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In Re Erin A. and Alicia A., Minors v. Jermika A

August 20, 2012

IN RE ERIN A. AND ALICIA A., MINORS,
RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
JERMIKA A.,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois Child Protective Division Nos. 10 JA 00561 10 JA 01071 Honorable Helaine Berger, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall

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

Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Respondent, Jermika A., appeals from an adjudicatory order of the trial court finding her minor daughter Erin, born December 5, 2009, neglected as a result of respondent's failure to provide her with necessary medical care pursuant to section 2-3(1)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 2010)). This section of the Act provides in relevant part that a neglected minor includes "any minor under 18 years of age who is not receiving the proper or necessary *** medical or other remedial care recognized under State law as necessary for a minor's well-being." 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 2010).

¶ 2 The trial court's finding of medical neglect was based on the court's determination that respondent failed to have Erin undergo recommended follow-up blood screening to determine if she had sickle cell disease or merely the trait.*fn1 Evidence was presented that respondent refused to have Erin undergo the recommended follow-up medical care because the child's biological father, Aaron A., did not want the State to get involved in the testing because he did not want to be required to pay child support.

¶ 3 Respondent also challenges the trial court's adjudicatory order finding that Erin's younger sister, Alicia, born November 12, 2010, was neglected as a result of an injurious environment under section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act, which provides that a neglected minor includes "any minor under 18 years of age whose environment is injurious to his or her welfare." 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2010). This finding was based in part on the doctrine of anticipatory neglect in that the trial court determined that Alicia was in an injurious environment based on the finding that her sibling Erin had been found to have been neglected. The trial court's finding was also based on the court's determination that Aaron A. had made threatening remarks to a caseworker stating he would shoot up the neighborhood if anyone tried to take away his children. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

¶ 4 ANALYSIS

¶ 5 Respondent first contends that the trial court's adjudicatory finding that Erin was medically neglected was against the manifest weight of the evidence where there was no testimony from a doctor or other medical expert establishing that the failure to have Erin undergo the follow-up blood screening posed a risk of harm. We disagree.

¶ 6 The purpose of an adjudicatory hearing is to determine whether an allegation that a minor is neglected is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. In re Arthur H., 212 Ill. 2d 441, 465 (2004). The term "neglect" has generally been defined as the failure of a responsible adult to exercise the care that circumstances demand and encompasses both unintentional and willful disregard of parental duties. In re John Paul J., 343 Ill. App. 3d 865, 879 (2003). Cases involving an adjudication of neglect are sui generis and each case must ultimately be decided on the basis of its own particular facts. In re Christina M., 333 Ill. App. 3d 1030, 1034 (2002).

¶ 7 Our courts have held that a child who does not receive appropriate medical evaluations or care is neglected. See In re Stephen K., 373 Ill. App. 3d 7, 20 (2007). Moreover, there is no statutory requirement or Illinois case law ruling that requires a finding of medical neglect to be supported by expert medical testimony. In determining whether a child is neglected, the State must prove the allegations of neglect by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it must demonstrate that the allegations are more probable than not. In re Edward T., 343 Ill. App. 3d 778, 794 (2003).

¶ 8 A determination of neglect is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed on review unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re S.S., 313 Ill. App. 3d 121, 127 (2000). A trial court's finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence only if the opposite conclusion is clearly evident. In re Arthur H., 212 Ill. 2d at 464.

¶ 9 In the instant case, the trial court's finding that Erin was medically neglected as a result of respondent's failure to have her undergo the recommended follow-up blood screening to determine if she had sickle cell disease or merely the trait was not against the manifest weight of the evidence where the finding was supported by Erin's medical records and the testimony of a veteran public health nurse and experienced caseworker.

¶ 10 Erin was born on December 5, 2009, at West Lake Hospital. Prior to the start of the adjudication hearings, Erin's certified medical records from West Lake Hospital were admitted into evidence, without objection, as People's Exhibit No. 1. The medical records indicated that on December 6, 2009, Erin screened positive for "POSSIBLE FSC SICKLE HEMOGLOBIN C DISEASE ***." On July 6, 2010, Erin underwent additional blood work resulting in a diagnosis showing that "Hemoglobin electrophoresis is consistent with hgb S/C disease."

¶ 11 Ms. Jomarie Kilpatrick, a public health nurse employed with the Cook County department of public health (Department), testified that Erin came to the attention of the Department in February 2010, when it received the results of a newborn screening test indicating that Erin might possibly have sickle cell disease. At the time of the adjudicatory hearing, Kilpatrick had been employed with the Department for 11 years. Kilpatrick testified that Erin would have to be rescreened again after six months to determine if she actually had the disease.

¶ 12 Kilpatrick explained that an infant is born with maternal blood and that it takes approximately six months for the maternal blood to clear the baby's system and after that the baby starts making its own blood. Rescreening is done after the six-month period to determine if the child has sickle cell, and if so, what type. Rescreening also gives an indication as to the possible types of treatment.

ΒΆ 13 Kilpatrick testified that her agency does not actually conduct the rescreening. The agency informs the parents of the results of the initial screening test and then directs them to take the child to a physician for rescreening. The agency follows up with the ...


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