JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas,
Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and
1 The State filed a petition to terminate the parental rights
of J.B. for failing to maintain a reasonable degree of
interest, concern, or responsibility for his daughter
M.I.'s welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2014)) and for
failing to make reasonable progress toward the return of M.I.
(750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 2014)). The juvenile court granted
the State's petition. The appellate court, in a split
decision, reversed and remanded, finding that the trial
court's conclusions were against the manifest weight of
the evidence. The dissenting justice would have affirmed the
judgment of the juvenile court. We allowed the State's
petition for leave to appeal, pursuant to Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015), to determine (1) whether
the appellate court improperly grafted a willfulness
requirement onto subsections (b) and (m) of the Adoption Act
(750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), (m) (West 2014)), (2) whether the
juvenile court erred by not expressly stating that it did not
consider evidence outside the nine-month period in ruling on
subsection (m), (3) whether the juvenile court's ruling
was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (4)
whether the State is limited to asserting subsection (p) when
petitioning to terminate an intellectually disabled
parent's rights. We allowed the Cook County Public
Guardian as well as Equip for Equality, the Family Defense
Center, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Cabrini Green
Legal Aid, and LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) to file
briefs as amici curiae pursuant to Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010).
3 In July 2010, the Illinois Department of Children and
Family Services (DCFS) petitioned for wardship of M.I., a
minor, pursuant to section 2-3 of the Juvenile Court Act of
1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-3 (West 2014)). DCFS alleged that
M.I.'s mother, E.I., had neglected her and that
M.I.'s father, J.B., had an extensive criminal history.
The juvenile court granted the petition, finding M.I. to be
neglected and also finding both parents, E.I. and J.B., to be
fit. On October 13, 2010, the juvenile court directed J.B. to
execute any necessary authorizations for release of
information requested by DCFS, cooperate with DCFS, obtain a
drug and alcohol assessment, submit to random drug testing
twice monthly, undergo a psychological examination, and
complete a parenting class.
4 In 2011, J.B. underwent a psychological examination per the
juvenile court's directive. The examination revealed the
following information about J.B. Until he dropped out of his
senior year of high school, J.B. was enrolled in special
education courses for learning disabilities. J.B. had been
unemployed since 2007. J.B. had been incarcerated on eight
different occasions for approximately 18 to 19 years in total
but had not been incarcerated since 2005. J.B. suffers from
bipolar disorder. Also, J.B. admitted to regular marijuana
use but indicated that he had been clean for two months. It
was further discovered that J.B. lacked his own residence, is
functionally illiterate, and possesses an IQ of 58,
indicating significant intellectual limitation and mild
mental retardation. The psychologist concluded that, from an
intellectual and academic perspective, J.B. could not
independently parent M.I. and recommended that any
interventions and services be modified. Additionally, the
psychologist opined that J.B. could benefit from
circumscribed interventions because J.B.'s functioning
limited his ability to benefit from traditional mental health
services involving verbal exchange.
5 On March 21, 2011, the State filed a motion to find J.B.
unfit. The State asserted that J.B. did not attend drug
testing or participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and
that J.B. refused to provide an address to his caseworker.
The State's motion to find J.B. unfit was granted on
March 30, 2011. Thereafter, at five different permanency
hearings, the juvenile court found that he had failed to make
reasonable efforts to achieve the service plan and permanency
6 In May 2013, the juvenile court returned guardianship of
M.I. to her mother, E.I., but subsequently found E.I. unfit
and appointed DCFS as guardian. On April 30, 2014, the
juvenile court found that J.B. had not made reasonable
efforts, and the permanency goal was changed to
"substitute care pending court decision."
7 In May 2014, the State filed a petition to terminate
E.I.'s and J.B.'s parental rights. The State alleged
that J.B. had (1) failed to maintain a reasonable degree of
interest, concern, or responsibility under subsection (b) and
(2) failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of
M.I. between August 1, 2013, and May 1, 2014, under
8 At the adjudicatory hearings in December 2014 and February
2015 on the petition for termination of parental rights, the
State presented the testimony of Brenda Lee, the assigned
caseworker. Lee began working on the case on August 11, 2011.
Lee testified that when she had asked J.B. about his drug
use, he responded that he had been through classes before and
was continuing to use marijuana. J.B. indicated that he would
not stop using marijuana.
9 Lee further testified that, as of February 2012, J.B. had
not provided DCFS with his address, had indicated that he
would not stop using marijuana, and had not completed drug
testing. Lee explained that she did not provide J.B.
referrals for various services because she did not have
J.B.'s contact information but did give J.B. information
about community agencies offering such services. Lee
initially gave J.B. bus passes to attend visitation and drug
testing in Peoria. J.B. somewhat regularly attended visits
with M.I. until he missed a week, attended two to three more
visits, and then stopped. Lee ceased providing the passes
when J.B. began using them for other purposes. Beginning
around August 2012, Lee required J.B. to call in before
visits with M.I because J.B.'s inconsistent attendance
was having a negative impact on M.I. Lee testified that J.B.
followed this procedure for a couple of visits.
10 Although Lee was not certain, she did not believe that
J.B. visited M.I. between August 15, 2012, and January 30,
2013. She did testify that J.B. did not complete drug testing
during that period. As of April 23, 2013, J.B. had not
visited M.I. or submitted to drug testing. He did attend
permanency hearings. J.B. visited M.I. once in June 2013.
J.B. completed an Integrated Assessment interview, and Lee
restarted visits after M.I. went into foster care. J.B.
visited twice in December 2013 and once in June 2014. A visit
was scheduled the week before the December 2014 adjudicatory
hearing but had to be rescheduled because M.I. was sick.
11 On cross-examination, Lee admitted that she never inquired
about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) or whether the parenting classes were proper for J.B.
given his mental disabilities because J.B. did not follow
through on services. Lee did not inquire into DCFS services
or guidelines regarding homeless clients, did not provide
J.B. any homemaker services, and did not modify his services.
Although Lee had conversations with J.B. about restarting
psychiatric care at the Human Service Center and had J.B.
sign medical releases so Lee could obtain his medical
records, J.B. did not follow up with the center.
12 The juvenile court found J.B. unfit under count IV, which
alleged that J.B. failed to maintain a reasonable degree of
interest, concern, or responsibility under subsection (b).
The juvenile court specifically noted J.B.'s disinterest.
Additionally, J.B. was found unfit under subsection (m) for
failing to make reasonable progress toward reunification. The
juvenile court commented that DCFS could not modify services
for someone who did not show up. The juvenile court also
noted that J.B.'s presence at some visits and attendance
at court proceedings indicated that his failure to attend
other visitations was a choice rather than a product of
J.B.'s low IQ. The juvenile court stated that it had
considered J.B.'s IQ and read through the psychological
evaluation but nevertheless concluded that J.B. appeared to
be disinterested. Specifically, the juvenile court stated:
"It's hard to modify services for a person
that's not willing to show up. You know, you didn't
maintain contact. You were inconsistent in your visits. You
did come to court.
You have one visit from April 2013 to May of 2014. *** They
probably could have modified services, but you're not
making contact with the caseworker. You met her August 29th,
2011, and would not give her your address. How is she to
maintain contact with you or modify services if you were
unwilling to give her information to contact you? That's
the decision you made.
I don't think it has anything to do with your IQ. As we
look at this, you were able to use bus passes for the visits
you did make. You were sporadic in your visits, and I think
you understand the importance of making visits.
You know, but you made your visits that you saw fit. And you
didn't visit on a regular basis. That was your choice. I
understand the bus passes were taken away from you, because
you were not using them for your visits. You do come to
court. I commend you for that. But I think by clear and
convincing evidence, you have not maintained a ...