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In re S. H. and N.W.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

February 15, 2018

In re S.H. and N.W., Minors,
v.
Secreia R., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Nos. 17-JA-3 and 17-JA-4 Peoria County, Illinois, Honorable Katherine S. Gorman Hubler, Judge, Presiding.

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

          OPINION

          CARTER PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Respondent, Secreia R., appeals, arguing the circuit court failed to sufficiently articulate a basis for its determination that respondent was unfit. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 The State filed two petitions for adjudication of wardship regarding respondent's children, S.H. and N.W. However, before discussing these petitions, we first discuss the related petitions that were previously filed regarding respondent's other children. Those petitions were pending and ongoing at the time the State filed the wardship petitions that are the subject of this appeal.

         ¶ 4 The petitions for adjudication of wardship in the related cases alleged that respondent's other children were neglected in that they lived in an injurious environment. The petitions alleged several instances of domestic violence between respondent and Lance R. (N.W.'s father), which occurred in the presence of the children. The petitions also alleged Lance's criminal history including drug convictions and domestic violence convictions.

         ¶ 5 The adjudicatory order entered in the related cases reflected that the children were found neglected due to an injurious environment, and the dispositional order shows that respondent was found unfit based on the allegations of past domestic violence and respondent's attitude as to how it affected the children. Respondent was ordered to obtain a drug and alcohol assessment, perform two random drug drops per month, and complete counseling to address several issues, including choice of partner, relational conflict, and anger. This cause continued to permanency review hearings and remained ongoing at the time the State filed the petitions that are the subject of this appeal.

         ¶ 6 The petitions for adjudication of wardship that are the subject of this case alleged the same instances of domestic abuse between respondent and Lance that were alleged in the already ongoing proceedings in the earlier cases. However, the petitions in this case involved respondent's two other children, S.H. and N.W.[1] The petitions in this case included the additional allegation that respondent was previously found unfit as to her other children and that there had been no subsequent finding of fitness in the other proceedings. The petitions alleged that respondent had not completed services that would result in a finding of fitness. Additionally, the new petitions also alleged that respondent had resumed a relationship with Lance.

         ¶ 7 The circuit court entered temporary shelter care orders. Subsequently, respondent filed answers to the petitions. In her answers, respondent admitted to the allegations of her prior unfitness and the allegations of domestic violence. In addition, respondent stipulated that the State would call witnesses who would support the allegation that she failed to complete the required services to restore her fitness in the ongoing proceedings in the related case.

         ¶ 8 The cause proceeded to an adjudicatory hearing. At the hearing, the State informed the court that the petitions in this case were based primarily on the finding of unfitness in the related cases that remained pending. The State presented copies of the orders entered in the related proceedings as exhibits without objection. The exhibits included the previous petitions for adjudication of wardship, the adjudication orders, and the dispositional orders. The State argued that the only thing the exhibits did not show was related to the allegation in the present petitions that respondent had resumed a relationship with Lance. The State told the circuit court that if the case went to a full hearing, it would present evidence of communication between respondent and Lance. The circuit court asked respondent's counsel for a response to the State's argument, but counsel declined.

         ¶ 9 Ultimately, the circuit court found the petitions were proven by the preponderance of the evidence and found that S.H. and N.W. were neglected. The court continued the cause for a dispositional hearing, which was scheduled to be heard at the same time as the permanency review hearing in the related petitions.

         ¶ 10 At the dispositional hearing in this case (and the permanency review hearing on the related petitions), respondent told the court that she went to counseling on a weekly basis but would return to counseling on a monthly basis in the future. The dispositional hearing report indicated that respondent had participated in visitation and had made progress with her counseling goals. However, the report stated that respondent did not agree with performing two random drug drops per month. Respondent indicated that because she did not have a substance abuse problem, she did not plan on continuing with the drug drops. According to the report, respondent completed one drug test (which did not show the presence of drugs), but respondent failed to complete the subsequent drug test she was required to perform. The report ultimately recommended that the circuit court find the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) made reasonable efforts and that respondent attend individual counseling, follow recommendations, engage in visitation, maintain stable housing, cooperate with DCFS, sign any release of information, and provide two random drug drops per month.

         ¶ 11 A second dispositional report regarding S.H. included additional information. According to this dispositional report, at a child and family team meeting with Shawon, respondent was unable to keep her composure and ...


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