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In re M.S.

August 06, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 01 JA 00178 & 01 JA 00179 Honorable Rena Maria Van Tine, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien

[8]  Following a hearing, the circuit court of Cook County found that respondent, R.S., was an unfit parent and terminated her parental rights to her minor twin sons, M.S. and Z.S.*fn1 Upon appeal, respondent contends the court erred in finding her unfit because she completed or was engaged in all of the services that were offered to her that were required for reunification with her children. Respondent also claims the State failed to show that it was in the minors' best interests to terminate her parental rights. We affirm.

[9]  On January 25, 2001, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of the minor twins, born January 18, 2001. The petition alleged the minors were neglected because they were born with some amount of a controlled substance in their blood, urine or meconium. The petition also alleged that their environment was injurious based upon the fact respondent had three other children who were previously found neglected and were in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and two others who were not in her care or custody. The circuit court found that probable cause existed because the minor twins tested positive for marijuana and opiates at birth and granted DCFS temporary custody of them with the right to place.

[10]   At a July 2001 adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the minors were abused and neglected based upon an injurious environment, a substantial risk of physical injury, and the fact that they were drug-exposed infants. On February 22, 2002, the court entered dispositional orders finding respondent unable to care for the minors, adjudged the minors wards of the court, and placed them in the guardianship of DCFS.

[11]   On May 20, 2002, the circuit court entered a permanency goal to return the minors home pending a status hearing because respondent stated a willingness to complete the services required for reunification with her sons. On June 10, 2002, however, the goal was changed to substitute care pending court determination on termination of parental rights because respondent had five positive drug tests and still had not addressed her drug problem.

[12]   In September 2002, the State filed a supplemental petition to terminate respondent's parental rights alleging that respondent was unfit because she failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility to the minors' welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2002)), she was addicted to drugs for at least one year immediately preceding the fitness proceedings (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(k) (West 2002)), she failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for the removal of the minors, and she failed to make reasonable progress toward their return home within nine months after the adjudication of neglect or abuse (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 2002)). The State subsequently amended the petition to include the allegation that respondent had previously given birth to another child who was adjudicated neglected due to the child being born drug exposed, after which respondent had an opportunity to participate in drug counseling, and she subsequently bore another child who tested positive for controlled substances at birth (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(t) (West 2002)).

[13]   At the fitness hearing, the circuit court admitted, without objection, the State's certified copies of adjudication and dispositional hearing orders showing that the minors' older sister, B.S., was previously found neglected because she was born exposed to drugs. These orders do not appear in the record upon appeal.*fn2 The State also admitted, without objection, the certified medical records from the twins' births which indicated that the urine of respondent and both minors tested positive for marijuana and opiates. In addition, the State admitted, without objection, certified toxicology reports indicating that respondent tested positive for a controlled substance six times from February through April 2002.

[14]   DCFS caseworker Jacqueline Butler testified that she was assigned to the family's case from 1997 to 2000 prior to the twins' birth, and charged with providing respondent with services to reunite her with her other children. Butler consistently rated respondent as unsatisfactory because, although she completed a parenting class, respondent failed to complete her other required services, including a drug treatment program and counseling, and she did not attend a drug treatment assessment.

[15]   Butler stated that an assessment was necessary because respondent's daughter, B.S., was born with cocaine in her system. Butler informed respondent of scheduled appointments for the assessment and gave her bus tokens for transportation, but respondent did not appear. Instead, respondent denied that she had a drug problem and told Butler that she smoked only marijuana and that she previously completed drug treatment with another agency; she never provided documentation to support her claim.

[16]   If respondent had undergone the drug assessment, Butler would have given her the proper referrals for treatment. All of the service plans completed by Butler stated that respondent was to engage in drug treatment, and respondent was given copies of each plan. In addition, respondent's therapist told Butler that respondent was not attending counseling consistently and was not making progress.

[17]   Rosalyn Shelton, a caseworker with Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS), testified that the minor twins' case came into the system because they tested positive for drugs at birth. Shelton was assigned to the case in August 2001. Due to the minors' positive drug indication, respondent was required to complete drug tests and drug rehabilitation, as well as a psychiatric evaluation and parenting classes. Shelton rated respondent's participation in the required services as unsatisfactory because, although she completed the psychological evaluation, respondent failed to complete drug rehabilitation and parenting classes. Shelton knew that respondent had completed a parenting class two years before the twins were born, but she was required to retake the classes because it was apparent that she had not retained what she had learned. Shelton referred respondent to several parenting classes, but respondent never attended.

[18]   During visits, Shelton observed that respondent handled the minors abruptly, appeared frustrated, and could not calm them when they cried. In addition, Shelton testified that if respondent had completed a drug treatment program prior to the twins' birth, she would have been required to complete another one because it was obvious that she still had a drug problem. Shelton referred respondent to the Bobby Wright Center for drug rehabilitation. During a February 2002 conversation, respondent told Shelton that she was using marijuana and that she began using drugs when she was a teenager. Shelton testified that on numerous occasions, respondent told her that she did not need any services because she had previously completed them, including treatment at the Bobby Wright Center. Shelton spoke with a counselor at the Wright Center and learned that respondent had not completed the program.

[19]   LCFS caseworker Mary Reilly testified that she was assigned to the minors' case at the end of May 2002. In August of the same year, she rated respondent's completion of services from February through August 2002 as unsatisfactory because respondent had not yet completed a drug rehabilitation program, failed to attend the required Narcotics Anonymous-Alcoholics Anonymous (NA-AA) meetings, and tested positive for a controlled substance several times from February through April 2002. Respondent enrolled in an inpatient drug program on July 1, 2002, and completed the program on September 5, 2002.

[20]   Reilly testified that in May 2002, the permanency goal was to return the children to their home; however, in June 2002, the goal was changed to substitute care pending termination of parental rights because respondent tested positive for a controlled substance six times in the preceding months and had not completed her required services. Although respondent completed the psychological evaluation on May 24, 2002, and anger management classes, she did not begin inpatient drug treatment until July 2002, after the goal was changed, and she had not completed parenting classes or aftercare for her drug treatment. For aftercare, respondent was ...

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