People v. Ann W. (In re Jennifer W.)

Decision Date19 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 1–14–0984.,1–14–0984.
Citation22 N.E.3d 329
PartiesIn re JENNIFER W. and Joshua W., Minors (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner–Appellee, v. Ann W., Respondent–Appellant).
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Abishi C. Cunningham, Jr., Public Defender, of Chicago (Stephanie Foster, Assistant Public Defender, of counsel), for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Michele Lavin and Nancy Kisicki, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Robert F. Harris, Public Guardian, of Chicago (Kass A. Plain and Christopher Williams, of counsel), guardian ad litem.


Justice GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 The instant appeal arises from the juvenile court's entry of a dispositional order finding respondent Ann W. (the children's mother) unable to care for her children, 15–year–old Jennifer W. and 13–year–old Joshua W. Respondent argues that the juvenile court's finding that she was unable to care for her children and its finding that “reasonable efforts had been made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the minor[s] from the home” were against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


¶ 3 On February 14, 2013, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, asking for Jennifer W. to be adjudicated a ward of the court; the State also filed a motion for temporary custody the same day. The adjudication petition claimed that Jennifer was neglected: (1) in that she was “not receiving the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, or medical or other remedial care recognized under State law as necessary for her well-being, * * *, including adequate food, clothing or shelter”; and (2) in that she was a minor under 18 years of age “whose environment [was] injurious to her welfare.” The adjudication petition also claimed that Jennifer was abused in that her parent or an immediate family member [c]reate[d] a substantial risk of physical injury to such minor by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death, disfigurement, impairment of emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function.”

¶ 4 The facts underlying all three claims are the same. The children were living with their father, Randall W., while he and respondent were in the process of obtaining a dissolution of their marriage. Previously, respondent and Randall, her then-husband,1 had one report indicating “substantial risk of harm.” On February 11, 2013, the father informed police personnel that he left this minor and her sibling home alone. Father stated that he is no longer willing or able to care for this minor and her sibling.” Respondent's contact with Jennifer and Joshua was limited by a Kane County court order in the divorce proceedings, and there were no relatives willing or able to take care of Jennifer and Joshua.

¶ 5 On the same day, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship and motion for temporary custody for Joshua, containing identical allegations to those contained in Jennifer's petition.

¶ 6 Also on February 14, 2013, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigator assigned to the children's case filed an “Affidavit Documenting DCFS Efforts,” which stated that this case came to the attention of DCFS on February 11, 2013, when Randall voluntarily contacted Hanover Park police at approximately 8 a.m., “stating he had left the kids alone to go to a court date in Kane County and the two children refused to get up or go to school.”2 The police responded and found Joshua and Jennifer, who were 12 and 13 at the time, respectively, alone at home. Joshua was taken to the Hanover Park police station because he claimed to be ill, while Jennifer was taken to school, where she attended special education classes. The affidavit stated that Joshua had been diagnosed with depression and was on psychotropic medication and that Jennifer had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The next day, on February 12, 2013, Jennifer was hospitalized “due to severe aggression and her disorder.”

¶ 7 The affidavit stated that respondent and Randall had a prior indicated report for “allegations # 60, Substantial risk of Physical injury, Environment injurious to health and welfare by neglect” in a case from 2010 “which was opened for Short Term intact services.”3 The affidavit further stated that respondent had “lost custody of her children per Kane County as a result of the dissolution of her marriage.

¶ 8 The affidavit listed, as [t]he specific reasons(s) I have identified that leads DCFS to place or consider placing the child,” that Father is unable and unwilling to care for his child(ren), Mother is also unable at this time to care for her child(ren) based on mental health issues and a court report. Father admitted to CPI that he is unable to manage the behaviors of both children who have special need[s]. All family members located [reported] that they cannot or will not care for the children as they also feel their needs are too extensive to manage.”

¶ 9 Based on the facts alleged in the State's petitions for adjudication of wardship, on February 14, 2013, the juvenile court found probable cause that the children were abused or neglected and that immediate and urgent necessity existed to support their removal from the home. The court granted temporary custody to the DCFS guardianship administrator, with the right to place the children and the authority to consent to both ordinary and routine medical care and major medical care on their behalf. The court also entered an order granting respondent supervised day visits, which “shall occur at the discretion of the minors.” On August 7, 2013, another order on visitation was entered, granting respondent supervised day visits, which “shall occur at the discretion of [the] minors in consultation with the children's individual therapist[s].”

¶ 10 I. Adjudication of Wardship

¶ 11 On January 21, 2014, at the hearing for adjudication of wardship, the parties stipulated to the following facts: that respondent and Randall are the parents of Jennifer, born on March 1, 1999, and Joshua, born on October 23, 2000, and that during the course of their dissolution of marriage proceedings in Kane County, Randall was awarded sole custody of the children, and respondent had limited visitation rights.

¶ 12 The parties also stipulated that if called to testify, Hanover Park police officer Kathy McClaughry would testify that on February 11, 2013, she responded to a call from Randall and visited his home; Randall was not present and Jennifer and Joshua were home unsupervised. Based on her observations, “it was apparent that Jennifer was not able to care for herself or Joshua.” McClaughry observed that Jennifer was “very agitated and unable to carry on a conversation, continually walking away and shouting” and had not taken her morning psychotropic medication, which was left in a spoon on the counter. Joshua informed McClaughry that he was too ill to attend school. McClaughry transported Jennifer to school and transported Joshua to the Hanover Park police station, where he was eventually examined by paramedics. McClaughry called DCFS and advised that she had a juvenile in custody.

¶ 13 McClaughry would testify that the same day, at approximately 12:19 p.m., she spoke to Randall at the Hanover Park police station, where he stated that he was in the process of marriage dissolution proceedings and had been granted physical custody of the children. He “needed to be in court on February 11, but Jennifer refused to go to school, so “without ensuring his children went to school,” Randall left the home. Randall informed McClaughry that [h]e cannot control the minor children,” who had “special needs”; Jennifer had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Joshua had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and anger disorder. Both children were medicated to treat their disorders. Randall informed McClaughry that [h]e thinks the state should take custody of [the] Minor children because he is unable to care [for] them due to a brain injury.”4

¶ 14 The parties also stipulated that if called to testify, LaDonna Woods would testify that she was employed by the DCFS division of child protection and was assigned to investigate an allegation of abuse and neglect of the children on February 11, 2013. That day, she had an in-person conversation with respondent, who informed Woods that she was employed part-time and was involved in marriage dissolution proceedings in Kane County. Respondent informed Woods that the children “were taken away from her by [Randall] due to false allegations,” and that the children “need to be removed from [Randall's] care because they are truant in school.” Woods also had an in-person conversation with Randall, who informed her that he had to attend court proceedings” on February 11 and “called the police when Jennifer and Joshua refused to attend school.” Randall informed Woods that the children “will not listen to him and he can no longer care for them due to their defiant behavior and severe mental illness.” Randall also informed Woods that he “has brain damage and has done the best he could.” Woods met with Jennifer at school to take her into protective custody, but during the meeting, “Jennifer became aggressive and had to be restrained by two police officers and transported to St. Alexius Hospital for psychiatric treatment.”

¶ 15 The parties also stipulated to the foundation and admissibility of the prior indicated report for Randall and respondent, which was offered into evidence as People's Exhibit 1. The report was dated March 8, 2010, and under “Narrative,” provided: [Redacted] called and reports that Jennifer was presented at her facility in handcuffs by the police. According to [redacted] Jennifer attacked her brother[,] poking him in the eye with a stick. There is said to be an injury. Jennifer...

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