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Lucie B v. the Department of Human

March 1, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 10-MR-670 Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson

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

Presiding Justice Jorgensen and Justice Bowman concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In November 2009, plaintiff, Lucie B., submitted an application for an individual care grant on behalf of her adoptive daughter, S.B. Plaintiff's application claimed that S.B. suffered from severe mental illness, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychotic tendencies, and was currently in her second short-term residential placement. The Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice initially denied her application, and the Illinois Department of Human Services (the Department) denied her appeal. Plaintiff filed in the trial court a complaint seeking review of the Department's denial of her individual care grant application, pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Law (the Review Law) (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2010)). The trial court affirmed the Department's decision. Plaintiff now timely appeals, contending: (1) the Department's final administrative decision failed to contain sufficient factual findings pursuant to section 10-50(a) of the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act (the Procedure Act) (5 ILCS 100/10-50(a) (West 2010)); (2) the Department's finding that S.B. did not qualify for an individual care grant was against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion to reconsider. Because we find that the Department's decision did not contain sufficient findings, we reverse the trial court, vacate the Department's decision, and remand to the Department for further consideration, evaluation, findings, and decision.

¶ 2 I. Background

¶ 3 The record reflects that plaintiff has cared for S.B. since S.B. was four months of age. Plaintiff formally adopted S.B. in 1996, when S.B. was three years of age. S.B. was exposed to alcohol and cocaine in utero and suffered abuse and neglect by her birth mother. When plaintiff filed her application for the grant, S.B. was 16 years old and being cared for in a short-term residential placement.

¶ 4 Plaintiff submitted her application for an individual care grant on November 11, 2009. Submitted with plaintiff's application were a number of documents outlining S.B.'s medical history. Those documents reflected that in June 2007 S.B. was admitted to Highland Park hospital after becoming upset with plaintiff, destroying property in the home, and setting a fire in front of the home. S.B. was hospitalized for one week followed by a one-week stay in a partial hospitalization program. In November 2007, S.B. was readmitted as an inpatient due to dangerous behaviors, including pulling out knives and attempting to open a car door while plaintiff was driving. During that hospitalization, S.B. exhibited thoughts of suicide and an inability to regulate her mood. In a letter dated January 28, 2008, a treating physician stated that S.B. had been diagnosed with mood disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) and that individuals with that disorder exhibit mood lability, emotional dysregulation, severe anxiety, poor judgment that often places them in dangerous situations, depressed mood, low self-esteem, poor frustration tolerance, and thoughts of suicide. The letter further specified that these symptoms have affected "all areas" of S.B.'s functioning and make it difficult for her to cope with day-to-day activities. The physician recommended that S.B. be placed in a long-term program at a residential treatment facility to meet her "emotional, academic, and treatment needs."

¶ 5 In December 2007, S.B. was admitted to the Midwest Center for Youth and Families after experiencing an increase in self-harming behavior and suicidal ideations. In a letter dated January 24, 2008, a treating physician noted that, during her admission, S.B. continued to exhibit self-harming behavior and suicidal ideations, displayed aggressive behavior, and experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. The letter stated that S.B.'s diagnosis was revised to "schizoaffective bipolar type v. schizophrenia." S.B. was discharged from that facility in February 2008.

¶ 6 In April 2008, S.B. was hospitalized again at Highland Park with suicidal ideations. Thereafter, S.B. was transferred to Chicago Lake Shore hospital, where she remained until May 2008. Her diagnosis upon discharge was bipolar disorder, and the discharge summary noted that she "has a history of auditory and visual hallucinations." A psychological evaluation of S.B. performed in May 2008 indicated:

"overall cognitive ability *** cannot be easily summarized because her verbal reasoning abilities are much better developed than her non-verbal reasoning abilities. *** [S.B.'s] relative weakness in her nonverbal communication and relative weakness in her processing speed are likely impacting her interpersonal relationships and her psychological functioning. She likely has difficulty communicating non-verbally with others, by not picking up on nonverbal cues, or by missing nuances or subtleties that occur in conversations and a variety of nonverbal cues. *** This is likely to be frustrating for her and infringe on her ability to develop social skills. This likely contributes to her difficulty in developing age-appropriate social relationships."

The psychological evaluation further noted:

"[S.B.] has had periods of marked emotional, cognitive, and psychological disruption. These disruptions have led to behavioral and emotional outbursts that have been intense, dramatic, and destructive in nature. *** Testing suggests that [S.B.] has minimal understanding of who she is."

The psychological evaluation further stated that S.B. has "reality testing concerns." The evaluation noted that S.B.'s symptoms, among them "[p]retending that [she] is someone else," "[g]oing in [her] mind, trying not to think," "[f]eeling like things aren't real," and "[t]rying not to have any feelings," suggested that S.B. was escaping situations by dissociation in a combination of fantasy and overt dissociation. The evaluation noted that "dissociation of this magnitude" is generally a method of adapting to a traumatic event, although it becomes "maladaptive to everyday situations." The evaluation noted that S.B.'s symptoms were consistent with major depression disorder and that she had a high level of anger.

ΒΆ 7 In September 2008, S.B. was admitted to Streamwood Behavioral Health Systems, where she remained until October 2008. The discharge summary reflected that her discharge diagnosis was bipolar disorder, mixed with psychotic features. The discharge summary noted that "[t]he patient was very anxious, depressed, and feeling suicidal and wanting to cut herself." The discharge summary noted that S.B. was "hearing things, seeing things," and that the voices were telling her to hurt herself. The discharge summary further noted that ...

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