Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Rena Van Tine, Judge Presiding. Nos. 07 JA 345, 07 JA 346
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Sterba
JUSTICE STERBA delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Lavin and Justice Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In a termination of parental rights proceeding beginning on July 26, 2011, the trial court found respondent-appellant Marilu M. to be an unfit mother due to her failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility for her children's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2010)), her drug addiction (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(k) (West 2010)), and her failure to make reasonable efforts and progress (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 2010 )). On August 31, 2011, the court terminated Marilu's parental rights as to her daughters, Angela D. and Delilah A. On appeal, Marilu contends that the trial court's finding of unfitness and order terminating her rights was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
¶ 3 Marilu M. is the biological mother of Angela D., born on April 20, 2004, and Delilah A., born on August 30, 2006.*fn1 Although Angela and Delilah are the only children who are the subjects of the present case, Marilu is also the biological mother to five other children, none of whom remain in her custody.
¶ 4 On May 18, 2007, the State filed petitions for adjudication of wardship, alleging that Angela and Delilah, as well as their three older siblings, were neglected and abused. This charge stemmed from a report to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in March 2007 that Marilu's home was in poor condition, lacking food, and littered with trash including dirty diapers and dirty clothes. The report also revealed that Marilu's oldest child had a red mark on his face, but he would not say where it came from. Marilu previously had an intact family case open in 2004, after Angela was born with phenylcyclidine (PCP) in her system. After a stipulation to the facts was entered, on October 18, 2007, the trial court found both Angela and Delilah abused based on a substantial risk of physical injury, and neglected based on an injurious environment. Angela was also found neglected based on the fact that she was a drug-exposed infant. The girls were adjudicated wards of the court on May 2, 2008.
¶ 5 Subsequently, on September 28, 2010, the State filed a supplemental petition to terminate Marilu's parental rights on the bases that she failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, and responsibility as to the girls' welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2008)), she had been a habitual drunkard and/or was addicted to drugs for at least one year prior to the petition (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(k) (West 2008)), and she failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the condition that had resulted in a finding of unfitness and failed to reasonably progress in the goal of having the girls returned to her (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 2008)).
¶ 6 At the unfitness hearing on July 26, 2011, the State introduced records from TASC Laboratories and ACCU-Lab Medical Testing revealing the results of Marilu's urine samples. Out of 94 samples taken between September 2007 and March 2011, Marilu tested positive for PCP nine times.
¶ 7 The State also introduced client services plans (service plans) for April 2008, November 2008, May 2009, and November 2009. With the exception of the service plan of May 2009, all other service plans revealed Marilu had made unsatisfactory progress overall, and specifically as to the goals of remaining available for substance abuse treatment and psychiatric evaluation; participating in parent coaching training; following the conditions of her probation; and attending individual therapy.
¶ 8 A report from the Cook County juvenile court clinic prepared by Dr. Harold Fuentes on April 1, 2010 was also introduced in response to the trial court's request for clinical information. Dr. Fuentes reviewed Marilu's history of inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs beginning in May 2007 and found a pattern of unsuccessful discharges from these programs. Specifically, in May 2007, Marilu was admitted for outpatient substance abuse treatment at Pilsen-Little Village Community Mental Health Center (Pilsen) as she was found to have significant problems with PCP use. At that point, Marilu denied any problems with drugs, and she was unsuccessfully discharged from the program in October 2007. That same month, she was admitted as an inpatient at Haymarket Center (Haymarket) and professed a commitment to remaining drug free. Her counselor was skeptical of this claim, as she had large amounts of PCP in her system but denied any recent use. On October 31, 2007, she tested positive for pregnancy. By February 2008, Marilu was in intensive outpatient treatment at Haymarket, but in April 2008 she was found to have a minimal commitment to recovery, in light of her inconsistent participation and her absence from five sessions. Moreover, she had tested positive for PCP twice during her third trimester of pregnancy in March 2008. One month later, she was in police custody as a result of violating her parole. She was required to attend inpatient substance abuse counseling at Haymarket as part of her probation, which she successfully completed in February 2009. In May 2009, Marilu enrolled in intensive outpatient treatment at Pilsen, but her participation was again inconsistent. Marilu then went back to inpatient treatment for drug addiction at Haymarket in November 2009, after testing positive for PCP in July, September and October of 2009, but was unsatisfactorily discharged one month later. As of January 2010, Marilu was enrolled in intensive outpatient treatment at Haymarket.
¶ 9 With regard to Marilu's parenting, Dr. Fuentes noted Marilu had completed two parenting classes during her inpatient treatment. Additionally, he reviewed 186 visitation logs from October 2007 to December 2009 and found visits occurred regularly between Marilu and Angela, Delilah and their siblings. Marilu was attentive to her children and they were happy to see her. His observation of a two-hour supervised visit between Marilu and her children revealed that Marilu was appropriately attentive, offered spontaneous gestures of affection, and successfully mediated a dispute between her older son and daughter.
¶ 10 Dr. Fuentes also interviewed Eugenio Flamand, a parenting coach for Marilu for over one year. While Flamand had no significant concerns with Marilu's parenting skills, he did express concern that Marilu's PCP abuse and numerous relapses negatively affected her ability to parent. Because of Marilu's repeated relapses, he did not recommend a goal of return home, though he believed terminating parental rights would be too extreme, given that her children needed continued contact with her.
¶ 11 Ultimately, Dr. Fuentes concluded Marilu would be unable to achieve the goal of reunification with her children due to her inability to refrain from using PCP for any length of time and her poor and inconsistent participation in treatment. He noted that terminating parental rights would help all of Marilu's children achieve closure and predictability, but stressed the importance of finding foster parents who would be amenable to allowing continued contact with Marilu.
¶ 12 The only witness to testify at the unfitness hearing was Beatriz Ramirez, the case manager for Angela and Delilah since February 5, 2009. When Ramirez assessed Marilu in May 2009, she rated Marilu's participation in the 12-step program as unsatisfactory, because Marilu was unable to provide proof of attendance. Ramirez recommended Marilu participate in outpatient substance abuse treatment, as Marilu had self-disclosed using PCP the prior month. At Marilu's next evaluation in November 2009, Ramirez testified Marilu had made unsatisfactory progress in outpatient substance abuse treatment, given that she had tested positive for PCP in July, September and October of 2009. Furthermore, Ramirez again noted that Marilu could not produce confirmation of her attendance at Narcotics Anonymous-Alcoholics Anonymous (NAAA) meetings, though she stated she had attended.
¶ 13 Due to Marilu's relapse, Ramirez referred her to an inpatient substance abuse program at Haymarket, which Marilu began in November 2009. However, Marilu left the inpatient program in December 2009, only 30 days into the 90-day program. Ramirez stated Marilu informed her she was not learning anything new from the program and felt she could successfully maintain sobriety on her own. Marilu did perform better in intensive outpatient therapy from January 2010 to April 2010, though she still had unsatisfactory participation in NA-AA meetings. Moreover, as part of her recovery, Marilu was supposed to self-disclose any relapse into drug use, but she continued to deny using PCP even after a positive test in March 2010.
¶ 14 Also as part of her recovery, Ramirez asked Marilu to submit to drug tests two to three times a month. Ramirez testified Marilu failed to appear for tests on six occasions in 2010 and four occasions in 2011. While Marilu gave various reasons for the failure to appear, including ill health, attending court, forgetfulness, other appointments, and having family over, Ramirez testified that several of these excuses lacked corroboration, and as such, the no-shows were treated as positive drug test results.
¶ 15 Ramirez also testified as to Marilu's parenting skills, stating that she showed a reasonable degree of interest and concern for Angela and Delilah, but never progressed to the point where she ...