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In re Ashli T.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

January 21, 2014

In re ASHLI T., a Minor, Respondent-Appellant;
v.
Tonesha M. and Scott T., Respondents-Appellees) The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellant,

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 JA 462. Honorable Robert Balanoff, Judge Presiding.

Order vacated; cause remanded.

SYLLABUS

On appeal from orders of the trial court granting sole legal custody of respondent to her father, dismissing the State's petition for adjudication of wardship and closing the proceedings, the dismissal of the petition for adjudication of wardship was vacated and the cause was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Juvenile Court Act, since the trial court had no authority to grant permanent custody without conducting adjudicatory and dispositional hearings and the finding that dismissal of the petition for adjudication of wardship was in respondent's best interest was clearly erroneous.

For Petitioner-Appellant: Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney - Cook County, Alan Spellberg, Mary Needham, Nancy Kisicki, Asst. State's Attorneys, Of Counsel, Chicago, IL.

For Minor-Respondent-Appellant: Robert F. Harris, Kass A. Plain, Christopher Williams, Office of the Public Guardian, Appeals Unit, Chicago, IL.

For Scott T, Respondent-Appellee: Abishi C. Cunningham, Jr., Public Defender of Cook Co., Evelyn G. Baniewicz, Asst. Public Defender, Chicago, IL.

JUSTICE SIMON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Harris and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

SIMON, JUSTICE.

Page 262

[¶1] Ashli T., through the office of the public guardian, and the State appeal from orders of the circuit court of Cook County granting sole legal and physical custody of Ashli to her father, Scott T., and dismissing the petition for adjudication of wardship filed as to Ashli by the State. On appeal, the public guardian and the State contend that the court did not have authority to grant permanent custody of Ashli to Scott without conducting adjudicatory and dispositional hearings and that the court's finding that dismissal of the petition for adjudication of wardship was in Ashli's best interest is clearly erroneous. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the order dismissing the petition for adjudication of wardship and closing the proceedings and remand the matter to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-1 et seq . (West 2012)).

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On May 20, 2013, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship as to Ashli, who was born on March 29, 2013, and is the daughter of Tonesha M. and Scott. The State alleged that Ashli was abused and neglected and that her environment was injurious to her welfare. The State asserted that Ashli faced a substantial risk of physical injury because Tonesha had three other children in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) based on findings of abuse and/or neglect and had not completed recommended services and paternity had not yet been established. The State also filed a motion for temporary custody, asserting that there was probable cause to believe that Ashli was neglected and that there was an immediate and urgent necessity that she be taken into custody.

[¶4] That same day, the circuit court conducted a hearing on the petition and motion. Scott testified that he believed he was Ashli's father and requested a paternity test. Edwine Reese, an investigator for DCFS, testified that Tonesha had three children prior to Ashli and that none of those children were in her care and custody. Reports had been filed against Tonesha regarding her eldest daughter in 2008 for cuts, welts, and bruises and in 2009 for cuts, welts, bruises, and sexual penetration. Tonesha was convicted of criminal assault of her eldest daughter, served 3 1/2 years of a 7-year sentence, and was currently on parole. Tonesha had been found to be in need of anger management, substance abuse, and parenting services, as well as a psychological assessment and counseling, but she only completed some of the necessary services while incarcerated and was no longer participating ...


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