Permanency Order Not Final So GAL’s Appeal Not Moot

The State petitioned for a finding of parental unfitness because, it argued, (1) the mother’s repeated incarceration prevented her from performing her parental responsibilities and (2) the father failed to make reasonable progress toward reunification with the child.

After the trial court denied the State’s petition, the child’s guardian ad litem took an interlocutory appeal, claiming that the trial court’s ruling was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The First District Illinois Appellate Court reversed the order as to the mother, but affirmed as to the father.

After that decision by the appellate court, the trial court issued a new permanency order, which changed the child’s permanency goal from termination of parental rights to private guardianship. On a petition for rehearing, the mother argued that the changed permanency goal rendered the GAL’s appeal moot.

The appellate court ruled that the matter was not moot because a permanency goal is a nonfinal order that is subject to review and change. Here is the court’s thinking:

“An appeal is considered moot where it presents no actual controversy or where the issues involved in the trial court no longer exist because intervening events have rendered it impossible for the reviewing court to grant effectual relief to the complaining party.”

However, the supreme court has made clear that a permanency goal is not a final determination on the merits but, rather, is an intermediate procedural step taken for the protection and best interests of the child … Instead, the permanency goal looks to the future status of the child … In fact, section 2-28(2) of the [Adoption] Act further provides that the permanency order must be reviewed and reevaluated at a minimum of every six months until the court determines that the goal has been achieved … Thus, all of the rights and obligations set forth in the permanency order remain open for reexamination and possible revision until the permanency goal is achieved.

Here, the circuit court’s January 25, 2007 order clearly indicates that the permanency goal of private guardianship has not been attained. Therefore, it is subject to change. As a result, it is not impossible for this court to grant the GAL the relief it seeks and the appeal is not moot.

Get the whole case, In re Reiny S., No. 1-06-2155 (6/29/07), by clicking here.