MT. VERNON — An Illinois mother will not regain primary physical custody of two of her children after an appeals court upheld a decision to not return them to her. The court ruled that the mother of five, who has a history of mental illness and violent outbursts, failed to make enough progress to regain custody of her 10-year-old and her 3-year-old.
The family at the center of the case is not named in the lawsuit.
In its decision, the Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed a St. Clair County Circuit Court decision to not return the children to their mother’s custody.
The respondent, identified as D.B., argued that the court’s finding that she failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the children in two nine-month periods following neglect adjudications was unfair.
The case originated in 2010, when one of the respondent’s children, known as M.B., was 3 years old. He was placed in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) after the respondent demonstrated “erratic behavior” and “observable mental health status” at the DCFS field office. Six months later, the child was placed under the guardianship of DCFS. Within two years, the state filed a petition to terminate the respondent’s parental rights.
In July 2013, the respondent gave birth to a girl. Within a week, the state filed a petition to remove the baby, known as A.B., from the respondent’s custody. The filing stated four of the respondent’s five other children had previously been abused or neglected. The petition specifically noted that after one of them died from physical injuries in 1998, the respondent had been indicted for death by neglect; in 2009, the respondent’s parental rights to her other two children had been terminated following incidents of abuse and neglect.
In October 2013, the trial court found that it was in M.B.’s best interest if the respondent’s parental rights were terminated. A couple of months later, A.B. was also placed under the guardianship of DCFS.
But in 2014, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment terminating the respondent’s parental rights. The appellate judges noted that the respondent’s anger management and mental health issues had been the basis for her son’s removal, that the respondent had attended counseling and completed a parenting class during the relevant nine-month period, and that the respondent’s counselor at the time had reported that the respondent “had made progress with anger management.”
But her progress was short-lived. Through part of 2014-16, court testimony revealed the respondent did not have a full-time job and would have outbursts during her supervised visits with her children.
In 2015 and 2016, the respondent was given unsatisfactory ratings on her mental health and parenting plans for DCFS. Court testimony also revealed the respondent was unable to keep a full-time job and was chronically homeless.
For those reasons, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s determination that the respondent was unfit for failing to make reasonable progress toward the return of her children during the two periods under scrutiny.