from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit No.
14-JA-317, Peoria County, Illinois. The Honorable Katherine
Gorman Hubler, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Carter and Justice Wright
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 The State filed a petition for termination of parental
rights against respondent alleging that he was a depraved
person pursuant to section 1(D)(i) of the Adoption Act (Act)
(750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2014)). The trial court granted
the State's petition, finding respondent unfit. It
subsequently terminated his parental rights. We reverse and
3 In December 2014, the State filed a juvenile petition,
alleging that P.J., born July 7, 2014, was a neglected minor,
and the trial court adjudicated P.J. neglected. In November
2016, the State filed a petition to terminate parental
rights. Count I alleged that April J., P.J.'s mother, was
an unfit person because she failed to make reasonable
progress toward the return of P.J. under section 1(D)(m) of
the Act (id. § 1(D)(m)); count II alleged that
respondent Jacob R., P.J.'s father, was an unfit person
because he failed to make reasonable progress toward the
return of P.J. under section 1(D)(m); and count III alleged
that respondent was an unfit person because he was depraved
under section 1(D)(i) of the Act (id. §
1(D)(i)). The State later dismissed count II.
4 At the adjudication hearing, the State submitted an exhibit
of respondent's criminal history, including a 2001
possession of methamphetamine manufacturing chemical
conviction (Class 2 felony), a 2002 possession of
methamphetamine manufacturing chemical conviction (Class 2
felony), a 2005 possession of methamphetamine manufacturing
material conviction (Class 1 felony), a 2010 possession of
methamphetamine manufacturing chemical conviction (Class 3
felony), and a 2014 federal conspiracy to manufacture
methamphetamine conviction (felony).
5 Respondent submitted an exhibit of his inmate education
data transcript wherein it showed a list of courses he
attended and completed while incarcerated. He also testified
that he was currently incarcerated at the Thomson facility
within the Bureau of Prisons. He initially stated that he
would be released in 2023 but later stated that his earliest
release date was 2020 or 2021. He had been prescreened to
participate in a drug treatment program but could not enroll
until he had four years or less remaining on his sentence. He
attended a "small business planning" class, a
drawing class, a financial analysis class, an
"entrepreneur opportunity" class, a "highly
effective life" class, a "decoding recidivism"
class, and a career preparation class. He received his GED
while he was incarcerated in 2004. He also participated in
inpatient drug treatment while incarcerated from 2003 to
2004. Respondent planned to sell his portrait drawings once
he was released from prison.
6 The trial court determined that respondent was depraved,
"And the State has presented evidence that your most
recent felony was in 2014, and there are 4 others. Now, that
allows for you to try and rebut the presumption by clear and
convincing evidence. And I do commend you for what you have
done, but I don't think you've rebutted the
presumption, and I'm going to find that the State has
proven the petition."
7 Thereafter, a best interest hearing was held. The court
determined that it was in the best interest of P.J. to
terminate respondent's parental rights. Respondent
9 Respondent claims that the trial court erred when it found
him unfit pursuant to section 1(D)(i) because (1) it applied
the wrong standard of proof to his burden of rebutting the
presumption of depravity and (2) he presented evidence that
rebutted the presumption of depravity.
10 Respondent did not object or file a posttrial motion on
this issue. The State argues that respondent's claim is
forfeited or, alternatively, suggests that this court may
consider respondent's unpreserved error under the plain
error rule. A party must object at trial and file a posttrial
motion to preserve an alleged error for review. In re
William H., 407 Ill.App.3d 858, 869-70 (2011); In re
Christopher J., 338 Ill.App.3d 1057, 1058 (2003). If a
party fails to raise an issue in the trial court, it is
forfeited and may not be raised for the first time on appeal.
In re Marriage of Baecker, 2012 IL App (3d) 110660,
¶ 20. The plain error doctrine allows this court to
consider forfeited issues when a clear or obvious error