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In re Jeanette L.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

January 27, 2017

In re Jeanette L., a Minor, Respondent-Appellee
Georgina L., Respondent-Appellant The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, and Clarence M., Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 JA 1441, Honorable Demetrios Kottaras, Judge Presiding

          DELORT JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Cunningham concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a hearing, the trial court adjudicated minor-respondent, Jeanette L., to be an abused and neglected minor, and made her a ward of the court. The trial court subsequently found Jeanette L.'s biological parents, respondents Georgina L.[1] and Clarence M., unfit parents and terminated their parental rights. Georgina L. appeals, contending that the trial court's findings should be reversed because the State failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA) (42 U.S.C. § 12132 (2012)). With respect to Clarence M.'s appeal, his counsel has filed a motion to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551 (1987), arguing that there are no issues of arguable merit. We consolidated the appeals. For the following reasons, we grant the motion of Clarence M.'s appellate counsel to withdraw, and affirm the judgment of the circuit court in both appeals.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On February 24, 2010, the State filed a petition for the adjudication of wardship, alleging that then-15-month-old respondent Jeanette L. was abused and neglected pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) and 2-3(2)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b), 2-3(2)(ii) (West 2010)). The State also moved for temporary custody of respondent. The State alleged that the whereabouts of respondent's mother and father were unknown, and that respondent was in the custody of the child's aunt, Frances S.[2] The State further alleged that Frances's residence was "dirty" and had "trash strewn about" it, and that "dog urine and feces[, ] and rats" were present. In addition, Frances was not compliant with services offered to her. The petition further alleged that Frances had witnessed another minor in the residence in bed with that other minor's father, and that the minor stated that the father digitally penetrated her. The State subsequently amended its petition based upon a failure to provide necessary care to Jeanette. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 2010). The State noted that, on February 26, 2010, Jeanette had been admitted to the hospital weighing only 8.2 kilograms, which hospital personnel indicated was less than the 5th percentile for her age, and she was diagnosed with "non-organic failure to thrive." The State also alleged that her primary care physician had not seen her since April 2009.

         ¶ 4 On November 10, 2011, after an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court found that Jeanette was abused or neglected on the grounds of a lack of care, exposure to an injurious environment, and being at substantial risk of physical injury. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a), (1)(b), (2)(ii) (West 2010). On January 20, 2012, the trial court entered a dispositional order making Jeanette a ward of the court, finding both parents unable to care for her, and placing Jeanette under the guardianship of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

         ¶ 5 On March 5, 2014, the State filed a supplemental petition seeking the appointment of a guardian with the right to consent to the adoption of Jeanette. The State alleged that both parents were unfit because they failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of Jeanette within nine months after the neglect and abuse adjudication (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m) (West 2012)). The State further alleged that they failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest in Jeanette's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2012)) and failed to protect Jeanette from the injurious environment (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(g) (West 2012)). In addition, the State alleged that Clarence was unfit because he deserted Jeanette for more than three months prior to the commencement of termination proceedings (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(c) (West 2012)), and that Georgina was unfit because she was unable to discharge her parental responsibilities because of developmental disabilities that are likely to extend beyond a reasonable time (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(p) (West 2012)). The following evidence was then presented at trial.

         ¶ 6 Among the exhibits admitted at trial was DCFS's May 24, 2010, "Integrated Assessment" report on Georgina. That report stated that Georgina had cognitive delays, was illiterate, dropped out of school after the ninth grade, had a history of alcohol abuse, and had two prior drug-related arrests. The trial court also admitted an August 31, 2011, "Initial Clinical Report" from SOS Children's Villages Illinois (SOS), which indicated that Georgina was referred to a therapist to participate in "individual therapy to address the issue[s] that brought this case [in]to the system, including *** developmental delays" and her parenting ability. The report detailed, however, that Georgina was inconsistent in her attendance and had also missed four sessions in a row. Georgina also would fail to call when she had to miss a session.

         ¶ 7 Saneeta Auster-Golden, a caseworker from SOS, testified that she had been assigned to this case in June 2012 until February 2014. Golden said that, in 2010, the recommendations for Georgina included a psychological evaluation, parenting classes, individual therapy (which Golden said would address Georgina's developmental delays), and visitation. According to Golden, Georgina completed the psychological evaluation and parenting classes. With respect to individual therapy, Golden explained that Georgina began the therapy in 2011 but was discharged in 2012 as unsuccessful. As to visitation, Georgina was frequently late to the twice-weekly supervised visitation and behaved inappropriately. Golden stated that, during the time she was assigned to this case, Georgina failed to complete the recommended services.

         ¶ 8 In addition, Golden testified that Clarence had not started his recommended individual therapy in 2010, resulting in an "unsatisfactory" rating. This service was still outstanding for Clarence in 2011. Clarence did complete a psychological evaluation in 2012, which concluded that he was unable to parent Jeanette because of his "cognitive level of functioning." Golden further described Clarence's visitation with Jeanette as "very sporadic." Golden said that Clarence was provided with another referral for individual therapy, which he began but did not complete and had not completed in 2014, when Golden was no longer assigned to this case. Golden further did not see any certificates of completion for any services recommended to Clarence other than the psychological evaluation. Clarence also never provided Golden with the name of any individual or any other support system that would be able to assist him in his parenting responsibilities.

         ¶ 9 Corretta Rivers, another case worker at SOS, testified that she was assigned to this case on April 29, 2014. At that time, Georgina still needed individual therapy but according to Rivers, Georgina refused to participate in therapy and only wanted to visit with Jeanette. Rivers added that Georgina's assigned therapist even offered to meet closer to Georgina's home, but Georgina refused the offer and any further therapy sessions. Georgina also declined any subsequent services because, according to Georgina, she had done all that she needed to do to be reunited with Jeanette.

         ¶ 10 Rivers testified that, when she was assigned to this case on April 29, 2014, the outstanding required services for Clarence were a psychiatric evaluation and individual therapy. Rivers testified that she had no contact information for Clarence and that the first time she spoke to him was at a May 2014 court appearance. According to Rivers, Clarence informed her that he had moved to Rockford and told her that he would not complete any of the outstanding services because he believed that he had completed all of the services he needed to complete. With respect to visitation, Rivers recounted that there was a scheduled visit that day, and Clarence did visit with Jeanette, but he told her that he was not going to travel from Rockford to Chicago to visit Jeanette and that this was going to be his "last" visit with her. Rivers said that, although she gave Clarence her contact information, he never contacted her since the May 2014 court date. Rivers added that she had sent about three letters to Clarence, stating that he still had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to obtain reunification with Jeanette, and that the letters also offered him opportunities for visitation with Jeanette. Rivers, however, said that Clarence never contacted her regarding these services. Rivers confirmed that, since her assignment to this case, Clarence has neither expressed a desire to reunify with Jeanette nor requested any reunification services. Rivers added, however, that if Clarence had requested any reunification services, she would have referred him to community-based services.

         ¶ 11 At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found Georgina unfit based upon sections (b) (reasonable progress) and (m) (reasonable degree of interest), but not (p) (mental disability). 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), (m), (p) (West 2012). The trial court further found Clarence unfit based upon all grounds. After holding a best interests hearing, the trial court found that it was ...

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