from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria
County, Illinois, Circuit Nos. 16-JA-203 16-JA-204 16-JA-205
Honorable David A. Brown, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McDade and Wright concurred in the judgment
1 In March 2019, the trial court found that Tas.C, Ti.C, and
Tae.C.'s best interest favored terminating the parental
rights of the respondent, Timothy C. The respondent appeals.
3 At the outset, we note that the respondent only challenges
the trial court's best interest determination. Thus, our
background is limited to the facts relevant to that issue.
4 In August 2016, the Department of Children and Family
Services (DCFS) filed a petition alleging that the children
were neglected in that their environment was injurious to
their welfare. The petition alleged that the respondent (1)
committed acts of violence against the children's
biological mother; (2) had a criminal history that included
possession of cannabis (2005), resisting police (2006),
failure to return from furlough (2006), possession of a
controlled substance (2007), four burglary convictions
(2010); and (3) had a pending charge for possession of a
controlled substance (2016). Shortly thereafter, in December
2016, the respondent was incarcerated and remained
incarcerated during the remainder of these proceedings.
5 In May 2017, the trial court entered an adjudication order,
finding that the children were neglected. In July 2017, the
court entered a dispositional order, finding the respondent
unfit and unable to care for, protect, train, or discipline
the children, or unable to do so. Following the State's
filing of a petition to terminate the respondent's
parental rights, the court found the respondent unfit due to
his (1) failure to make reasonable progress toward the return
of the children in a nine-month period and (2) depravity.
6 In March 2019, the trial court held a best interest
hearing. The best interest report stated that the children
had been in foster care for 927 days. Tas. C. was 11 years
old. She was in a foster home and her foster parents were
committed to adopting her if she was unable to return to her
biological parents. The foster parents met all of her needs
and planned to allow her to remain connected to her extended
biological family following adoption. Tas.C. was bonded and
attached to her foster parents. She was involved in their
church, enjoyed being involved in church activities, and
played basketball after school. Tas.C.'s foster parents
showed continuous love and affection for her and met all of
her physical, emotional, developmental, and medical needs.
She freely went to her foster parents for support, affection,
and reassurance. The caseworker observed Tas.C. to be
somewhat happy, healthy, confident, and stable in her foster
7 The report indicated that Ti.C. was ten years old and
Tae.C. was nine years old at the time of the best interest
hearing. They had been in the same long-term foster home for
two years and four months. Ti.C. and Tae.C. had a strong bond
with their foster parents and all of their needs were being
met. They referred to their foster parents as "mom"
and "dad" and their foster parents loved them
without condition. Ti.C. and Tae.C. were confident that their
foster parents would meet their needs. The caseworker
observed Ti.C. and Tae.C. to be happy, healthy, confident,
and stable in their foster placement. Their foster parents
provided them with stability, a sense of security, a sense of
belonging, and continuous love and affection. Ti.C. and
Tae.C.'s foster parents met all of their physical,
emotional, developmental, and medical needs. Ti.C. and Tae.C.
would freely go to their foster parents for support,
affection, and reassurance. Ti.C and Tae.C.'s foster
parents were willing to continue caring for them until they
could be matched with a permanent placement. Ti.C. and Tae.C.
had strong community ties, attended church with their foster
parents, and were involved with basketball and baseball.
8 At the hearing, the respondent stated that he last spoke to
Tas.C. a month ago. Tas.C. told him that she was going to
start playing basketball, would like for her brothers to come
watch her, and wanted to be with her siblings. The respondent
also stated that Tas.C. expressed that she did not like how
"the people" she was at church with scolded her and
talked about her in front of others. The respondent stated it
had been about six or seven months since he last spoke to
Ti.C. and Tae.C. When he last spoke with them, they stated
they were playing either softball or baseball, were doing
well, and had no complaints. The respondent stated that he
felt he had a good bond with his children and that they loved
and respected him. The respondent also stated that he felt
that the children should stay together.
9 The respondent stated, prior to going to prison, he would
see his children on most weekends. During the summertime, the
children would stay weeks at a time. The respondent would
take them to the park, barbeques, to get ice cream, and
shopping. All three children continued to call him
"dad." The respondent stated he was projected to be
released from prison in 2021, but with good time credit, he
would be released in September 2020. Upon his release, he
planned on getting a job and a house. While in prison, he
finished a program for custodial maintenance and was going to
start a welding program. The respondent stated, that while he
finished his prison term, Charmain Childers and Eleanor Brown
could care for the children.
10 The respondent explained that he had known Childers for
about six years and that she was familiar with the children.
Childers was the mother of his paramour. The children had
been to Childers' house before and they had meals
together. When the respondent was asked if Childers expressed
a willingness to take care of his children, he stated that
she said, if it came down to it, she would. The children last
saw Childers in August 2016. He stated that he would be
comfortable if his children were placed with Childers.
However, he never gave his caseworker Childers' name as a
potential placement option-only Brown's.
11 The respondent stated he gave Brown's address to
Howell three to four months ago and gave Nichols the address
a couple weeks ago. He did not give any other information
other than Brown's name and address. Brown had not seen
Ti.C. and Tae.C. since August 2016 and last saw Tas.C. two
months ago. We note that it was unclear who Brown was to the
respondent. The respondent filed a motion to ...