from the Circuit Court of Kane County, Nos. 14-JA-93,
14-JA-94, 14-JA-95 Honorable William Parkhurst, Judge,
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McLaren and Zenoff concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Respondent, S. K., appeals from the Kane County circuit
court's order terminating his parental rights to his
three minor children, Brandon K., Nathan K., and Justin K. In
the underlying criminal action, a jury found respondent
guilty of the first-degree murder of the minors' mother
(see 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2014)), based on evidence of
strangulation. Respondent's direct appeal from the
conviction is pending in this court.
2 The trial court found that the State had shown by clear and
convincing evidence that respondent was unfit, based on (1)
depravity (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2014)); (2) failure
to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minors
to him during the nine-month period from June 26, 2015, to
March 26, 2016 (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2014)); and
(3) failure to make reasonable efforts to correct the
conditions that were the basis for the removal of the minors
from him during the nine-month period from June 26, 2015, to
March 26, 2016 (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2014)).
However, the trial court also found that the State did not
prove respondent unfit for failing to make reasonable efforts
from September 25, 2014, to June 25, 2015 (see 750 ILCS
50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2014)). The trial court then determined
that termination of respondent's parental rights was in
the minors' best interests. Respondent does not contest
the best-interests determination but argues that the evidence
does not support the court's finding of unfitness. We
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 A. Adjudication and Disposition
5 Brandon was born on September 1, 2004, Nathan was born on
April 28, 2007, and Justin was born on December 8, 2008. On
July 6, 2014, the Department of Children and Family Services
(DCFS) received a hotline call stating that the minors'
mother was found deceased under suspicious circumstances. At
the time of their mother's death, the boys were nine,
seven, and five years old, respectively.
6 At a temporary-custody hearing on July 21, 2014, respondent
stipulated that, on July 11, 2014, he was charged with two
counts of first-degree murder for the mother's death and
was incarcerated in the Kane County jail on a $1.5 million
bond. The court found that probable cause and urgent and
immediate necessity existed for the removal of the minors.
DCFS was granted custody, and the minors were placed with
their maternal grandfather.
7 On September 24, 2014, the trial court adjudicated the
minors dependent. See 705 ILCS 405/2-4(1)(a) (West 2014). On
October 27, 2014, respondent was found unfit, unable, and
unwilling to care for and protect the minors, and the minors
were made wards of the court. The initial goal was for the
minors to return home within 12 months. The minors remained
in the care of their maternal grandfather.
8 B. Permanency Reviews
9 1. November 2014 through January 2015
10 On January 20, 2015, the trial court conducted a
permanency review. The court heard evidence that
respondent's criminal trial was scheduled for that
spring. Christina Divito, a caseworker from the Youth Service
Bureau (YSB), reported that respondent was cooperating with
DCFS to the extent that he could while in custody. Divito
scheduled an appointment that week for respondent to sign
various consent forms and complete an ...