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In re H.D.

September 30, 2003

IN RE: H.D., A MINOR,
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
EBONY BRITT, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 01JA24 Honorable Ann A. Einhorn, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner

UNPUBLISHED

In April 2001, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship with respect to H.D., the minor child of Jeffrey Dillon and respondent, Ebony Britt. In July 2001, the trial court adjudicated H.D. a ward of the court and ordered custody and guardianship placed with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). In June 2002, the State filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of respondent and Dillon. In January 2003, the trial court found the parents unfit. In February 2003, the court found it in H.D.'s best interest that parental rights be terminated. Dillon is not a party to this appeal.

On appeal, respondent argues (1) the trial court's findings should be invalidated because of violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. §§1901 through 1923 (2000)), (2) the State's petition to terminate parental rights was defective because it did not clearly and obviously state that respondent could permanently lose her parental rights, (3) the trial court erred in considering evidence outside the permissible time frames, and (4) the court's best-interest finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In April 2001, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging H.D., born November 30, 1999, was a neglected minor pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2000)) because her mother exposed her to an injurious environment due to inadequate supervision. At the shelter-care hearing, the trial court asked respondent if H.D. had "any American/Indian blood in her." Respondent indicated that the grandfather of H.D.'s father was "Indian," but she did not know what tribe. The court ordered the State to notify tribal authorities. The court also entered a temporary custody order, finding probable cause to believe H.D. was a neglected minor. The court ordered temporary custody of H.D. be placed with DCFS.

In its June 2001 adjudicatory order, the trial court found H.D. neglected by reason of lack of supervision. In its July 2001 dispositional order, the court found respondent to be unfit, made H.D. a ward of the court, and granted custody and guardianship to DCFS.

In June 2002, the State filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. The State alleged respondent was an unfit person because she (1) failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for the removal of H.D. (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2002)) and (2) failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minor within the initial nine-month period of the adjudication of neglect (July 11, 2001, through April 11, 2002) (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2002)).

In October 2002, the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion to terminate parental rights. Respondent testified she started using marijuana when she was 12 years old but stopped using in July 2002. She also stated she attended treatment and counseling "sporadically."

Donna Wilson, a counselor with the Prairie Center Health Systems, testified DCFS referred respondent to her. Respondent told Wilson she could not commit to any regular treatment that would be on a regular basis because she was depressed. Wilson canceled the counseling relationship because of respondent's lack of attendance and anger issues.

Rose Adkisson, a counselor, testified she worked with respondent between April 2001 and May 2002. She stated she wanted to address respondent's issues with anger and depression. Adkisson noted respondent failed to attend her weekly counseling sessions on numerous occasions, and thus respondent did not successfully complete counseling with her.

Macey Ingram, a DCFS investigator and former caseworker, testified she participated in setting forth goals in respondent's client service plans. Ingram stated respondent was cooperating with substance-abuse treatment between December 2001 and March 2002, but "her attendance wasn't as good as it had been."

Jennifer Gerrib, a child-welfare specialist with Lutheran Social Services, testified she took over casework responsibilities in this case in March 2002. She stated a goal of respondent's service plan was to successfully complete substance-abuse treatment. Respondent did not provide any proof to Gerrib that she completed substance-abuse counseling.

In December 2002, the trial court resumed the hearing to receive evidence of whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs had been contacted regarding this case pursuant to the ICWA. Following arguments, the court ordered DCFS to notify the Bureau of Indian Affairs and continued the matter.

In January 2003, the trial court found the State had come into compliance with the ICWA by way of notice to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the lack of any helpful information from H.D.'s father. Thereafter, the court found both respondent and H.D.'s father unfit by clear and convincing evidence. Specifically, the court noted respondent's issues centered on substance abuse, her extreme anger, homelessness, and unemployment. The court found respondent still needed to deal with those issues, had not established stability as to employment or residency, refused to commit to substance-abuse treatment on a regular basis, tested positive for cannabis in April and May 2002, and failed to address her anger problem.

In February 2003, the trial court held the best-interest hearing. Following the presentation of witnesses and counsels' arguments, the court found it in H.D.'s best interest that respondent's parental rights be terminated, ...


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