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In re AL.S.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

March 7, 2017

In re AL. S. and AN. S., Minors
v.
Glen Christians, Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 16JA18 Honorable Brett N. Olmstead, Judge Presiding.

          KNECHT JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion, Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KNECHT JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In May 2016, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging Al. S. (born April 9, 2016) and An. S. (born April 10, 2015) were neglected children as defined by the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a), (b) (West 2014)). Samantha S., born in 1998, is the minors' biological mother, and respondent, Glen Christians, is the biological father of An. S. The record fails to include respondent's paternity results for Al. S.

         ¶ 2 In July 2016, Samantha S. and respondent admitted and stipulated to the State's petition. The trial court entered an adjudicatory order finding the minors to be neglected. Following a September 2016 dispositional hearing, the court (1) made both minors wards of the court, (2) granted guardianship of the minors to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), (3) found respondent unfit to care for either minor, (4) found Samantha S. unfit to care for Al. S., (5) found it was in Al. S.'s best interest to grant custody to DCFS, (6) found Samantha S. fit, willing, and able to care for An. S., and (7) found it was in An. S.'s best interest to allow Samantha S. to retain custody.

         ¶ 3 Respondent appeals, arguing the trial court erred by allowing Samantha S. to retain custody of An. S. Respondent maintains the court should have transferred custody to DCFS. We affirm.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 A. State's Petition

         ¶ 6 In May 2016, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging the minors were neglected. At the time the petition was filed, Samantha S. was 18 years old and respondent was 20 years old. Count I of the petition alleged Al. S. was a neglected child as defined by section 2-3(1)(a) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 2014)) because she was not receiving the proper or necessary remedial care when residing with Samantha S. and, as a result, was medically diagnosed with failure to thrive. Count II alleged An. S. was a neglected child as defined by section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2014)) because she was subjected to an injurious environment when residing with Samantha S. given Al. S.'s diagnosis. Count III alleged Al. S. and An. S. were neglected children as defined by section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2014)) because they were subjected to an injurious environment when residing with Samantha S. or respondent due to their exposure to domestic violence.

         ¶ 7 B. Shelter-Care Hearing

         ¶ 8 Following the filing of the State's petition, the trial court held a shelter-care hearing. The court appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minors and admonished respondent and Samantha S. of their rights to be present, to examine pertinent court files and records, to cross-examine witnesses, to present evidence, to have subpoenas issued, and to testify.

         ¶ 9 The trial court was presented with a DCFS shelter-care report. It also took judicial notice of Champaign County case No. 15-OP-500, wherein Samantha S. had obtained an order of protection against respondent on April 26, 2016. The State elicited testimony from a DCFS investigator and an intact family services case manager. The State also introduced Al. S.'s medical records, which were admitted into evidence without objection. The following is a summary of the evidence and testimony as it relates to Samantha S. and the minors.

         ¶ 10 On January 28, 2016, an intact family services case was opened after a domestic violence incident occurred between Samantha S. and her mother. Samantha S. was initially uncooperative with signing paperwork but later became compliant. Samantha S.'s behavior was described as unpredictable and at times disrespectful. Samantha S. was directed to attend counseling, a homebound school program, and prenatal doctor's appointments, all of which she began. Samantha S. also disclosed an additional domestic violence incident occurred between her and respondent the previous fall. The intact family services case manager maintained weekly visits with Samantha S. and An. S.

         ¶ 11 In March 2016, Samantha S.'s attendance at counseling became inconsistent due to a high-risk pregnancy. Following Al. S.'s April 2016 birth, Samantha S. was discharged from counseling for failure to contact. Samantha S. was never given an additional referral to counseling. The case manager believed Samantha ...


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