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In Re: J.C., T.C., B.C., T.K., B.K., A.K., and J.H., Minors v. Elisha Hallam

February 24, 2012

IN RE: J.C., T.C., B.C., T.K., B.K., A.K., AND J.H., MINORS,

Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County No. 10JA9 Honorable Robert M. Travers, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH

JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Respondent, Elisha Hallam, argues the trial court erred by finding her children neglected. She contends the court admitted and considered evidence at the adjudicatory hearing that should have been ruled inadmissible. We affirm.

¶ 2 Respondent is the mother of seven children, J.C. (born January 5, 2000), T.C. (born December 14, 2000), B.C. (born May 16, 2002), T.K. (born October 7, 2004), B.K. (born January 2, 2006), A.K. (born December 24, 2006), and J.H. (born June 22, 2010). In September 2010, the State filed a first amended petition for adjudication of wardship. It alleged respondent's children were neglected because their environment was injurious to their welfare due to (1) respondent's use of illegal drugs while pregnant with J.H., (2) respondent's use of heroin in the children's presence, (3) lack of supervision by respondent, (4) respondent's failure to ensure that the children were clean and free of head lice, and (5) respondent's failure to attend court-ordered substance-abuse treatment.

¶ 3 On January 28 and May 17, 2011, the trial court conducted the adjudicatory hearing in the matter. The State presented the testimony of T.C., who stated he was 10 years old. He described living in various places with respondent and his siblings, including a house, an apartment, and a trailer. T.C. testified he found needles at each residence in bags, in cabinets, or on shelves. He described a needle he found in the trailer as being white with an orange cap. Evidence showed T.C. and his family lived in the trailer immediately prior to when the children were taken into care. While living in the trailer in May or June 2010, T.C. observed respondent in a bathroom with a belt around her arm and sticking a needle into her arm. T.C. stated his two younger brothers were with him at the time and the needle he observed respondent using was the same type of needle he found in his family's various residences on other occasions.

¶ 4 Jeff Hunt testified he worked for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and, from June 2009 to June 2010, was the intact family caseworker for respondent and her children. On June 24, 2010, respondent's children were taken into protective custody. At that time, respondent had recently been hospitalized and given birth to her youngest child, J.H. On June 24, Hunt spoke with respondent and confronted her with the results of a test performed at the hospital. Respondent acknowledged to Hunt that she had a "positive screen" but asserted it was the result of taking Tylenol 3 with codeine prior to her hospital admission. Respondent also acknowledged that she did not have a prescription for that substance.

¶ 5 Nicole Kingsby testified she worked for the Livingston County probation department and, in November 2009, began supervising respondent on probation. At that time, respondent was ordered to obtain a substance-abuse evaluation and complete treatment. Kingsby referred respondent to Angela Walker, a substance-abuse counselor with the Institute for Human Resources. Walker testified she evaluated respondent in January and February 2010 and diagnosed her with opioid and cannabis dependence. Heroin was respondent's drug of choice. Walker stated respondent reported that her drug use increased from very little use at age 17 to daily use by the age of 25. Walker recommended respondent attend individual counseling sessions twice a month but respondent failed to comply with that recommendation.

¶ 6 Theresa Ciardini testified she worked for DCFS as a child protection investigator. On June 24, 2010, Ciardini took protective custody of respondent's six oldest children. Respondent's newborn infant was taken into protective custody the following day after being released from the hospital. Upon taking the older children into protective custody, Ciardini observed that the children did not appear to have been bathed in a while. She noted their clothes were unclean and there was an odor about them. The four oldest children were examined by a doctor and found to have head lice.

¶ 7 The State asked Ciardini to identify two exhibits. She identified People's exhibit No. 1 as the "completed investigation that [she] submitted" and agreed it was "an indicated report that was filed pursuant to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act" (Reporting Act) (325 ILCS 5/1 through 11.8 (West 2010)). Ciardini described People's exhibit No. 2 as "a prior investigation with" DCFS and recognized it as an indicated report that was already in the system involving respondent and her family, and also one that had been filed pursuant to the Reporting Act.

¶ 8 People's exhibit Nos. 1 and 2 contained over 200 and 100 pages, respectively.

Ciardini testified the first 43 pages of People's exhibit No. 1 and the first 48 pages of People's exhibit No. 2 were computer printouts from DCFS's computer system. She stated investigators entered information from their investigations into that system. The resulting printout was labeled "Handoff Document" and comprised the "entire investigation." Ciardini testified the remaining documents in People's exhibit Nos. 1 and 2 were supporting material that was gathered from witnesses and other people involved in the case. She stated that any documentation that was gathered by an investigator was "put in the hard copy file along with the printout from the computer."

¶ 9 Ciardini testified the printouts contained information regarding the initial reports of neglect, taking the children into protective custody, and the outcome of the shelter-care hearing. The initial page of each printout listed "attachments" under the following headings: (1) intake summary, (2) person/allegations/relationships/protective custody, (3) assessment, (4) child endangerment risk assessment protocol (CERAP) safety, (5) notes, and (6) not applicable/waiver request. Ciardini agreed that the exhibits at issue contained only documents she used during the regular course of performing her duties as a DCFS investigator and that each exhibit was prepared within a reasonable time after the investigations began.

ΒΆ 10 Information from the DCFS computer printout in People's exhibit No. 1 showed, on June 23, 2010, a report of suspected child abuse or neglect was made to DCFS by a hospital social worker. Respondent was the alleged perpetrator and the allegations against her were "substantial risk of physical injury/environment injurious to health and welfare." A narrative regarding the report shows respondent had given birth to J.H. on June 22, 2010, and the reporter was concerned J.H. was at risk due to respondent's history. Respondent provided inconsistent information regarding the number of children in her care and tested positive for opiates. Also, she had not received any prenatal care during her pregnancy with J.H. even though her last child had needed a blood ...

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