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In re Chance H.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

June 21, 2019

WANDA W., Respondent-Appellant. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 17 JA 632 17 JA 633 17 JA 634 17 JA 635 17 JA 636 17 JA 637 17 JA 638 Honorable Maxwell Griffin, Jr., Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Rochford and Justice Hoffman concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          HALL JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 On November 14, 2017, following an adjudicatory hearing in the circuit court of Cook County, the court adjudicated Chance H., Tambi W., Chadd H., Cheney H., Niasia W., Charles R. and Raekwon W., as neglected children due to an injurious environment as codified in section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2016). The court further determined that it was in the best interests of the children that they be made wards of the court, and guardianship of the children was placed with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). 705 ILCS 405/2-27 (West 2016). Respondent, Wanda W., the mother of the seven children who are the subjects of this appeal, appeals the adjudication determination orders from the adjudicatory hearing.[1] We affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On June 29, 2017, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship in the circuit court of Cook County of the seven children: Charles R., born October 7, 2001; Raekwon W., born February 12, 2003; Niasia W., born March 5, 2004; Cheney H., born May 24, 2005; Chadd H., born July 8, 2007; Chance H., born January 10, 2009; and Tambi W., born December 18, 2013. The petition alleged that the children were neglected based on an injurious environment pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2016)) and abused based on a substantial risk of physical injury pursuant to section 2-3(2)(ii) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(ii) (West 2016)), stating that respondent had four prior indicated reports for substance misuse, inadequate supervision and substantial risk of physical injury/environment injurious to health/welfare by neglect. On or about November 15, 2016, an intact case was opened, which was the second time intact services[2] had been offered to this family. Respondent was non-compliant with services including completing a substance abuse and mental health assessment. Two of the children reported that respondent was using illegal substances. Respondent had been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. Respondent also threatened to harm some of the children.

         ¶ 4 A temporary custody hearing was held on June 29, 2017, with respondent present. To support the petition, the State presented testimony from the caseworker, Elysyka Beals, and investigator, Shimika Douglas. The court also heard testimony from 14-year-old Raekwon, who stated that he did not feel safe with respondent. He also testified that Niasia was 13 years old.

         ¶ 5 The trial court found probable cause that five of the children (Cheney, Chance, Chadd, Charles and Tambi) were abused and neglected, but did not find urgent necessity to remove them from respondent's care. The court found urgent necessity to remove Raekwon, who was placed in the custody of Dexter Leggins, a school staff member, with whom he had been living for a short time prior to the filing of the petitions, and Niasia, whose whereabouts were unknown. The other five children were allowed to remain in respondent's custody under a protective order pursuant to section 2-25 of the Act. 705 ILCS 405/2-25 (West 2016). The order required respondent to engage in substance abuse services and counseling, a mental health assessment and random drug screening.

         ¶ 6 At a July 6, 2017, status hearing, it was revealed that JCAP[3] recommended respondent complete inpatient residential drug treatment, but respondent declined referrals to all levels of treatment.

         ¶ 7 A subsequent temporary custody hearing was held on July 14, 2017, regarding Niasia and Raekwon. Niasia wanted to return to respondent so that she could ensure that her siblings were safe. Raekwon's whereabouts were unknown. Beals testified regarding a substance abuse and mental health assessment respondent engaged in after the first temporary custody hearing. Douglas testified to her unsuccessful attempts to see the children in respondent's home and that she asked respondent to bring the children to court, but respondent refused and made threats to Douglas. Douglas made a referral for respondent to have a mental health assessment in June 2017, and eventually it was agreed that the assessment would be done in respondent's home. Respondent was eventually assessed in her home, but the report was based entirely on respondent's self-report.

         ¶ 8 Respondent testified that she had transportation issues and that the children who were not home when Douglas visited were at the pool and were old enough to be there without her. The court ordered that the order of protection be kept in place and that DCFS would see the children before July 21, 2017.

         ¶ 9 On July 25, 2017, a child protection warrant was issued for Raekwon and Leggins' guardianship was vacated. At an August 17, 2017, status hearing it was reported that respondent missed her appointment for substance abuse treatment.

         ¶ 10 On August 18, 2017, the public guardian filed an emergency motion to vacate the order of protection entered on June 29, 2017. The motion alleged that on August 16, 2017, Ada S. McKinley social worker Elyse Grayson-Lewis reported that she went to respondent's home to do an integrated social assessment. Raekwon and Cheney, were in the home and Grayson-Lewis could smell marijuana. An argument ensued between respondent and Raekwon, and the fight escalated to the threat of physical violence at which point respondent grabbed a large stick. Grayson-Lewis was unable to diffuse the situation and called the police. After Raekwon left, respondent told Grayson-Lewis that she was going to boil some water and throw it on him in self-defense. A hotline call was made, and an investigation into the matter was pending. ¶ 11 Grayson-Lewis testified that when the case originally came into court for temporary custody, it was a sequence "R.[4]" Since that time, there were "S" and "T" sequences, in addition to the most recent incident, which was classified as a "U" sequence. The "T" sequence was opened when the police were called to the home and Charles was transported to the emergency room and later recommended for a partial hospitalization program. Grayson-Lewis testified that, in front of police officers, respondent threatened to kill Charles if she had to take him back into her home. That matter was still pending investigation.

         ¶ 12 Grayson-Lewis further testified that under the order of protection, respondent was required to participate in a substance abuse assessment and follow all reasonable recommendations. Respondent was assessed on July 5, 2017, by JCAP, but she declined the inpatient services and the offered Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) coach. ¶ 13 After an evidentiary hearing which occurred during multiple court dates of August 21 and August 22, 2017, and September 15, 2017, the trial court denied the public guardian's emergency motion but did set an adjudicatory hearing for October 25, 2017. ¶ 14 The adjudicatory hearing began on October 25, 2017.

         ¶ 15 Beals testified that she was the intact worker for the family from November 2016 until June 2017. She testified that on December 1, 2016, respondent informed her that she wanted Raekwon out of her home because of his disrespect. Beals in turn provided respondent with numerous referrals to seek treatment for Raekwon. On January 5, 2017, when she visited respondent at the shelter where she was staying, respondent told her she had contacted an agency for mental health services for the children, and they told her the waitlist was two months long, which Beals told her was normal.

         ¶ 16 Beals further testified that she visited respondent several times in February 2017 and provided her with bus cards to get to her service appointments and a 90-day service plan. On February 21, 2017, respondent told Beals she did not make appointments for Raekwon and Cheney, so they called together and made an April 2017 appointment. In March 2017, the family was housed on the west side of Chicago, and Beals visited them every week or two. Respondent did not go to the April appointment for Raekwon because he was not home, but respondent did not indicate why she did not take Cheney.

         ¶ 17 Beals made a new referral for substance abuse treatment for Raekwon, and spoke with him on April 26, 2017, at Melody Elementary School where he and Niasia attended. Raekwon told Beals that his brother Charles hit him in the face, and respondent had done nothing. Respondent also threw away his clothes over spring break. When asked about the altercation between Raekwon and Charles, respondent told Beals that she had done what she could to protect the other children in the home and that she hit Charles with a stick and "maced" him. Respondent also admitted that she had not made appointments for mental health assessments for Raekwon and Cheney, and a second appointment was made. On May 17, 2017, Beals received a call from respondent about an altercation with Raekwon because he was trying to get clothes from the house. Respondent told Beals that she told Raekwon she would hurt him if he came back to the house.

         ¶ 18 On May 30, 2017, Beals again spoke with Raekwon at school, and he told her he was living with Leggins because respondent was not letting him in the house. Raekwon also told Beals that respondent was using PCP again and continuously leaving the children home alone. Beals also spoke with Niasia at that time, who also stated that respondent was using PCP and that she threatened to harm her if she told DCFS anything. Niasia stated that respondent would lock herself in her bedroom for an hour or two, and when she came out, it smelled like drugs. Beals further testified that Niasia indicated that respondent left home on May 28, 2017, at 10 or 11 p.m., and did not return until the following day at 3 p.m. There were no other adults in the home and respondent told Niasia that she would kill the children herself so that she did not go to jail for choking Raekwon.

         ¶ 19 Beals requested that respondent do a urine screen for drugs on May 31, 2017, but respondent refused, even after being told that it would be counted as a positive drug screen. Beals contacted Shimika Douglas, an investigator who could look into the new allegations that were marked a sequence "R." Beals asked respondent to comply with a drug drop on May 31, 2017, but respondent failed to comply. Respondent had also been asked to complete substance abuse treatment and comply with a mental health assessment but failed to complete either task. Beals stated that she was concerned about the safety of the minors and took ...

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