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In re T.W.

October 14, 2004


Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 02JA78, Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton


Respondent, Rena Wright, appeals from the trial court's order reinstating neglect proceedings relating to her minor children, T.W. (born April 3, 1992) and B.J.W. (born January 21, 1989). Respondent contends the court was without jurisdiction and was therefore without authority to enter the reinstatement order when no appeal from the order closing the case was taken. We reverse and remand with directions.


On November 4, 2002, upon the State's petition, the trial court entered an order for shelter care as to T.W. and B.J.W. The petition alleged the minors were neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2000)) due to respondent's unresolved issues of substance abuse. At the time, all parties resided in McLean County. B.J.W. was in residential treatment as a condition of juvenile probation from a De Witt County criminal conviction.

On November 8, 2002, the trial court entered an order for both minors to reside with their maternal grandmother, Janelle Reid. The same order named Reid and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as temporary cocustodians. By December 10, 2002, the date of a pretrial hearing, respondent had moved to Bastrop, Louisiana, and Reid was living in Granville, Ohio. At the hearing, DCFS informed the court that B.J.W. was not living with either cocustodian but was believed to be living with respondent in Louisiana. The court issued a juvenile warrant for B.J.W.'s return.

On January 31, 2003, the State filed a motion to vacate the trial court's order entered on November 8, 2002, claiming the court had no authority by order to permit the minors to reside with Reid in Ohio. On January 31, 2003, the court (1) entered an adjudicatory order finding the minors neglected, (2) vacated its November 8, 2002, order, and (3) appointed DCFS as temporary guardian of both minors. The warrant for B.J.W. remained outstanding.

On March 7, 2003, the trial court entered a dispositional order, finding respondent unfit and unable to care for the minors because of her unresolved substance abuse. DCFS was appointed guardian of the minors. T.W. was placed with Reid, who then resided in Tennessee. DCFS believed B.J.W. resided with respondent in Louisiana.

At the permanency hearing on May 20, 2003, the trial court entered the following order:

"Court appoints Janelle Reid as guardian of minor [T.W.]. Court dismisses case as it relates to minor [B.J.W.] because mother continues to harbor [B.J.W.] and refuses to return him to this jurisdiction; Louisiana authorities have refused to honor the warrant for minor. No services offered or performed by mother as she left the jurisdiction[,] and nothing has been resolved."

The order further stated: "DCFS is discharged as both minors' guardian. Court, over State's objection, closes case." The docket entry stated: "Over State's objection, case dismissed as to [B.J.W.]. Guardianship of [T.W.] awarded to [grandmother] Janelle Reid. DCFS discharged, wardship terminated[,] and case closed. See order. Closed." The State did not appeal the trial court's order.

On January 22, 2004, eight months later, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship as to B.J.W. in a new case, No. 04-JA-15. The trial court took judicial notice of the previous case (No. 02-JA-78) and entered a shelter-care order appointing DCFS as temporary custodian. According to the petition, B.J.W. was detained in the McLean County juvenile detention facility for delinquency matters pending in De Witt County.

Respondent filed a motion to dismiss or transfer venue on April 5, 2004, in case No. 04-JA-15, seeking to have the case dismissed or transferred to De Witt County, where she and B.J.W. resided. While a copy of respondent's motion does not appear in the record, all parties agree the same was filed.

On April 20, 2004, the trial court conducted a pretrial hearing and a hearing on respondent's motion to dismiss or transfer venue in case No. 04-JA-15. The court concluded, "It was a mistake to dismiss the [p]etition in [No.] 02-JA-78." The following exchange occurred:

"THE COURT: The court notes it has been less than a year since the [No.] 02-JA-78 case was dismissed over both [T.W.] and [B.J.W.] and reinstates this case. Wardship of the minors resides with the court. DCFS is reinstated as guardian of the minors. And I will set a hearing on whether the ...

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