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In re J.S.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

July 12, 2019

In re J.S., a Minor
Cynthia S., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 17 JA 1046 Honorable Nicholas Geanopoulos, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Amy P. Campanelli and Greg Koster, of Office of the Public Defender Office of Cook County, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Charles P. Golbert, Kass A. Plain and Mary Brigid Hayes, of Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, of Chicago, for appellee.

          Kimberly M. Foxx, Alan J. Spellberg, Gina DiVito and Leslie Billings, of Office of the Cook County State's Attorney, of Chicago, for appellee

          JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Delort and Justice Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Respondent, Cynthia S., appeals the circuit court's determination that it had jurisdiction to rule on the State's petition for adjudication of wardship under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (750 ILCS 36/201 (West 2016)). On appeal, Cynthia contends the trial court erred in finding it had jurisdiction where she had established her residency in Indiana when J.S. was born. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 JURISDICTION

         ¶ 3 After a finding of neglect, the trial court adjudicated J.S. a ward of the court on December 4, 2018. Cynthia filed a notice of appeal that same day. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) and 303 (eff. July 1, 2017), governing appeals from final judgments entered below.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 J.S. was born on September 24, 2017, at University Health Methodist Hospital (Methodist Hospital) in Indianapolis, Indiana. On October 11, 2017, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging neglect due to an injurious environment and abuse due to substantial risk of physical injury. In support, the petition stated that J.S.'s mother, Cynthia, has three children not in her care. One child is under private guardianship following a finding of neglect in 2006. Two children are currently under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Illinois after findings of neglect and abuse were entered on January 24, 2014. Their foster parent is Cynthia's grandmother. Cynthia was offered mental health, abuse, and parenting services, but she had not successfully completed those services.

         ¶ 6 On November 21, 2017, the trial court appointed a public defender to represent Cynthia. The assistant public defender objected, arguing the court had no jurisdiction because J.S. was not currently in, or had ever been in, Chicago. The petition was amended to reflect that J.S. had never left the hospital where she was born. At the adjudication hearing, the court allowed testimony by DCFS caseworker Belinda Childs regarding the jurisdiction issue.

         ¶ 7 Childs testified that she has been the caseworker for J.S.'s siblings since July 2017. They came into the system as a result of inadequate supervision, and they reside in Illinois. The contact information for Cynthia she had was at "115 and Elizabeth" in Chicago, and her phone number had a 312 area code. Childs testified that Cynthia did not complete her drug treatment program or individual therapy or parenting services. Referrals were based in Illinois, and visitation occurred in Illinois.

         ¶ 8 On July 31, 2017, Childs called Cynthia at a "773" phone number regarding a referral for anger management services at "Knock at Midnight," a place in Chicago. She also discussed Cynthia's pregnancy, informing her that because her other children were in care, the new baby would come into care as well. Cynthia told Childs that she was not having the baby in Illinois and refused to provide her due date. On August 14, 2017, Cynthia contacted Childs regarding a referral for anger management services, telling her the building was closed. Cynthia did not indicate she was living anywhere other than Chicago.

         ¶ 9 On September 24, 2017, Cynthia left a voicemail for Childs stating that she was in a hospital giving birth to a girl but no location was provided. On October 2, 2017, Childs spoke with Cynthia, and Cynthia told her she had not yet given birth and the due date was October 9. Cynthia further stated that DCFS would not get her baby and she was moving to Arizona. At the time, Childs' agency was recommending that temporary custody of J.S. be taken because Cynthia had not completed services for her other children and J.S. would be at risk of harm if released to her. Childs subsequently learned that J.S. was born on September 24, 2017, at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. DCFS was granted temporary custody of J.S. on October 11, 2017. ...

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