In re AL. P., AN. P., AS. M., and ST. J., Minors The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
Angel P., Respondent-Appellant.
from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 16JA7 Honorable Kevin
P. Fitzgerald, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Knecht and Holder White concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 In February 2016, the State filed a petition for
adjudication of wardship, alleging that respondent's
minor children, St. J. (born April 28, 2003), As. M. (born
April 15, 2008), An. P. (born November 25, 2013), and Al. P.
(born April 7, 2015) were neglected minors under section
2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court
Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2016)). In March 2016, the
trial court adjudicated all four children neglected.
2 In December 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate
respondent's parental rights to all four children. In
February 2017, at the fitness portion of the termination
hearing, respondent stipulated that she was an unfit parent.
3 In May 2017, at the best interest portion of the
termination hearing, the parties presented evidence and
rested their cases, and the trial court then asked to hear
additional evidence from St. J.'s therapist about whether
St. J. wanted to be adopted by his foster family. After so
requesting, the trial court continued the best interest
hearing. When that hearing resumed, the guardian ad
litem (GAL) presented testimony from the therapist, and
the court found that it was in St. J.'s best interest to
terminate respondent's parental rights.
4 Respondent appeals from the judgment terminating her
parental rights only as to St. J., arguing that (1) the trial
court violated respondent's right to due process by
requesting additional evidence at the best interest hearing
after the parties had rested their respective cases and (2)
the court's decision to terminate respondent's
parental rights to St. J. was against the manifest weight of
the evidence. We disagree and affirm.
5 I. BACKGROUND
6 A. Proceedings on the Neglect Petition
7 In February 2016, the State filed a petition for
adjudication of wardship, alleging that respondent's four
minor children were neglected minors under section 2-3(1)(b)
of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West
2016)). Those four children were St. J., As. M., An. P., and
Al. P. Specifically, the State alleged that the minors were
living in an environment injurious to their welfare because
respondent and the minors' respective fathers had
unresolved issues of domestic violence, anger management, and
alcohol or substance abuse.
8 After a February 2016 shelter care hearing, the trial court
placed the children in the temporary guardianship of the
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
In March 2016, the court conducted an adjudicatory hearing
and found all four minors neglected because of
respondent's unresolved issues of "alcohol and/or
substance abuse." After a June 2016 dispositional
hearing, the court adjudicated all four minors wards of the
court and placed them in the guardianship of DCFS with
authority to place them.
9 B. Proceedings on the Petition To Terminate Parental Rights
10 In December 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate
respondent's parental rights as to all four minors.
111. The February 2017 Fitness Portion of the Termination
12 At the February 2017 fitness portion of the termination
hearing, respondent stipulated that she was unfit for failing
to make reasonable progress toward the return of her children
during the nine-month period from March 22, 2016, to December
22, 2016. The State presented a factual basis, which included
an allegation that police responded to incidents involving
respondent in June 2016 and December 2016.
13 The trial court accepted the stipulation and found
14 2. The Best Interest Portion of the Termination
15 In May 2017, the trial court began the best interest
portion of the termination hearing. The court stated that in
addition to testimony, the court would consider various
reports that had been presented to the court in earlier
proceedings, such as police incident summary reports, and the
court would also consider a permanency review report and a
best interest report.
16 a. The Best-Interest Report
17 The May 2017 best interest report prepared by the
court-appointed special advocate (CASA) stated that in June
2016, St. J. was placed with his father, Stephen J., in
Texas. Stephen J. later requested that St. J. return to
Illinois. In December 2016, St. J. was placed in a foster
home in Illinois. St. J. maintained occasional phone contact
with Stephen J.
18 Regarding respondent's service plan, she had failed to
do the following: maintain continuous employment, obtain
independent housing, avoid domestic violence situations, and
maintain sobriety. The best interest report indicated that
St. J. felt secure and valued in his foster placement and had
formed an attachment with his foster father. St. J. reported
feeling at home with his foster family. CASA recommended that
it was in St. J.'s best interest to terminate
respondent's parental rights.
19 b. Other Evidence
20 Bloomington police officer Benjamin Smith testified that
on March 27, 2017, he responded to a report of domestic
violence involving respondent and Frederick Childs. When
Smith arrived, he could tell that respondent was intoxicated.
Respondent told Smith she had consumed some beer and seven
shots of vodka. Respondent was living with Childs for a few
days and described her relationship with him as "on and
off." Childs became upset when respondent received a
phone call from an ex-boyfriend. She and Childs began
arguing, and Childs punched her twice in the face. Smith
arrested respondent after she admitted throwing rocks to
break two windows of Childs's apartment.
21 Todd Smith testified that he was a mental health counselor
who provided domestic violence, as well as general,
counseling to respondent beginning in June 2016. He performed
a domestic violence assessment and determined that respondent
required domestic violence treatment. Respondent completed
that treatment in January 2017. Respondent told Todd Smith
that she was trying to stop drinking alcohol but relapsed in
July 2016, October 2016, and March 2017.
22 Todd Smith testified further that respondent told him
about an incident of domestic violence that occurred between
Childs and respondent in March 2017. Todd Smith testified
that by throwing rocks through Childs's windows,
respondent had ...