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In Re Addison R., A Minor v. Megan Z

March 21, 2013


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 10-JA-155 Honorable Mary Linn Green, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zenoff

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Respondent-mother, Megan Z., appeals from the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to her daughter, Addison R. Respondent-father, Rodney R., ultimately consented to Addison's adoption by a paternal aunt; he is not a party to this appeal. Respondent-mother argues only that the trial court's finding that she was unfit was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm.


¶ 3 Addison was born on April 25, 2008. From July 21, 2009, until June 1, 2010, Addison and her parents were involved in "intact services" managed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Addison initially came to DCFS's attention on July 5, 2009, when it received a hotline telephone call about domestic violence between respondent-mother and respondent-father, during which respondent-father "beat up [respondent-mother] in the presence of their daughter." Respondent-mother also had a long-term cocaine addiction. DCFS instituted a safety plan under which respondent-mother and respondent-father voluntarily placed Addison with a paternal aunt, Tongela*fn1 W. During Addison's placement with Tongela, respondent-mother engaged in mental-health and substance-abuse treatment programs.

¶ 4 According to a report from the Children's Home and Aid agency (the child welfare agency working with DCFS), respondent-mother was "close" to having Addison returned home when she was arrested on March 1, 2010, following a police chase through three counties. During the chase, respondent-mother backed her vehicle into a police detective. Respondent-mother pleaded guilty and was convicted of aggravated battery to a police officer, a Class 1 felony, in De Kalb County (No. 10-CF-167), and was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. Respondent-mother was also convicted, following guilty pleas, of aggravated fleeing, a Class 4 felony, in both Winnebago County (No. 10-CF-693) and Kane County (No. 10-CF-568). She was sentenced to one year and two years' imprisonment, respectively, to be served concurrently with the De Kalb County sentence.

¶ 5 On May 14, 2010, the State filed a three-count petition in the circuit court of Winnebago County, alleging that Addison was a neglected minor under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 2010)). Count I alleged that Addison was neglected based on an environment injurious to her welfare in that her parents engaged in domestic violence

in her presence, thus placing her at risk of harm. Counts II and III alleged neglect based on an injurious environment in that respondent-mother and respondent-father, respectively, each had a substance abuse problem that prevented proper parenting, thus placing Addison at risk of harm.

¶ 6 On June 1, 2010, the trial court conducted a shelter care hearing. The court entered an order finding probable cause to believe that Addison was neglected and granting temporary guardianship and custody to DCFS.

¶ 7 On September 9, 2010, the trial court conducted an adjudicatory hearing, at which respondent-father stipulated to the facts alleged in count I of the petition. Respondent-mother agreed to respondent-father's stipulation. The court found that there was a factual basis supporting the plea. The court entered an order adjudicating Addison a neglected minor and dismissing counts II and III on the State's motion.

¶ 8 Three permanency review hearings followed. On March 8, 2011, the trial court found that respondent-mother had made reasonable efforts to follow the service plan and achieve the goal of return home within 12 months. The court made no finding as to respondent-mother's progress. The court maintained the goal at return home within 12 months. On August 30, 2011, the court again found that respondent-mother had made reasonable efforts. However, the court found that she had not made reasonable progress because of an alleged infraction of prison rules in May 2011 when contraband (pills) was found in her cell. The court continued the goal at return home within 12 months. On November 29, 2011, the court once more found reasonable efforts but no reasonable progress by respondent-mother. The court changed the goal to substitute care pending termination of parental rights. The court also granted DCFS leave to place Addison with Tongela in Georgia, which occurred on December 18, 2011.

¶ 9 On February 17, 2012, the State filed a motion for termination of parental rights, alleging that respondent-mother was unfit due to: count I, failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to Addison's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2010)); count II, depravity (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2010)); count III, failure to make reasonable progress toward Addison's return during the initial nine-month period following the adjudication of neglect (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2010)); count IV, failure to make reasonable progress toward Addison's return during any subsequent nine-month period (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(iii) (West 2010)); and count V, repeated incarceration preventing her from discharging her parental responsibilities (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(s) (West 2010)).

ΒΆ 10 Section 2-29 of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 2010)) provides a two-step process for termination of parental rights. In re J.L., 236 Ill. 2d 329, 337 (2010). The trial court must first find by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit as defined in section 1 of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D) (West 2010)). 705 ILCS 405/2-29(2), (4) (West 2010); J.L., 236 Ill. 2d at 337. Then, the court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of the parent's ...

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