A MOTHER WHO IS A FIT PARENT SHOULD NOT HAVE HER CHILDREN TAKEN AWAY FROM HER
At the end of a neglect hearing regarding TWO juveniles and their mother, the Court said that the mother was a fit parent to her two children. However, the court gave temporary custody and guardianship to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The Court did not indicate that MOTHER was unable or unwilling to care for her children. Mother appealed, and the case was reversed and sent back to the court that took the children from her.
The Appellate Court clearly said that, a trial court must prove that the natural parents are unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for their minor child before the Court can take the children away from them. “It is apparent that the preferred result under the Juvenile Court Act is that a child remain in his or her home, in the custody of his or her parents.
The facts of the case include
1) At that time, the minors lived with their father, Larry.
2) Larry disciplined other children of his that were also living with him in a way that was detrimental to M.M. and J.M. living with him.
3) Mother was not addicted to alcohol or illegal substances, had passed a random drug screening, and had never been arrested.
4) Mother took prescription medication for bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression.
5) Mother completed parenting classes and she indicated her willingness to participate in any requested services.
The court specifically said that mother did not contribute to this “injurious environment” in Larry’s home. A case worker’s report concluded that mother would be able to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment in which to raise her children if she continued to cooperate and participate in services as requested. The report recommended that mother continue to be found fit. Both the State and the Guardian ad Litem also stated that the mother was a fit person. But the Guardian ad Litem felt that mother’s having some mental health issues was a concern.
The Appellate Court clearly said that the mother had not been proven unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for her minor child. The case was sent back to the original trial court to evaluate whether or not there were indeed any issues preventing the mother from resuming custody of her children.
In re M.M. and J.M., Minors (Docket No. 119932)
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