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In re D.T.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

July 13, 2017

In re D.T., a Minor
v.
Sehrika S., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-17-0120 Circuit No. 14-JA-184 Honorable Katherine Gorman, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CARTER JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The State filed a petition for termination of parental rights against respondent, Sehrika S., alleging respondent failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minor, D.T., during a nine-month period following adjudication of D.T.'s neglect, pursuant to section 1(D)(m)(ii) of the Adoption Act. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2014). The trial court found respondent unfit pursuant to section 1(D)(m)(ii) of the Adoption Act and that it was in the best interest of D.T. to terminate respondent's parental rights. Respondent appealed, arguing the trial court erred in finding her unfit. We affirm the trial court's finding of unfitness.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On August 4, 2014, the State filed a juvenile petition and subsequently amended the petition to allege D.T. was neglected and that his environment was injurious to his welfare. In the petition, the State alleged (1) D.T. was born on August 2, 2013, and an umbilical cord and meconium sample taken from D.T. tested positive for phencyclidine (PCP); (2) respondent also tested positive for cannabis and PCP at the time of D.T.'s birth; (3) on July 30, 2014, while respondent was bathing D.T., she turned away to talk on the phone and D.T. became submerged underwater, stopped breathing, and turned blue; (4) respondent had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, was not taking her medications, and reported that she would harm D.T. if she was not medicated; (5) on July 30, 2014, respondent was sent for a drug drop, which she did not complete due to a lack of identification, at which time she left the building, walked into a parking lot, pulled her pants down, and urinated; (6) on August 4, 2014, the respondent received a ride from her paramour (E.W.) to a location where she entered a vehicle with men she barely knew and later reported being sexually assaulted by one of the men in the vehicle; (7) E.W. had been convicted in 1996 for predatory criminal sexual assault; and (8) respondent had a criminal record that included criminal trespass to land (2014), DUI (2009), resisting police officers (2007), and a vehicle code offense (2007). The juvenile petition further alleged that D.T.'s father, Trechon H., had a criminal history, which included possession of a stolen vehicle (2014) and DUI (2012). The petition requested that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) be made guardian of D.T. and that D.T. be made a ward of the court. On August 5, 2014, the trial court found it was a matter of immediate and urgent necessity that the minor be placed in temporary shelter care for his protection.

         ¶ 4 During the adjudication hearing on December 2, 2014, the trial court found the State had proven D.T. was neglected due to PCP found in his umbilical cord and meconium sample. The trial court indicated that the State had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that D.T. was neglected as a result of an injurious environment, which was not a result of physical abuse. On December 23, 2014, at the dispositional hearing, the trial court found the respondent to be unfit to care for, protect, train, or discipline D.T. or was unwilling to do so based on the contents of the State's petition. D.T. was made a ward of the court, and DCFS was named guardian of D.T. The trial court ordered respondent to execute authorizations for the release of information and fully cooperate with DCFS, complete a substance abuse assessment where respondent would self-report and comply with treatment recommendations, perform two random drug screens per month, complete a parenting class; obtain a mental health exam and comply with treatment recommendations, obtain a psychological and psychiatric examination and comply with recommendations, resume psychiatric services, maintain stable housing, provide DCFS with any change of address within three days, provide DCFS with any and all information in relation to anyone DCFS believed had a relationship with respondent that would impact the minor, and to visit with the minor as designated by DCFS.

         ¶ 5 On August 18, 2015, during the initial permanency review hearing, the trial court held that respondent's efforts had been mixed and that the agencies had made reasonable efforts. The trial court ordered supervised visitation to be increased for an assessment of respondent's parenting abilities. Additionally, the trial court changed the permanency goal from a goal of 22 ("[t]he minor will be in short-term care with a continued goal to return home within a period not to exceed one year, where the progress of the parent or parents is substantial giving particular consideration to the age and individual needs of the minor" (705 ILCS 405/2-28(2)(B) (West 2014))) to a goal of 23 ("[t]he minor will be in short-term care with a continued goal to return home pending a status hearing" (705 ILCS 405/2-28(2)(B-1) (West 2014))).

         ¶ 6 A second permanency review hearing took place on February 9, 2016. The State showed that respondent committed a felony drug offense, which resulted in respondent having been incarcerated within a month of the previous permanency review hearing. Largely as a result of her incarceration, respondent only attended 7 of possible 22 visits with D.T. (respondent missed two visits because the agency was closed). The State also showed that respondent was unsuccessfully discharged from counseling due to her poor attendance. The trial court found that respondent had not made reasonable efforts toward the return home of D.T., noting respondent had admitted to drug use and unlawfully possessing a controlled substance. The permanency goal was changed from a goal of 23 (short-term care with a continued goal to return home pending a status hearing (705 ILCS 405/2-28(2)(B-1) (West 2014))) to a goal of 24 ("[t]he minor will be in substitute care pending court determination on termination of parental rights" (705 ILCS 405/2-28(2)(C) (West 2014))).

         ¶ 7 On August 12, 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. The State's petition alleged that respondent was unfit pursuant to section 1(D)(m)(ii) of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2014)), in that respondent had failed to make reasonable progress toward the return home of the minor during any nine-month period following the adjudication of neglect, with the specified nine-month period being October 30, 2015, through July 30, 2016. Respondent filed a response denying the allegations against her in the termination petition.

         ¶ 8 On January 3, 2017, the trial court conducted a hearing to adjudicate respondent's fitness. Shawn Miller, testified that he was the only caseworker that had handled respondent's case. Miller testified respondent maintained an apartment in Peoria that was suitable for a child but respondent did not live there between October 2015 and December 2015 because she was living in Chicago. Miller also testified respondent was not maintaining employment but acknowledged respondent was pregnant, which would impact her opportunities to obtain employment. Between October 30, 2015, and February 2, 2016, respondent only attended 2 of 10 scheduled visits with D.T. and missed a DCFS case review. Visitation had not been increased as previously ordered on August 18, 2015, due to respondent's incarceration in Chicago for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Respondent attended all monthly visitations with D.T. from February 9, 2016, through July 30, 2016.

         ¶ 9 Miller indicated that respondent had completed two drug and alcohol assessments and, based on respondent's self-reporting, no treatment was recommended. Miller further testified respondent did not complete any drug drops between October 30, 2015, and January 5, 2016. Between the end of January 2016 through the end of July 2016, respondent completed three drug drops that came back negative and one that tested positive for PCP and cannabis. In July 2016, respondent gave birth to another child whose umbilical cord tested positive for PCP.

         ¶ 10 The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that respondent had not made reasonable progress within the nine-month period of October 30, 2015, through July 30, 2016, and found respondent to be unfit pursuant to section 1(D)(m)(ii) of the Adoption Act. The trial court noted that respondent was not compliant with random drug drops, attending counseling, attending to obligations while incarcerated in Chicago, and that respondent had given birth to another child whose umbilical cord sample tested positive for PCP. On ...


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