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In Re C.C. and So. C. (The People of the State of Illinois v. Marlene Long

December 1, 2011

IN RE C.C. AND SO. C. (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
MARLENE LONG, APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Respondent, Marlene Long, was the legal guardian of her grandchildren, C.C. and So. C. The State filed a neglect petition as to C.C. and So. C. in the circuit court of Champaign County. The petition named Long, along with the children's biological mother and father, as respondents. The biological father waived adjudication. Long and the children's biological mother stipulated that the children were neglected. Thereafter, the trial court entered a dispositional order terminating Long's guardianship and dismissing her from the case.

¶ 2 Long appealed her dismissal from the case. The appellate court reversed. 406 Ill. App. 3d 360. The appellate court held that the legislature could not have intended that a guardian could be dismissed from the case based simply upon her dismissal as guardian. The appellate court also held it was in the children's best interests that Long be allowed to remain a party in the case.

¶ 3 This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).

BACKGROUND

¶ 4 C.C. was born on May 22, 2002, and So. C. was born on February 22, 2006. Jacqueline C. is the mother of C.C. and So. C., and Cyrus Wildman is the putative father. A third child, Sa. C. was born to Jacqueline on April 4, 2009. Sa. C.'s biological father is deceased. Only C.C. and So. C. are at issue in this appeal.

¶ 5 Long was appointed guardian of C.C. on October 20, 2005, and was appointed guardian of So. C. on May 23, 2007. On May 5, 2010, the State filed a petition for adjudication of neglect and shelter care on behalf of C.C., So. C., and Sa. C. The petition named Jacqueline, Wildman, and Long, as well as Sa. C.'s putative father. The petition alleged that it was in the best interests of the minors to be made wards of the court. The petition contained three counts.

¶ 6 Count I alleged that the children were neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (the Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2010)). Count I stated that the children's environment was injurious to their welfare when they resided with Jacqueline because that environment exposed them to domestic violence. Count II alleged that the children were neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act. That count stated that the children's environment was injurious to their welfare when they resided with Jacqueline because that environment exposed the children to substance abuse. Count III alleged that C.C. and So. C. were neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) because their environment was injurious to their welfare when they resided with Long, in that Long left the minors in the care of an inappropriate caregiver.

¶ 7 Also on May 5, 2010, the trial court appointed the Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) as the guardian ad litem for the minors. A child protective investigator for CASA prepared a shelter care report on May 5, 2010. The report stated that on May 2, 2010, a caller to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline alleged there was a risk of harm to Sa. C. The reporter claimed that there had been a domestic dispute between Jacqueline and her boyfriend, and that both parties were very intoxicated. A fight between the two began when Jacqueline's boyfriend tried to stop her from leaving to buy cocaine. Jacqueline was arrested and charged with domestic battery.

¶ 8 A child protective investigator spoke with Jacqueline following the domestic battery incident. Jacqueline told the investigator that Long was the legal guardian of C.C. and So. C., but that Jacqueline had the children after school, until her mother got off work, and on weekends.

¶ 9 The investigator reviewed prior reports of DCFS involvement with Jacqueline. Among the incidents was one on January 4, 2007, where Jacqueline was indicated for risk of harm to C.C. and So. C. During that incident, So. C. was at Jacqueline's residence during a party where cocaine was used. In addition, earlier on the day of report, C.C. was at Jacqueline's residence "and the adults were smoking marijuana and [C.C.] was locked in the house." This incident took place after Long was given guardianship of C.C.

¶ 10 In another incident, on July 21, 2007, after Long had been given custody of both children, Jacqueline was indicated for inadequate supervision of C.C. and So. C. On that date: "5 year old [C.C.] and 1 year old [So. C.] walked over to the neighbors' trailer without supervision. Reporter took the children home but there was no answer when he knocked on the door and yelled out for someone. Reporter took the children back to his residence and his wife took the children, [then he] went into the trailer next door and called out for the mother [Jacqueline]. The mother was asleep, was woke [sic] up and told her children had left the house without any knowledge. [Jacqueline] got up and allowed the children to stay with the neighbors. Reporter said he would take the children back to their mother. Reporter said he believes there is an open case on the mother and that the grandmother [Long], who lives in the trailer has custody of the children. Reporter said he thinks the children may not be left alone with the mother. Reporter thinks the grandmother is working today because she was not at home."

¶ 11 The investigator's report noted that protective custody was taken from Long "due to the fact that over the past several years, [Jacqueline] has resided with Ms. Long for extended periods of time. During these periods she has used alcohol and engaged in behaviors that have put her children at risk. *** Ms. Long has allowed [Jacqueline] to be in a caretaker role of the minor children despite her confirmation that she is aware of her daughter's substance abuse issues."

¶ 12 Long told the investigator that she had been a stable caregiver for C.C. and So. C., and that she never allowed drugs or alcohol in the house, though she was aware of her daughter's issues. Long also said that Jacqueline helped with picking up the children after school, and watched them until Long got home from work, but Jacqueline did not keep the children overnight.

¶ 13 The report noted that protective custody was taken of the children, and they were placed with their maternal grandfather and his wife. The report stated that even after Long was given guardianship of the children, there were subsequent indicated reports relating to Jacqueline being allowed to be the caretaker of the children. As set forth in the report, "Ms. Long has raised both children, although it does appear that Jacqueline has resided with her mother during most of those years. It is of concern that following this most recent arrest, due to intoxication and domestic violence, Ms. Long still was allowing her daughter to have unsupervised contact with the children. Ms. Long admitted she was aware of her daughter's substance abuse issues and entrusted the children in her care despite this knowledge."

¶ 14 On May 6, 2010, a temporary custody and admonition order was entered placing temporary custody of the minors with the Guardianship Administrator of DCFS.

ΒΆ 15 At a July 7, 2010, adjudicatory hearing, Jacqueline stipulated to count II of the petition for adjudication of neglect. Wildman waived his right to an adjudicatory hearing. Long stipulated ...


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