from the Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 18JA6
Honorable John R. Kennedy, Judge Presiding.
B. Hensley, of Champaign, for appellant.
Rietz, State's Attorney, of Urbana (Patrick Delfino,
David J. Robinson, and James Ryan Williams, of State's
Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Holder White and Justice Cavanagh
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Takiara P., respondent, is the mother of C.P. (born
November 4, 2017). In April 2018, the trial court found C.P.
to be a ward of the court and vested guardianship of him in
the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). In
June 2019, the court held a best-interest hearing at which it
terminated respondent's parental rights.
2 Respondent appeals, arguing (1) the trial court lacked
jurisdiction to enter the dispositional order because
respondent is also a minor and the State failed to serve her
guardian in accordance with section 2-15 of the Juvenile
Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-15 (West 2016)) and
(2) the trial court's finding that it was in C.P.'s
best interest to terminate respondent's parental rights
was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We disagree
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 A. The Petition for Adjudication of Wardship and Pretrial
5 In January 2018, the State filed a petition for
adjudication of wardship, alleging C.P. was neglected because
of respondent's mental illness. At the time the petition
was filed and throughout these proceedings, the putative
father, Davucci C, was incarcerated in the Department of
Juvenile Justice. Respondent herself was a minor whose
biological parents had their parental rights terminated in
2007. Respondent was adopted by her grandmother, but her
grandmother died in 2013, and DCFS had been appointed to be
her guardian. Respondent was personally served with a notice
of the shelter care hearing on January 8, 2018.
6 Later in January 2018, the trial court conducted a shelter
care hearing at which respondent appeared with court
appointed counsel, the public defender.
7 B. The Adjudication of Wardship
8 In March 2018, the trial court conducted an adjudicatory
hearing. Respondent stipulated that C.P. was a neglected
minor whose environment was injurious to his welfare due to
respondent's mental illness. The court found that C.P.
was two months old when the petition was filed, and that
respondent had a history of ongoing mental health problems
and difficulty controlling her anger when caring for her
9 C. The Dispositional Hearing
10 In April 2018, the trial court conducted a dispositional
hearing at which respondent appeared. The trial court found
C.P. was neglected and it was in his best interest that he be
made a ward of the court. The court further found that (1)
the father and respondent were unfit and unable, for reasons
other than financial circumstances alone, to care for,
protect, train, or discipline C.P. and (2) the health,
safety, and best interest of C.P. would be jeopardized if he
remained in the custody of his parents. See id.
§ 2-27(1). The court also found that appropriate
services aimed at preservation and family reunification had
been unsuccessful in rectifying the conditions that led to
the finding of unfitness and inability to care for, protect,
train, or discipline C.P. Id. § 2-27(1.5)(a).
Therefore, the court removed custody of C.P. from the parents
and placed guardianship and custody in the guardianship
administrator of DCFS. The court advised the father and
respondent they were required to fully cooperate with DCFS or
they risked termination of their parental rights. The father
appealed, and this court affirmed. In re C.P., 2018
IL App (4th) 180310, ¶ 36, 115 N.E.3d 1056.
11 D. The Termination Hearing
12 In March 2019, the State filed a motion to find both
parents unfit and to terminate their parental rights,
alleging they (1) failed to make reasonable progress toward
reunification during the nine-month period between June 2018
and March 2019 and (2) failed to maintain a reasonable degree
of interest, concern, or responsibility for C.P.'s
welfare. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), (m)(ii) (West 2018).
13 1. The Fitness Hearing
14 In May 2019, the trial court conducted the parental
fitness portion of the termination hearing. Respondent was
not present, but respondent's attorney appeared on her
15 a. Richelle Gentry-Flemons
16 Richelle Gentry-Flemons testified she was the DCFS
caseworker assigned to this case from March 2018 to March
2019. She testified that respondent was in teen parenting and
parenting classes through Family Advocacy of Champaign County
(FACC) while in the juvenile detention center. Respondent was
there before Gentry-Flemons began work on the case in March
2018 and until respondent's release in June 2018, when
respondent was placed in the Indian Oaks Academy (IOA). IOA
is a residential facility for at-risk youth that provides
housing, treatment, and education. At IOA, respondent
received individual and group counseling, trauma-based
therapy, equine therapy, and general education. Respondent
was at IOA throughout the remainder of Gentry-Flemons'
work on this case. Beginning in October 2018, respondent
further received parenting classes from Aunt Martha's
Health and Wellness (Aunt Martha's) in Kankakee.
17 Respondent visited C.P. twice a week for two hours each
time, and she was supervised by (1) Mike Carter of Carter
Visitation Homemaker Services, (2) IOA staff, and (3) Aunt
Martha's staff. For the majority of visits, C.P. would be
transported to IOA, but sometimes the visits would take place
at Aunt Martha's in Kankakee, as well. Gentry-Flemons
testified that respondent loved the visits with C.P. and
consistently attended them. Respondent expressed concern
about how C.P. was doing generally and in foster care.
18 Gentry-Flemons testified that respondent was in a number
of physical altercations at IOA, most of which respondent
claimed were someone else's fault.
19 Throughout her stay at IOA, respondent would occasionally
run away. She ran away from IOA from August 2018 until
September 2018, when she was returned on a warrant of
apprehension. Afterward, she seemed motivated to engage in
services so she could progress beyond IOA.
20 Respondent again ran away from IOA in January 2019, after
Gentry-Flemons had left the case. However, respondent called
Gentry-Flemons on the telephone twice in January 2019. The
first time, respondent wanted to turn herself in but did not
do so. The second time, respondent wanted to return to the
juvenile detention center because she believed IOA and DCFS
did not care about her and because she was having family
21 Gentry-Flemons testified that, overall, respondent was
doing a good job with the provided services and was doing
very well in parenting classes. Respondent was attentive and
learning C.P.'s needs. She thought respondent was
benefitting from the services.
22 b. Meaghan Dugan
23 Meaghan Dugan testified that she was a milieu manager at
IOA, where she worked with residents and also trained staff
on trauma-informed care. Respondent was at IOA for just under
a year, and Dugan saw her daily. Dugan took respondent to the
horse stables for equine therapy, introduced her to yoga, and
helped her acclimate to the living conditions. Dugan ...