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In re Dominique W.

March 24, 2004

[5] IN RE DOMINIQUE W., DONZELL W., AND DONQUISHAE W., MINORS
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
TIERIEL W., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 95 JA 4846 95 JA 4847 95 JA 4848 Honorable Candace J. Fabri, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  The respondent, Tieriel W., appeals from an order of the circuit court finding her unfit as a parent as defined in section 1(D)(b) of the Adoption Act of 1987 (Adoption Act) (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2000)) and pursuant to section 2-29 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-29 West 2000)), and terminating her parental rights to her minor children, Dominique W., Donquishae W., and Donzell W. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

[9]  The respondent and Donzell G. *fn1 are the natural parents of Dominique W. and Donquishae W., born on November 18, 1993; and Donzell W., born on April 27, 1995. The respondent's family came to the attention of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in July 1995 when Donzell W. was hospitalized after suffering a seizure and water intoxication by reason of having been fed water instead of milk. On July 18, 1995, the State filed petitions for adjudication of wardship of the children, alleging that they were abused and neglected due to the respondent's actions toward Donzell W. That same day, the circuit court appointed the public guardian to serve as the children's guardian ad litem. Following a temporary custody hearing held on July 21, 1995, the circuit court allowed the children to remain in the respondent's custody under an order of protection.

[10]   On January 26, 1996, however, the circuit court found that the respondent violated the order of protection when Donzell W. was again hospitalized, suffering from seizures as a consequence of the respondent feeding him inappropriately. The court found that it was a matter of immediate and urgent necessity to remove the children from the respondent's care, and temporary custody of the children was awarded to the DCFS guardianship administrator.

[11]   Following an adjudicatory hearing held on October 10, 1996, the circuit court found that the children had been neglected due to an injurious environment and abused due to substantial risk of physical injury as defined in the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3 (West 2000)). After a dispositional hearing held on January 22, 1997, the court found that the respondent was unable to care for the children, adjudged them wards of the court, and appointed D. Jean Ortega Piron as their guardian.

[12]   On April 14, 1997, on motion of the respondent, the circuit court entered an order of protection allowing her unsupervised day visitation with the children at the discretion of the DCFS. A few months later, the court entered another order of protection allowing the respondent unsupervised overnight visitation with the children. On July 28, 1998, the court entered a modified dispositional order finding the respondent fit, able, and willing to care for the minors, and returned custody of the children to the respondent under an order of protection.

[13]   On February 17, 1999, the State filed an emergency motion for a finding of a violation of the order of protection. The State alleged, inter alia, that the respondent was refusing to allow social workers access to the children when requested. The court granted the State's motion and entered another dispositional order finding the respondent unable to care for Donzell W., Dominique W., and Donquishae W., and again adjudging them wards of the court.

[14]   On September 10, 2001, the State filed supplemental petitions seeking the appointment of a guardian with the right to consent to the children's adoption (hereinafter "petitions for termination"). The petitions alleged, inter alia, that the respondent was an unfit parent as defined in section 1(D) of the Adoption Act and pursuant to section 2-29 of the Juvenile Court Act, based on her failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility for the children's welfare. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2000); 705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 2000).

[15]   A hearing on the State's petitions for termination commenced on August 8, 2002, and concluded on September 5, 2002. The following evidence was presented at the hearing.

[16]   Yvette Grinstead, a caseworker from Catholic Charities, testified that she was assigned to the children's case in May 2000. Grinstead stated that she reviewed the respondent's prior case file at that time, and learned that the respondent had visited the children sporadically from January 2000 through April 2000. During this time, the children were under the care of their foster parent, Catherine W., who was also the respondent's aunt.

[17]   The State admitted into evidence three service plans prepared by Grinstead. The first of these service plans, dated February 8, 2001, covered the period of time from August 2000 through February 2001. Grinstead gave the respondent an "unsatisfactory" rating for complying with the visitation plan. She testified that, although the respondent completed 10 out of 12 visits from July 2000 through October 2000, she only visited the children sporadically once she completed her quota. Grinstead further noted that the respondent's last visit with the children was on December 2, 2000. According to Grinstead, the respondent did not see the children over the Christmas holidays nor on Dominique W. and Donquishae W.'s birthday.

[18]   Grinstead next testified concerning the service plan dated August 15, 2001, which covered the period of time from February 2001 through August 2001. Grinstead again gave the respondent an "unsatisfactory" rating during this time period because she had not visited her children since December 2000. Grinstead stated that she spoke to the respondent by phone on April 5, 2001, and in May 2001. She testified that the respondent did not ask for visitation during either conversation. Further, the respondent did not send any gifts, cards, or letters to the children during this time. According to Grinstead, on July 24, 2001, the children were placed under the care of foster parents, Aretha and Clarence Armstrong, who live across the street from Catherine W.

[19]   Finally, Grinstead testified concerning the service plan dated February 14, 2002, which covered the period of time from August 2001 through February 2002, when the children were living with the Armstrongs. With respect to visitation, Grinstead gave the respondent an "unsatisfactory" rating, noting that she had not visited her children during this time. Grinstead testified that, from the time the children began living with the Armstrongs in July 2001, the only time the respondent called to request a visit was on April 4, 2002. However, when Grinstead called the respondent back to schedule the visit, she received a recording stating that the telephone customer was unavailable. Grinstead sent the respondent a letter, but never heard back from her.

[20]   Catherine W. testified that she had been the children's foster parent for six years until the Armstrongs became their foster parents in July 2001. During this time, the respondent called her "off and on" and Catherine W. herself called the respondent to schedule visits with the children. In January 2001, the respondent visited the children at Catherine W.'s house and brought toys for them. The visit in January, however, was the last time the respondent visited the children while they were living with Catherine W. Catherine W. stated that she had several conversations with the respondent in February 2001 and March 2001, but the respondent never came to visit the children. In June 2001, respondent called Catherine W. three or four times to schedule visits, but they never took place. Catherine W. stated that, when she called the respondent after the missed visits, the respondent ...


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