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In re L.W.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

March 21, 2018

In re L.W., a Minor
v.
Jeremie G., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois. Circuit No. 09-JA-128 The Honorable Kirk D. Schoenbein, Judge, presiding.

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

          OPINION

          CARTER PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 In the context of a juvenile neglect proceeding, respondent, Jeremie G., filed a supplemental petition to reinstate wardship (petition) over his minor child, L.W., so that respondent could establish that he was no longer dispositionally unfit as a parent. The State and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) opposed respondent's petition, and the guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor child supported the petition. After a hearing, the trial court denied the petition. Respondent appeals. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Respondent and Sonja W. were the biological parents of the minor child, L.W., who was born in September 2007. In September 2009, the State filed a juvenile petition alleging that L.W. was a neglected minor due to an injurious environment. After hearings were held on the petition, the trial court found that L.W. was a neglected minor, made L.W. a ward of the court, found that respondent was dispositionally unfit as a parent, found that Sonja W. was dispositionally fit as a parent, and awarded guardianship of L.W. to DCFS. L.W.'s placement was kept with Sonja W.

         ¶ 4 At the first and second permanency review hearings in September 2010 and May 2011, at which respondent did not appear, the trial court found that respondent had not made reasonable efforts or progress due to a lack of interest and cooperation and that respondent was still unfit as a parent. At the conclusion of the May 2011 hearing, the trial court returned guardianship of the child to Sonja W., terminated wardship, and closed the case.

         ¶ 5 More than five years later, in December 2016, respondent filed a pro se petition to restore his fitness as a parent. The trial court appointed an attorney for respondent. In February 2017, respondent's attorney filed a supplemental petition to reinstate wardship (the petition at issue in the present case) pursuant to section 2-33(1) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-33(1) (West 2016)), which provided, in pertinent part, that:

"(1) Any time prior to a minor's 18th birthday, pursuant to a supplemental petition filed under this Section, the court may reinstate wardship and open a previously closed case when:
(a) wardship and guardianship under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 was vacated in conjunction with the appointment of a private guardian under the Probate Act of 1975;
(b) the minor is not presently a ward of the court under Article II of this Act nor is there a petition for adjudication of wardship pending on behalf of the minor; and
(c) it is in the minor's best interest that wardship be reinstated." 705 ILCS 405/2-33(1) (West 2016).

         Respondent alleged in the petition that, after warship was terminated in the present case, he had completed several services and had put himself in a position to be found dispositionally fit as a parent. Respondent alleged further that he had maintained his relationship with L.W., he had continued to have regular supervised visits with L.W., and it was in L.W.'s best interest to reinstate wardship. Respondent also sought leave to file a motion for a finding of fitness, which respondent had attached to the petition, if the trial court granted respondent's petition to reinstate wardship.

         ¶ 6 The State filed a response, alleging that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to rule upon the petition because the facts in this particular case did not comply with the requirements of section 2-33(1)(a) of the Act. DCFS filed a motion to dismiss respondent's petition on ...


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