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L.F. v. Dep't of Children & Family Services

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

March 11, 2015

L.F., Plaintiff-Appellant,
THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES and RICHARD H. CALICA, as Director of Children and Family Services, Defendants-Appellees

Page 537

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 12-MR-1538. Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

Alyssa E. Ramirez, of Winston & Strawn LLP, of Chicago, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Laura A. Ward, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellees.

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Page 538


[¶1] After the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) entered against plaintiff, L.F., an indicated finding of child neglect due to inadequate supervision (89 Ill. Adm. Code 300.appendix B (Allegation 74), amended at 35 Ill. Reg. 2861 (eff. Feb. 8, 2011)), she administratively appealed the finding and requested that it be expunged from the state central register. Following an evidentiary hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) recommended to deny the expungement request. Defendant Richard H. Calica, as director of DCFS (Director), agreed and denied plaintiff's expungement request. The circuit court of Lake County affirmed the Director's decision. Plaintiff timely appeals from that order. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's decision and order the Director to expunge the indicated finding from the state central register.

[¶2] I. FACTS

[¶3] A. Background

[¶4] The record reveals the following undisputed facts and procedural history. Plaintiff is the single parent of S.H., who was born July 27, 2006. Plaintiff and S.H. lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Round Lake Beach, Illinois.

[¶5] In 2009, plaintiff was diagnosed with a dependency on drugs and alcohol. She received inpatient and outpatient treatment for her dependency, attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and met with a sponsor. Plaintiff also received psychiatric treatment from Dr. Katherine Singer for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dermatillomania--a condition that caused her to obsessively pick at her skin.

[¶6] Plaintiff also began therapy with Nancy Friedman, a licensed professional counselor. Friedman diagnosed her with and treated her for an anxiety disorder, other psychological conditions, and substance

Page 539

abuse. Plaintiff met with Friedman weekly in 2011.

[¶7] On July 3, 2011, while camping with friends, plaintiff was injured in a fall, suffering a hematoma to her tailbone. Plaintiff was prescribed Tylenol with codeine. Plaintiff only took the medicine briefly because it made her sleepy. She asked her mother, Carol M., to care for S.H. while she was taking the Tylenol with codeine, but her mother refused.

[¶8] After her mother refused, plaintiff stopped taking the Tylenol with codeine and switched to smoking " K3," which was considered to be legal synthetic marijuana at the time. She testified at the administrative hearing that K3 gave her a feeling similar to a marijuana " high," making her feel relaxed and " happy." The first time she smoked K3, her son was with a friend of hers. Plaintiff testified that she smoked K3 again a few days later but that she could not recall whether S.H. was at a friend's house or asleep in plaintiff's apartment. She began smoking K3 on a nightly basis, and in total she smoked K3 between 10 and 20 times. During those times, S.H. was either asleep at home or with a friend, but she could not remember which of those times S.H. was with her.

[¶9] Plaintiff became concerned that she was addicted to K3. During an alcohol and substance abuse assessment, she told the evaluator that up to five days before the evaluation she was smoking two grams of K3 daily.

[¶10] On August 5, 2011, plaintiff sought help from her friends George Kinser and Natalie Brooks at an AA meeting. Kinser was plaintiff's AA sponsor. Brooks had been her sponsor but had not seen her for at least two months, because plaintiff had no longer desired to work on her 12-step program. Brooks had " detached" from plaintiff when plaintiff decided to " go back out." Brooks knew that plaintiff was seeking help for a substance abuse problem, because, after Brooks broke things off, they both knew that Brooks was not allowed to talk to her unless she wanted help.

[¶11] Plaintiff told Kinser and Brooks that she was smoking K3 and wanted help to stop, because she was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Kinser and Brooks agreed to help plaintiff. Kinser agreed to keep S.H. while Brooks took plaintiff to the Highland Park Hospital emergency room. Plaintiff admitted to smoking K3 on the way to the hospital.

[¶12] The hospital records indicate that plaintiff told hospital staff that she wished to " detox" from alcohol and K3. Plaintiff told staff that she was drinking in excess of 10 shots per day and that she was shaking and had diarrhea from attempting to withdraw from K3. The hospital's toxicology screen of plaintiff came back negative.

[¶13] The next morning, while waiting to transfer to a treatment center, plaintiff had an anxiety attack. She left the hospital despite advice to stay. Plaintiff called Friedman and told her of the panic attack. Friedman advised her to return to the hospital.

[¶14] Plaintiff also called Kinser, who was concerned that she would continue to use K3. He refused to pick her up from the hospital. He thought that it would be in plaintiff's best interest if she stayed at the hospital. Plaintiff began ...

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