IN RE K.B., a Minor The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
Tisha B., Respondent-Appellant.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Circuit Court of Piatt County No. 15JA16, Honorable
Jeremy J. Richey, Judge Presiding.
K. O'Neal, of Equip for Equality, of Springfield, for
Rhoades, State's Attorney, of Monticello ( Patrick
Delfino David J. Robinson, and James Ryan Williams, of
State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of
counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Holder White and Justice Steigmann
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 The circuit court of Piatt County terminated the parental
rights of Tisha B., to her daughter, K.B., born on September
16, 2015. Respondent appeals on four grounds.
2 First, respondent argues there was a per se
conflict of interest in that the judge who presided at the
shelter-care hearing in this case later served as the
guardian ad litem in a postjudgment hearing in this
case. We hold that by failing to object in the proceedings
below, respondent has forfeited this issue.
3 Second, respondent argues that by finding her to be an
"unfit person" within
the meaning of section 1(D)(p) of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS
50/1(D)(p) (West 2016)), the circuit court made a finding
that was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We are
unable to say it is clearly evident that this statutory
definition was unproven.
4 Third, respondent claims that not giving her enough
visitation with K.B. had the effect of predetermining the
outcome of the best-interest hearing. It seems to us that
more visitation likely would have made no difference in the
outcome of the best-interest hearing, since in its remarks at
the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court gave the
most weight to the factor of stability, and in any event, it
was well-nigh inevitable that two-year-old K.B. would look
upon the foster mother as the primary parental figure,
considering that K.B. had lived with her since she was six
5 Fourth, respondent objects that the dispositional order
making K.B. a ward of the court lacked a statutorily required
finding that she was unfit or unable to parent the minor.
Because it was an agreed-on dispositional order, which
respondent's attorney signed under the words
"Approved by," respondent is estopped from
criticizing the order. Respondent cannot approve an order and
then complain of it on appeal.
6 Therefore, we affirm the judgment.
7 I. BACKGROUND
8 A. The Shelter-Care Hearing
9 On November 5, 2015, there was a shelter-care hearing, at
which Timothy J. Steadman presided as the judge. He placed
temporary custody of K.B. with the Department of Children and
Family Services (DCFS) and ordered that visitation between
respondent and K.B. would be supervised at all times by DCFS.
10 A visitation plan, filed that same day, stated that the
time, date, and place of visitation were "TBA," or
to be announced. (Respondent had been "involuntarily
committed and transferred to Provena Hospital,"
according to the shelter-care report, and it was unknown when
she would be discharged.)
11 B. The Adjudication of Neglect and the Subsequent
Dispositional Order Making K.B. a Ward of the Court
12 On June 28, 2016, in an adjudicatory order, the circuit
court found K.B. to be neglected, or "about to be
neglected," in that respondent was "receiving
mental health treatment at McFarland Mental Health Center
pursuant to court order and [was] unable to care for the
minor at this time."
13 On August 23, 2016, the circuit court entered a
dispositional order making K.B. a ward of the court. Even
though the dispositional order lacked a finding that
respondent was "unfit or [was] unable, for some reason
other than financial circumstances alone, to care for,
protect, train or discipline the minor" (705 ILCS
405/2-27(1) (West 2016)), respondent's attorney signed
the dispositional order under the words "Approved
14 Also, when the circuit court asked respondent's
attorney if his client had any objections to any of the
recommendations in the dispositional hearing report—
including the recommendation that "[DCFS] be granted
Custody and Guardianship of the respondent minor
[K.B.]"— respondent's attorney answered,
"She doesn't, Judge."
15 C. The Parental Fitness Hearing
16 On July 5, 2017, the State moved for the termination of
respondent's parental rights. The sole ground alleged
against respondent was that bipolar disorder prevented her
from discharging her parental responsibilities and that the
persist for an unreasonably long time. See 750 ILCS
50/1(D)(p) (West 2016).
17 The circuit court held a parental fitness hearing on May
31, 2018, and a best-interest hearing on July 17, 2018.
Instead of undertaking an exhaustive summary of all the
evidence presented in those hearings, we will be selective,
summarizing only enough evidence to put the parties'
arguments and counterarguments in a meaningful context. Other
witnesses besides those we specifically mention testified in
the hearings, including respondent and the foster mother.
However, given the issues raised in this appeal, we choose to
highlight the testimony of the expert witnesses (without
discounting the significance of other witnesses'
18 Let us begin with the parental fitness hearing.
19 1. The Events from Pregnancy to Involuntary
20 Around March 2015, respondent learned that she was
pregnant. For the safety of the fetus, she decided, in
consultation with her psychiatrist, to stop taking the
medication she had been prescribed to control her bipolar
21 On September 16, 2015, K.B. was born, and on October 30,
2015, respondent was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. Not
only had she developed mania from going off her medication
(and keeping off of it for the sake of breastfeeding), but
she also was suffering from postpartum depression. She was,
psychologically, in a severe crisis.
22 To meet the contingency of just such a breakdown, a plan
was already in place. Respondent and her aunt, Crystal Crist,
had talked with one another while respondent was pregnant,
and they had come up with a plan. They had agreed that if
respondent came to need hospitalization, Crist would take
care of K.B. Accordingly, while respondent was in Provena
Hospital, Crist had custody of K.B.; she was keeping the baby
at her house in Atwood, Illinois.
23 On November 9, 2015, when Provena Hospital discharged
respondent, she set out to retrieve her child. The trouble
was, the discharge was premature (as a psychiatrist, Lawrence
Jeckel, would later opine); respondent was still in a manic
condition. Consequently, she entered a trailer home near her
own trailer home and picked up a baby whom she believed,
erroneously, delusionally, to be K.B. Fortunately, the
baby's parents were in the room, and respondent did not
leave the trailer with the baby. On November 10, 2015,
however, respondent was charged with attempted aggravated
kidnapping and was held in the Douglas County jail, pending a
24 On January 13, 2016, respondent was found not guilty by
reason of insanity and was transferred to the Department of
Public Health for psychiatric treatment.
25 On February 19, 2016, respondent was involuntarily
admitted into McFarland Mental Health Center (McFarland). She
was still in McFarland as of May 31, 2018, the date of the
parental fitness hearing.
26 2. Jeckel's Testimony
27 The State called Lawrence Jeckel, a licensed psychologist
appointed by the criminal court in November 2015 to evaluate
respondent's fitness to stand trial and to determine
whether, at the time of her arrest, she was indeed, as
suspected, not guilty by reason of insanity. To that end,
Jeckel interviewed respondent on November 27, 2015, about
three weeks after her arrest, and he reviewed her medical
records. He learned, from her records, that she had been
hospitalized between 25 and 30 times for her mental illness,
bipolar disorder, type 1.
28 Although there was no denying that respondent had a
case" of the disorder, the multiple hospitalizations,
Jeckel suggested, could have been partly owing to an
insurance-driven revolving-door problem at hospitals, which
tended to be eager to get rid of disruptive psychiatric
patients. When Provena Hospital prematurely discharged
respondent on November 9, 2015, after giving her an injection
that would have taken a month to begin working, she was
arrested for trying to take someone else's baby. At the
time of her arrest, respondent was psychotic and unable to
appreciate the criminality of her actions. On November 27,
2015, however, when Jeckel evaluated her (he had not seen her
since then), he found her to be fit to stand trial. In ...