Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re M.T.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

March 21, 2018

In re M.T., a Minor
v.
Malcolm T., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. Circuit No. 16-JA-132 The Honorable Kirk D. Schoenbein, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Carter and Justice Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McDADE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The State filed a juvenile petition against M.T.'s mother and respondent father claiming that M.T. was neglected. Respondent filed a motion to strike the allegations against him, and the State dismissed the allegations. Subsequently, the court adjudicated M.T. neglected, determining that the mother contributed to the injurious environment but respondent did not. At the dispositional hearing, the court determined that M.T.'s mother was unfit and that respondent was fit. However, the court adjudicated M.T. a ward of the court and appointed the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as guardian with the right to place. Respondent appeals, arguing that the appointment was improper. We vacate the trial court's dispositional order and remand for a new dispositional hearing.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 In May 2016, the State filed a juvenile petition, alleging that the minor M.T., born May 16, 2016, was neglected and requesting that M.T. be adjudicated a ward of the court. The petition stated that M.T.'s mother Jimeka R. was previously found unfit and that Jimeka reported to DCFS that M.T.'s putative father, respondent Malcolm T., was partying all the time and using cannabis. A few days later, respondent filed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. The trial court accepted the paternity and held that respondent was M.T.'s legal father. The court also ordered temporary custody to DCFS and allowed DCFS to place M.T. with respondent if it found placement was appropriate.

         ¶ 4 In June, respondent filed an answer to the petition and moved to strike the allegations against him. The State dismissed the allegations against respondent but the allegations against Jimeka remained in the petition. In August 2016, an adjudication hearing was held in which the trial court found that M.T. was neglected as a result of her injurious environment but respondent did not contribute to it.

         ¶ 5 A subsequent dispositional hearing was held on the same day. At the hearing, Lauren Grunwald, a DCFS agent, testified that M.T. had been with her father since she was born. She visited respondent's home and believed that it was appropriate and that there were no safety concerns. M.T. appeared attached to respondent, and they had a strong bond. She believed that respondent was able to take care of M.T. and that respondent had family for help and support. However, she opined that DCFS should be granted guardianship of M.T. because respondent's drug test was positive.

         ¶ 6 Respondent testified that he previously smoked cannabis heavily and that he had last used it about a day before M.T. came home from the hospital but had since quit. Respondent was born with 6/4 vision, was deemed legally blind, and was receiving disability. He had broken his eyeglasses and was in the process of getting a new pair. He may need surgery on his eyes and was willing to invest in his eye care. If his vision gets better, he would qualify for a driver's license.

         ¶ 7 The State asked the court to make M.T. a ward of the court, to appoint DCFS as guardian, to find M.T.'s mother unfit, to find respondent was fit, and to place M.T. with respondent. The State urged that respondent have a "completely clean" drug test before regaining guardianship of M.T. Respondent argued that he should have guardianship of M.T. The guardian ad litem (GAL) opined that it was in the best interest of M.T. if she was made ward of the court and DCFS was appointed guardian. The GAL believed DCFS should be guardian because respondent had previously tested positive for marijuana and had been "lackadaisical" about improving his vision.

         ¶ 8 The trial court found that respondent was a fit parent but held M.T.'s mother was unfit. It further determined that it was in the best interest of M.T. to be ward of the court and appointed DCFS as guardian with the right to place, stating "We do have a father who's very new at it and does have a health issue that needs to be addressed. And then also, the Court needs some confidence that the marijuana smoking is conquered. So I think it's in the best interest that the guardian initially be DCFS." It ordered respondent to complete a service plan to "correct the conditions which caused the child to be in foster care." The court explained that the goal was "to make a transition of the child into [respondent's] care." The court further stated: "And given that you're a new parent, I want a period of time where I can have some confidence that there is no problem. It appears that that's the way it's going to be. So I fully expect that if everything goes well, the next court date we can close this case out and have you as the guardian." Respondent appealed.

         ¶ 9 In December, a permanency hearing was held. In the permanency report, Grunwald stated that M.T. was residing with respondent and that he was providing safe housing. A November 14, 2016, status report showed that M.T. had lived with respondent from May 2016 to November 2016.

         ¶ 10 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 Respondent argues that the trial court improperly appointed DCFS as guardian with the right to place despite its determination that respondent was a fit parent in accordance with section 2-27 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-27 (West 2016)). Respondent contends that awarding DCFS guardianship with the right to place commits the child to DCFS ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.