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In re Star R.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

September 30, 2014

In re STAR R., a Minor, Respondent-Appellee (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
Donald S., Respondent-Appellant)

As Corrected October 7, 2014.

Page 1227

As Corrected.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 JA 517. Honorable Maxwell Griffin, Jr., Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

Where the nine-year-old respondent was removed from her mother's home based on findings that she was abused and neglected there, the trial court's order placing her in the custody of a Department of Children and Family Services guardianship administrator rather than the home of the man who was recently determined to be her natural father was affirmed, notwithstanding that man's contention that the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was unable to care for his child, since the State is not required to find a natural parent unfit to care for a child if the best interest standard can be attained only by placing a child in the custody of someone other than a natural parent, and in the instant case, even though the State did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the man was unfit or unable to care for, protect and train his child, the decision to place her with the guardianship administrator was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, and the trial court properly concluded that the current placement was in the child's best interest until such time as her father could be assessed, screened, and properly united with her.

Law Office of Stephen Jaffe, Chicago (Stephen Jaffe, of counsel), for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg and Nancy Kisicki, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Robert F. Harris, Public Guardian, Chicago (Kass A. Plain and Janet L. Barnes, of counsel), guardian ad litem.

JUSTICE LIU delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

LIU, JUSTICE.

Page 1228

[¶1] Respondent, Donald S. (hereinafter, respondent), is the biological father of the minor Star R. He appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County placing Star R. in the custody of a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) guardianship administrator, based on findings that he is unable to care for Star R. and that it is in the best interest of the minor to remove her from his custody. Respondent contends that the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was unable to care for Star R. For the following reasons, we affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On June 4, 2013, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging that Star R. was an abused and neglected minor. The State alleged that on or about May 31, 2013, Star R.'s sibling was injured when his mother's paramour and a family member were involved in a physical altercation. According to the petition, Star R.'s sibling sustained lacerations to his face and was covered with powdered glass. Star R.'s mother, however, could not accompany him to the hospital " because she had been drinking and was intoxicated." The State alleged that Star R.'s " [m]other and her paramour, who resides in the home, have an ongoing issue of domestic violence with each other while [Star R.] and [her] siblings are present." The State alleged that Star R.'s mother was also in the process of being evicted and had failed to locate alternate housing. The State listed an individual named Donald R. as Star R.'s putative father. It acknowledged in the petition, however, that paternity had yet to be established.

[¶4] A temporary custody hearing was held on June 4, 2013. Following the hearing, the court found probable cause that Star R. was abused and neglected. The court placed Star R. in the temporary custody of a DCFS guardianship administrator, having found that there was an immediate and urgent need to remove Star R. from the home.

[¶5] On October 9, 2013, the court ordered paternity testing of the putative father, Donald R. Thereafter, on October 23, 2013, the court entered a finding that Donald R. was not the father of Star R. based on the results of a DNA test.

[¶6] On January 23, 2014, the court, after a hearing, adjudicated Star R. abused and neglected pursuant to subsections 2-3(1)(b) (injurious environment) and 2-3(2)(ii) (substantial risk/physical injury) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b), (2)(ii) (West 2012)). The court's findings mirrored the State's allegations in the petition for adjudication of wardship. Further, the court found that the abuse and neglect was inflicted specifically by Star R.'s mother.

[¶7] That same day, the court ordered respondent to submit to DNA testing for the purpose of establishing his paternity. Respondent was subsequently tested and confirmed to be Star R.'s father. On February 21, 2014, the court entered a formal finding of paternity. Respondent then moved the court to vacate the DCFS Guardian Administrator's temporary ...


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