Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 96 JA 2326-28 & 97 JA 826 Honorable David Erickson, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien
Respondent, Eddie R., appeals the orders of the circuit court finding him an unfit parent and terminating his parental rights. We affirm.
Respondent is the biological father of the four children, Kenny (age 15), Katrina (age 13), Kenya (age 12), and Karl (age 9). Leaner S. is the children's biological mother.
On January 15, 1995, this case was referred for intact family services at Catholic Charities after two-year-old Katrina was taken to Cook County Hospital because she had a rubber band on her wrist that was blocking her circulation and causing her wrist to turn blue and cold to the touch. Additionally, Leaner S. and Kenya had both tested positive for the presence of controlled substances at Kenya's birth on February 5, 1994.
On May 3, 1996, the State filed petitions for adjudication of wardship and motions for temporary custody as to Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya. The petitions alleged the following grounds: (1) the children were neglected, in that their environment was injurious to their welfare; (2) Katrina was physically abused; (3) Kenya was neglected due to being a drug-exposed infant; and (4) the children were abused due to a substantial risk of physical injury. Specifically, the petitions alleged that Leaner S. had not complied with drug treatment services, that respondent had not complied with drug urine drops, that on or about December 29, 1994, Katrina sustained cuts, welts, and bruises as a result of physical abuse by Leaner S., and that Kenya was born with a controlled substance in his urine.
On May 6, 1996, following a temporary custody hearing at which neither parent was present and which proceeded by stipulation, the trial court found probable cause that Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya were abused and neglected, and that it was a matter of immediate and urgent necessity to remove them from their parents' care pending an adjudicatory hearing. The court granted temporary custody of the children to the guardianship administrator of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) pending the adjudicatory hearing.
On June 5, 1996, following a second temporary hearing, the trial court entered a second temporary custody order again making findings of probable cause and immediate and urgent necessity to remove the children from their parents' care pending an adjudicatory hearing.
On September 9, 1996, following an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court found that: (1) the children were neglected, due to an injurious environment; (2) the children were abused, due to a substantial risk of physical injury; (3) Katrina was abused due to excessive corporal punishment; and (4) Kenya was neglected, due to being a drug-exposed infant.
On October 3, 1996, following a dispositional hearing, the trial court found that both respondent and Leaner S. were unable to care for Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya. The court appointed DCFS as the children's guardian.
On February 25, 1997, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship and a motion for temporary custody of the other child, Karl. Karl's petition alleged that he was: (1) neglected due to an environment injurious to his welfare; (2) neglected due to being a drug-exposed infant; and (3) abused due to a substantial risk of physical injury. Specifically, the petition alleged the following facts: (1) that on or about February 14, 1997, Karl was born testing positive for opiates or other metabolite in his blood/urine; (2) Karl's five older siblings, including Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya, were in DCFS custody; and (3) Karl's brother Kenya had been born exposed to controlled substances. Karl was made a ward of the court and placed under DCFS guardianship on September 29, 1997.
Meanwhile, on July 28, 1997, and August 11, 1997, the Cook County Public Guardian filed an emergency motion to discontinue the parents' contact with Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya. The public guardian alleged that Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya made outcries of sexual abuse by respondent on April 19, 1997, and that Kenny also made an outcry of sexual abuse on May 27, 1997. On September 10, 1997, the court suspended respondent's contact with Kenny, Katrina, and Kenya.
On September 29, 1997, the court ordered Circle Family Care (CFC) to schedule a sexual offenders' evaluation for respondent. On April 23, 1998, the court found that respondent had not made substantial progress toward the return home of the children. On May 6, 1998, the court again ordered CFC to assist respondent in obtaining a sexual offenders' evaluation.
On April 21, 1999, respondent filed a motion for supervised visits with all four children. In his motion, respondent alleged that he completed the court-ordered sexual offenders' evaluation and that the evaluation was "inconclusive." The sexual offenders' evaluation is not in the record on appeal. On May 18, 1999, the court allowed CFC therapist Clifford Smith to conduct supervised therapy sessions between respondent and the children.
On July 7, 1999, the court again found that respondent had not made substantial progress. The court, however, reinstated respondent's supervised visits on July 28, 1999.
On June 17, 2000, the public guardian filed an objection to the hearing officer's recommended permanency goal of returning the children home. In the objection, the public guardian attached a document drafted by CFC caseworker Jessica Craig, which provided the court with a history of the allegations of the case as well as recent developments. Ms. Craig reported that on May 19, 1997, Kenya and Katrina made outcries that respondent put his penis in their mouth. In March 2000, Katrina stated that respondent had made her "suck his wee-wee." Ms. Craig reported that Katrina "was masturbating to the point of bleeding and inflicting bodily harm." Ms. Craig also reported that Kenny was "displaying some very aggressive and disturbing behaviors" including fights with his siblings and classmates, and that his grades had "declined tremendously." Ms. Craig stated Kenny had said on several occasions that he did not want to visit with respondent or Leaner S.
On June 19, 2000, the court entered an order finding that Kenny would not be forced to attend supervised visits with respondent.
On January 10, 2001, the public guardian filed an emergency motion to suspend respondent's visits with Karl. Karl reported that he experienced an upset stomach and vomiting when he participated in visits. The trial court granted the motion on January 11, 2001.
On January 14, 2003, the public guardian filed an emergency motion to temporarily suspend visits between Katrina and Leaner S. The guardian stated in the motion that Katrina had alleged since 1997 that respondent had sexually abused her, and that Katrina had been receiving counseling through the Child Abuse Unit for Studies, Education and Services (CAUSES) since August 2001. The motion alleged that Leaner S. denied Katrina's claim of sexual abuse and that Leaner S. showed an "inability to disengage from her relationship with [respondent.]" The public guardian's motion referenced the most recent counseling report generated by CAUSES, which noted that as of November 2001, Katrina's accusation of sexual abuse by respondent remained consistent. The trial court suspended all visits between Katrina and Leaner S. until further order of the court.
The State filed petitions to terminate respondent's and Leaner S.'s parental rights. At the fitness hearing, respondent stated that he had documentation showing that he successfully completed individual counseling. However, respondent stated that he had not brought the documentation to court for the hearing.
Respondent testified that he participated in a sex offender evaluation and that the evaluator "closed the case based on the fact that there was nothing to indicate or suggest [respondent] was a sexual offender." Respondent further claimed that he had completed all of the services asked of him since 1996, but he admitted that he did not bring to court any documentation to confirm his claim.
Respondent testified that he was engaged in counseling with Clifton Smith in 1999, but that Mr. Smith terminated the counseling when respondent refused to admit his sexual abuse of the children. Respondent stated that he was not offered further counseling through any other service provider after his counseling with Mr. Smith ended.
Jessica Craig, the children's case manager at CFC from June 1998 to June 2000, testified that she referred respondent for individual counseling with Clifton Smith. She did not believe that respondent successfully completed therapy based on a July 1999 therapy report.
Ms. Craig testified that in May 2000, CFC conducted a staffing related to the sexual abuse allegations. Respondent, Leaner S., Kenny, and Katrina were present at the staffing. Katrina was asked in her parents' presence if respondent had sexually abused her. Katrina stated that respondent "put his pee pee in her mouth." Ms. Craig estimated that Katrina was six or seven years old when she made this statement. Respondent denied Katrina's allegation.
Ms. Craig testified that in a 2000 client service plan, respondent was rated unsatisfactory because he had never addressed the children's allegations of sexual abuse against him. Ms. Craig could not recommend unsupervised visits for respondent because he never completed counseling.
Rashawn Jamison, the CFC case worker for the children from May 1, 2001, until August 2001, testified that during that period of time respondent was permitted weekly supervised visits with his children. Ms. Jamison testified that respondent did not attend any visits during the time she was assigned to the case. Ms. Jamison was not able to recommend unsupervised visits for respondent because of his noncompliance with services.
Respondent testified that he visited with his children "each and every time that a visit has been allowed period." During his cross- examination, however, respondent admitted that he sent a letter dated January 14, 2002, to former caseworker Corey Junkins. In the letter, respondent stated that he would not be attending visits because he believed that Mr. Junkins was "practicing social work without a license" and that respondent could "ill afford to comport with [Mr. Junkins]."
Respondent testified that he last visited two of the children on or about January 17, 2003, and he admitted that the visit violated a court order. Respondent testified that he could not remember attending any visits in 2002 and that he "sporadically" visited with the children in 2001. Respondent testified that at one point in 2001 he was only permitted visits with Kenya. Respondent admitting telling ...