Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 01 JA 0605-07 Honorable Rita M. Novak Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Tully
Felicia W. appeals from orders of the circuit court of Cook County that found her three minor children to be neglected due to an injurious environment and abused due to a substantial risk of injury under sections 2-3(1)(b) and 2-3(2)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b), and (2)(ii) (West 2000)).
Felicia W. gave birth to Jaber W. *fn1 on February 15, 1993. Michael W., Jr., was born on April 20, 1995 and Derrick W. was born on May 22, 1999 *fn2 . Felicia W. and Michael W., Sr., have one other child in DCFS custody with findings of abuse and/or neglect having been entered. In March 2001, the three boys lived with their mother, Felicia, and Michael, Sr.
On March 26, 2001, the State filed petitions for adjudication of wardship and motions for temporary custody regarding Jaber, Michael Jr. and Derrick. On March 29, 2001, following a temporary custody hearing, the trial court found probable cause that all three children had been abused or neglected and found urgent and immediate necessity to remove them from the custody of Felicia and Michael Sr. pending the adjudicatory hearing.
The trial court conducted the adjudicatory hearing on June 15, 2001 and August 6, 2001. The State entered the certified adjudication and dispositional orders for the other child of Felicia and Michael Sr., Marquita W., into evidence. This evidence showed that on November 11, 2000, the trial court found that Marquita W. was neglected due to a lack of care. The court, in its findings of fact in that case, stated that a Cook County Hospital doctor testified that the parents delayed in seeking medical attention for the child and that due to that delay, Marquita was near her death. On February 6, 2001, the trial court appointed DCFS as Marquita's guardian after finding that Felicia and Michael Sr. were unable to care for, protect, train or discipline the child.
The first witness to testify in the June 15, 2001 adjudicatory hearing was DCFS investigator Brigitte Broadway. She was assigned to investigate a hotline report regarding Jaber, Michael Jr. and Derrick. Ms. Broadway testified that the hotline report alleged that the children were residing with Felicia and that they were not being fed. The report further alleged that one of the children had a mark underneath his eye which he stated he received from Michael Sr. The report claimed that Felicia was giving her public aid money to Michael Sr. to buy a car. Felicia objected to this testimony as narrative; however, the trial court overruled the objection.
Ms. Broadway testified that on March 15, 2001, she went to Jaber's elementary school to interview him. Ms. Broadway and Jaber spoke alone in a counselor's office. Jaber was wearing dirty pants and his hair was not combed. Jaber had a mark underneath his left eye and a scratch on his face. Ms. Broadway completed a body chart for Jaber documenting a scratch on Jaber's right cheek, an abrasion on the left cheek, and a rash on the right side below the waist. When questioned about the mark under his eye, Jaber told Ms. Broadway that his dad hit him with his hand. Ms. Broadway explained that when Jaber talks about his father, he is referring to Michael W., Sr. Jaber also said that when his dad gets angry, his dad yells and screams at Jaber and his brothers and his mother. Jaber stated that he is sometimes afraid of his father.
Also on March 15, 2001, Ms. Broadway attempted to interview Felicia and Michael Sr. in their home. Ms. Broadway testified that Michael Sr. told her that DCFS had already taken one of his children and it was not going to take another. Michael Sr. used profanity and told Ms. Broadway to get out of his house. Ms. Broadway spoke to Felicia in the hallway outside of the apartment. Felicia told Ms. Broadway that Jaber had been injured at his cousin's house and that she and Michael Sr. loved their kids.
On March 22, 2001, Ms. Broadway interviewed Jaber again in response to a second hotline call in which it was alleged that Jaber had a new bruise on his face. On March 22, Jaber was wearing the same clothes he had worn on March 15 and he had a foul odor. Ms. Broadway saw a new bruise on Jaber's face and when she asked him about it, Jaber told her that he got the bruise when he slipped on some ice on the playground.
Ms. Broadway was not satisfied with this explanation as there was no ice on the playground. She asked Jaber again how he got the bruise and he told her that he got the bruise in his dad's van. Jaber explained that he was riding in the van and was not wearing a seat belt and when his father turned the corner quickly, he slipped and fell on a wrench. Ms. Broadway asked Jaber whether he was telling the truth and Jaber did not answer. Ms. Broadway then asked Jaber why he had told her that he slipped on ice at the playground and Jaber responded that his mother told him to say he had fallen on the playground. Ms. Broadway then told Jaber that it was her job to make him feel safe in his home and that she needed him to tell the truth. She asked again how he got the bruise on his face and Jaber said he was in his dad's van and he fell on a wrench.
Ms. Broadway testified that throughout the March 22, 2001 interview, Jaber made no eye contact with her; he kept his head down and was shifting in his chair. Ms. Broadway concluded that Jaber was afraid. Following the March 22, 2001 interview, Ms. Broadway took protective custody of Jaber, Michael Jr. and Derrick.
Later in the day on March 22, Ms. Broadway had a second interview with Jaber at the DCFS office. Again, she asked Jaber what happened to his face. Jaber first told her that he fell on the playground. He then told her that he fell in his dad's van. Jaber then told her that his dad hit him. Ms. Broadway asked Jaber which was the right answer, and Jaber said that his dad hit him in the face with his hand. On March 23, 2001, DCFS had Jaber examined at Saint Anthony Hospital.
The adjudication hearing continued on August 6, 2001, with guardian ad litem witness Marcy Ring, Jaber's first-grade teacher. Ms. Ring testified that on March 15, 2001, she had a conversation with Jaber. Ms. Ring explained that Jaber had been with DCFS workers all day and that he was very quiet. Ms. Ring approached Jaber and said "tough day Jaber." Jaber began to cry so Ms. Ring took him into the hallway so that he could calm down. Ms. Ring testified that Jaber told her that the DCFS caseworker wanted to know about his home life and whether his dad hit him. Jaber told Ms. Ring that when his dad gets angry he will punish Jaber by sending him to his room, or if he is not cleaning his room or doing his homework, he will be hit. Jaber said that his ...