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In re Madison H.

April 27, 2004

[5] IN RE MADISON H., A MINOR
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
MANDI H., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit, Warren County, Illinois, No. 02-JA-5 Honorable David Vancil, Jr., Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  The State filed a juvenile petition for wardship, alleging that the minor, Madison H., born July 30, 2002, was dependent in that she lacked adequate care (705 ILCS 405/2--4(1)(b) (West 2002)). Following a dispositional hearing, the trial court granted the petition and awarded guardianship to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The respondent mother, Mandi H., appeals. She argues that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to enter a written factual basis for its finding of her inability to care for, protect and train the minor. We remand for further proceedings.

[9]  BACKGROUND

[10]   The State filed its juvenile petition on September 13, 2002, alleging that the minor was dependent, in that she lacked adequate care because of her parents' mental disabilities. On November 22, 2002, a Warren County circuit judge found that both parents had developmental disabilities, lacked parenting skills and had difficulties providing required medical care for the minor. The court determined that the minor required close monitoring for medical conditions, including respiratory and urinary tract infections and kidney reflux condition. Based on these findings, Judge Clerkin adjudicated the minor dependent and ordered the parents to comply with DCFS' client service plan.

[11]   On March 7, 2003, the cause was called for a dispositional hearing. At the close of the evidence, the court made the following oral ruling:

[12]  
"I find that it is in the child's best interests that the child be made a ward of the Court. I find that the health, safety and in the interest of the minor, as well as the public, requires that the minor be placed outside the home. I find that the parents at this time are unable to care for, protect, train, properly discipline (although the child is not at an age appropriate for that at this point), but I am basing this on the ability of the parents, and that the child's health, safety and best interests would be jeopardized if the child remained in the parents' custody at this time. I also find that services--appropriate services that would be aimed at preservation of the family would be inappropriate at this time and that it would be in the best interests of the minor that custody and guardianship be given to DCFS with the right to place."

[13]   The court subsequently entered a preprinted form dispositional order with blocks checked showing that (1) respondent was "for reasons other than financial circumstances alone unable to care for, protect, train, educate, supervise or discipline the minor and placement with her is contrary to the health, safety and best interests of the minor because _________________________"; and (2) "[r]easonable efforts and appropriate services aimed at family reunification cannot prevent or eliminate the necessity for removal of the minor from the home at this time and leaving the minor in the home is contrary to the health, welfare and safety of the minor. *** The following facts form the basis for this finding: _________________________________________________."

[14]   ISSUE AND ANALYSIS

[15]   In this appeal, respondent does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's dispositional order. She argues only that the cause must be remanded for further dispositional proceedings because the court failed to comply with the statutory requirement that a written factual basis be provided in support of the guardianship determination. 705 ILCS 405/2--27(1) (West 2002). The State, citing In re R.M., 283 Ill. App. 3d 469, 670 N.E.2d 827 (1996), argues that the requirement of a written factual basis is "permissive" and subject to waiver where a respondent parent fails to object at trial.

[16]   Section 2--27 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 provides in relevant part as follows:

[17]  
"(1) If the court determines and puts in writing the factual basis supporting the determination of whether the parents *** of a minor adjudged a ward of the court are *** unable, for some reason other than financial circumstances alone, to care for, protect, train or discipline the minor ***, and that the health, safety, and best interest of the minor will be jeopardized if the minor remains in the custody of *** her parents ***, the court may ***
[18]  
(d) commit the minor to the Department of Children and Family Services for care and service***. [T]he Guardianship Administrator of the Department of Children and Family Services shall be appointed guardian of the person of the minor." 705 ILCS 405/2--27(1) (West 2002).

[19]   In R.M., as here, the respondent mother argued for the first time on appeal that the trial court's failure to put its factual basis in writing pursuant to the statute was reversible error. In rejecting this argument, the court first found that the issue was waived for failure to object at trial. The court then stated, "Waiver aside, section 2--27 sets forth a permissive requirement. See In re D.K., 125 Ill. App. 3d 309, 311, 465 N.E.2d 133 (1984). Moreover, the court's decision is supported by the record and the court's failure to write the factual basis for its determination does not necessitate remand." R.M., 283 Ill. App. 3d at 472, 670 N.E.2d at 829.

[20]   Initially, we reject the State's waiver position. It is well settled that the doctrine of waiver is a limitation on the parties, not on this court's jurisdiction. In re Marriage of Sutton, 136 Ill. 2d 441, 557 N.E.2d 869 (1990). Our responsibility to provide a ...


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