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In re Richard H.

September 24, 2007

IN RE: RICHARD H. AND D.B., MINORS,
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
DEBORAH KELLY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 05JA53 Honorable John R. Kennedy, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner

Published opinion

In October 2005, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship with respect to Richard H. and D.B., the minor children of respondent, Deborah Kelly. In March 2006, the trial court adjudicated the minors wards of the court and placed custody and guardianship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). In March 2007, the State filed an amended motion to terminate respondent's parental rights. In April 2007, the court found respondent unfit. In May 2007, the court found it in the minors' best interest that respondent's parental rights be terminated.

On appeal, respondent argues the trial court erred in failing to make findings of fact concerning her parental fitness in its oral and written orders. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In October 2005, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging Richard, born August 1993, and D.B., born June 1997, were neglected minors. Respondent is the mother of both minors, and the fathers of the minors are not parties to this appeal. The petition alleged Richard and D.B. were neglected minors pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2004)) because their environment was injurious to their welfare when they resided with respondent and their respective fathers because the environment exposed them to risk of substance abuse and physical harm. The petition also alleged the minors were neglected because respondent failed to correct the conditions that resulted in a prior adjudication of parental unfitness to exercise guardianship and/or custody of the minors' half-siblings. The trial court entered a temporary custody order, finding probable cause to believe the minors were neglected/abused and it was in their best interest that they be placed in shelter care.

In February 2006, the trial court found the minors were abused or neglected based on their environment being injurious to their welfare. In its March 2006 dispositional order, the court found it in the minors' best interest that they be made wards of the court and placed custody and guardianship with DCFS.

In March 2007, the State filed an amended motion for termination of parental rights. The State alleged respondent was unfit because she (1) failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for the minors' removal from her (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2006)); (2) failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minors within the initial nine months of the adjudication of neglect or abuse (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2006)); and (3) failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the minors' welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2006)).

In April 2007, the trial court conducted a hearing on the amended motion to terminate parental rights. Respondent did not appear but was represented by counsel. Sarah Schmidt, an intake counselor at Prairie Center Health Systems, testified she conducted an assessment of respondent in November 2006. Respondent admitted using heroin, cocaine, and marijuana on a regular basis. Schmidt wanted respondent to undergo residential treatment, but because of a waiting list respondent participated in a daily treatment program in the interim.

Jennifer Davidson testified she acted as the DCFS child-welfare specialist for the minors from 2005 to April 2006. During a November 2005 assessment, respondent stated she began using heroin in 1996 and had been addicted for seven years. She acknowledged using heroin on a daily basis but felt she was able to care for her children.

Arnold Black, a child-welfare specialist with DCFS, testified he became involved with the minors' case in June 2006. Respondent reported to him that she had been unemployed from March 2006 through mid-June 2006.

The trial court took judicial notice of the State's request to admit facts and respondent's responses thereto. Respondent admitted she was convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance in case No. 05-CF-2330. People v. Kelly, No. 05-CF-2330 (Cir. Ct. Champaign Co.). Further, her parental rights to three other children had previously been terminated. She also failed to submit to numerous drug screens and tested positive for cocaine on multiple occasions. The court found the State presented clear and convincing evidence of respondent's unfitness on each allegation in the State's motion.

In May 2007, the trial court conducted the best-interest hearing. The State relied on the best-interest report. Respondent did not testify. The court found it in the minors' best interest that respondent's ...


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