MT. VERNON – The Fifth District Appellate Court upheld a judgement out of the Madison County Circuit Court to terminate the parental rights of a father who alleged his termination was unfair because the court did not admonish him.
“The Court’s failure to verbally admonish [the father] under sections of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 did not deprive him of a fair proceeding,” the appellate court concluded.
The father, identified as “James C.” in the Court brief, appealed Madison County Associate Judge Martin J. Mengarelli's decision, which found him to be an unfit parent and terminated his parental rights to his child, identified as “P.C.”
P.C. was born in 2013. The child's father and mother, known as “Samantha,” were the subjects of a 2016 report issued by the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which found P.C. was at risk of physical injury because the mother was using drugs.
The state filed a petition alleging P.C. was a neglected minor under the Juvenile Court Act and the child was taken into the protective custody of the DCFS.
During a shelter care hearing in June 2016 the mother was admonished that if she did not cooperate with DCFS officials and comply with service plans, she risked termination of her parental rights.
The father who appeared with his attorney consented to the shelter care order and consented to his attorney appearing at hearings alone of his behalf.
However in July, August and September of 2016 the father was arrested for operating an uninsured vehicle, driving on a revoked license and unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
A service and visitation plan was worked out by the care shelter including visitation plans for the parents, substance abuse and drug counseling, plus drug checks and housing and employment requirements.
The trial court found that due to the child's home situation, it should make her a ward of the court and that the father was unfit to protect, train or educate the child. Both parents were found to have failed to take offered services to correct the situation and that abuse had been inflicted on the child by both parents.
A permanency order stating the parents had not made sufficient progress was entered in December 2016.
In January 2017 a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) issued a report that the father was unable to care for P.C. at the time she entered the care of DCFS.
Legal difficulties continued for the appellant including a methamphetamine possession charge to which he pleaded guilty, and failure to complete 30 months of probation with drug treatment.
In December of 2017 the state filed a petition for termination of parental rights and for appointment of a guardian with the power to consent to adoption. CASA also recommended termination of parental rights.
The trial court concluded it was in the child’s best interest that parental rights be terminated.
Foster parents were located who provided shelter and offered to adopt P.C. The court concluded the child’s needs were being met in the foster home.
“She was not strongly bonded to the respondent (father),” the appellate court noted.
The Court terminated the parents' rights and freed P.C. for adoption.
The father appealed saying he had not been orally admonished by the court that his parental rights could be terminated. He also alleged warnings should have been made---an alleged violation of the Juvenile Court Act.
However the appellate court concluded that in all but two hearings the respondent had not appeared because he chose not to or because he was incarcerated at the time.
Instead the court found a repeated pattern of failure including not following court orders or cooperation with substance abuse treatment or drug testing, and failure to avoid arrest.
The Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court's judgement that failure to provide a verbal admonishment had not deprived the respondent of a fair proceeding.
Parental rights remained terminated.