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In re C.P.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

November 21, 2019

In re C.P., a Minor
Takiara P., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 18JA6 Honorable John R. Kennedy, Judge Presiding.

          John B. Hensley, of Champaign, for appellant.

          Julia 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 the People.

          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 and affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 A. The Petition for Adjudication of Wardship and Pretrial Hearing

         ¶ 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 child.

         ¶ 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 behalf.

         ¶ 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 issues.

         ¶ 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 ...

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