderline personality disorder as severe, noting that her symptoms had spanned a period of years and she had required four periods of psychiatric hospitalization and experienced suicidal thoughts at different points in her life. Dr. Murray stated that a person suffering from borderline personality disorder has a great deal of difficulty managing her self-esteem and anger and that "impulsive behaviors, and a stronger degree and presence of experience of anger, presents a risk for *** parenting children." According to Dr. Murray, a person with a diagnosis of severe borderline personality disorder "could" put a minor child at risk. He explained that "[i]mpulsivity and anger and caring for young children are just not a good or safe match." When asked what steps a parent with such a diagnosis would need to take to ensure that she did not pose a risk to her child, he responded that such a person would have to "develop more sophisticated and mature ways to cope and to fend from their emotion." Dr. Murray stated that the only way he knows of to accomplish this is to actively participate in intensive psychotherapy over an extended period of time. To Dr. Murray's knowledge, at the time he evaluated Ardell J., she had not participated in such therapy. At the time of his evaluation, Dr. Murray formed the opinion that Ardell J. was not able to adequately or safely parent a child and that her inability to parent was likely to continue into the foreseeable future. The doctor testified that borderline personality disorder is a chronic disorder and, in the absence of any treatment, its symptoms will persist. If Ardell J. had not participated in any psychotherapy since the time of the evaluation, his opinion regarding her inability to parent would remain unchanged.

The State also called Rosemary Spizzirri, a social worker employed by Catholic Charities, to testify. Spizzirri testified that she is familiar with the respondents as she "supervised the case" from October 1999 through May 2001. Spizzirri testified that the case file revealed that the respondents had completed a parenting evaluation, John J. had completed a drug and alcohol assessment, and Ardell J. had undergone a court-ordered psychological evaluation. Although John J.'s drug assessment indicated that he needed to participate in substance abuse services, there was no documentation in the file that he had done so. Also, although the file contained documentation showing that Ardell J. obtained counseling in 1994 and 1995 with regard to Jasmine and Sapphire J.'s cases, there was no documentation that she did so after the parenting evaluation was performed.

Spizzirri testified that, in November 1999, she spoke with the respondents by telephone and explained to them that, as the goal for their last child had been changed from "return home" to "substitute care pending termination of parental rights," Catholic Charities would no longer pay for counseling or other services but would still assist them by referring them to agencies which could provide such services. According to Spizzirri, she also told John J. that his wife needed mental health treatment and that, if he so requested, Catholic Charities would review the record in order to refer him to substance abuse treatment services if necessary. The respondents did not contact Catholic Charities after that conversation.

On April 18, 2001, Spizzirri visited the respondents' home with their caseworker. During that visit, Spizzirri discussed with the respondents various matters regarding their children Jasmine and Sapphire J. Ardell J. told Spizzirri that she had engaged in some unspecified services when the case was being handled by another agency. Spizzirri informed Ardell J. that she must provide documentation thereof. Spizzirri explained Dr. Murray's diagnosis to Ardell J. and told her that she should contact the Fillmore Center, an agency which provides mental health services on a sliding fee scale, to schedule an appointment. She also discussed a past substance abuse evaluation with John J. and informed him that he would need to submit to random drug screenings and would probably need to undergo another substance abuse evaluation. According to Spizzirri, John J. informed her that he had been "clean for a good period of time" and that he would be happy to submit to another substance abuse evaluation and to drug screenings. Spizzirri testified that she questioned John J. regarding his claim to be "clean," pointing out that there was a small pipe made out of tin foil in an ash tray in the home. Based on her experience of working with substance abusers, Spizzirri believed this to be drug paraphernalia. According to Spizzirri, John J. told her that he used the pipe to smoke tobacco. On cross-examination, Spizzirri acknowledged that she is not an expert on drug paraphernalia.

Spizzirri next saw the respondents on May 3, 2001, at which time they told her they had not engaged in counseling or any other services since her April visit to their home. Ardell J. also stated that she had not contacted the Fillmore Center to initiate the intake process for counseling. According to Spizzirri, during the entire time she was assigned to the respondents' case, Ardell J. never provided her with documentation that she was seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, that she was in therapy, or that she made an appointment at the Fillmore Center. John J. never provided her with any documentation that he had completed random drug screenings or attended substance abuse treatment. Spizzirri had not been in contact with the respondents since May 2001.

The State next called John Steele, a DCFS worker, to testify. Steele was assigned to John Paul J.'s case on June 20, 2001, after the DCFS hotline received a call regarding the child. On June 21, 2001, Steele went to MacNeal Hospital, where he saw the child and met with the respondents. The interaction he observed between the respondents and John Paul J. on that date appeared to be appropriate. According to Steele, the respondents appeared to be quite upset and stated that no one was going to take their child from them. Ardell J. stated that "she was going to leave with the child." As of that date, Steele testified, he believed the case would probably be handled by assigning "an intact person" to offer appropriate assistance to the family. Steele was considering this option because the respondents stated they would be willing to cooperate with the DCFS by participating in whatever services the agency recommended and he had no real reason to believe that John Paul J. would be at risk. Several days later, though, Steele received a telephone call from Kimberly Waters, a friend of the respondents, who reported that Ardell J. stated she intended to flee the state with the child. Waters also told Steele that Ardell J. had been drinking. According to Steele, this information led him to believe that John Paul J. was at risk of harm. He took temporary protective custody of the child on June 25, 2001, based upon the respondents' prior history with the DCFS and concerns that the respondents would flee the state with the child.

After the State rested, the trial court allowed the public guardian to publish for the record portions of Ardell J.'s medical records from MacNeal Hospital pertaining to the birth of John Paul J. which stated that Ardell J. received insufficient prenatal care and ...

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