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					September 27, 2007
                                      SAMPLE LETTER
Jane XXX
2007-0001234
P.O. Box 089002
Chicago, IL 60608

Dear Ms. XXX:

We met at the Cook County Department of Corrections on September 27, 2007. From the
information you gave me, I understand that you have an open case at Juvenile Court because
your daughter, Michele, was born exposed to an illegal substance. In addition, you currently are
expecting twins scheduled to be delivered in late November or early December 2007. As I
indicated, I cannot guarantee that the court will not attempt to remove these children from you.
However, if you have a solid placement plan it is possible that DCFS will not step in regarding
the twins’ placement.

We discussed having your children’s paternal grandmother appointed as the legal guardian in
Probate Court. The choice of a person to be your children’s guardian is of critical importance. If
a guardianship order is entered, you will need to discharge the guardian before the children move
into your home. When you are no longer incarcerated, have gained stability, and are ready to be
your children’s primary caretaker, you must go to court and file a petition for discharge of the
guardianship. If the discharge petition is uncontested, meaning that the current guardian does not
oppose your petition, the process will be much easier. If the guardian contests the discharge, for
whatever reason, the process will be much longer and can be quite difficult.

During our conversation, we filled out an appointment of short-term guardian form for you to
send to the children’s grandmother, and we discussed Mary Roe, the babies’ paternal
grandmother, as possible legal guardian. I highly recommend speaking to her at length on this
subject and making sure you are both in agreement as to your expectations. Not only must you be
confident that she will be a responsible and good caretaker for the twins, you must also think
about whether she will honor the fact that you are the mother of the children and that ultimately
she supports your reuniting with them. This means she should understand that once you are back
on your feet, you expect that she will return your children to you, and in the meanwhile she will
support frequent visits and facilitate their process of bonding with you. For example, she should
give you information about whether the children are doing well developmentally, be willing to
send pictures and, when she can, bring the children for visits while you are incarcerated. Twin
babies are a lot of work, and people build strong attachments to infants, so it is even more
important that you choose the guardian carefully. Also, you must make every effort to maintain
open lines of communication and build a good relationship with the guardian. This means you
must write to her regularly and thank her for her generosity and for everything she is doing. If
there are minor things that she does differently than you would do, you should not argue with her
because it is much more important that she be on your side and that you get along with her, so
that the discharge of guardianship will be a smooth process when you are ready to care for your
twins. You must not put other expectations on her, such as sending you money for your own
food and toiletries. Choose your battles carefully and limit any disagreements.

It is always important to be prepared for the possibility that the guardian will not be willing to
discharge the guardianship when you are ready to have your twins back. If there is a
disagreement about discharge between the guardian and the mother (a contested case) the court
must hold a hearing and decide whether there has been a sufficient change in circumstances and
what is in the “best interest of the child”. When determining best interest, the court appoints an
attorney for the children known as a Guardian Ad Litem. This attorney meets with the mother
and the guardian, and after investigating both parties, makes recommendations to the court. The
court takes this recommendation very seriously when making its decision.

The court looks at several factors when determining whether or not to grant your discharge of
guardianship request. These include: whether you are employed, whether you have a stable and
adequate home, evidence of rehabilitation and sobriety so that the court can be assured that the
circumstances that caused your incarceration will not be repeated, and whether you have been
consistent in keeping visits when you are back in the community. That means you will have to
show that you have held a job down consistently for a period of at least 6 months, and have kept
the same apartment or home for at least several months. You will also have to show that you
made every effort to maintain a bond with your children while you were incarcerated. In your
case this becomes even more important because they will be infants when taken from you. This
is why visits, cards, pictures and your communication with the guardian become even more
important. It is in your interest to write down and keep copies of letters that you write to the
guardian inquiring about how the twins are developing. You should keep records even if you are
getting along with the guardian, because you cannot predict the future. You must keep a log of
every time you write to the guardian, send a card to the twins or speak with the guardian on the
phone. This record can be used to help you testify or as evidence in court if needed. Even
though the twins cannot write back to you, you must send them cards or pictures, and make
mobiles or other things. This will prove to the court that you made every effort to be involved in
the twins’ lives, a factor that will be crucial. If the guardian does not have transportation for
visits to you in prison, she may be able to get transportation through the Connections program of
Lutheran Social Services, at 312-567-9224.

CLAIM is a provider of legal services, and we are unable to provide you assistance with housing
or employment. However, if you contact us when you are close to your release date we will send
you referrals for housing and employment. You also may contact Connections for job and
housing referrals at the number above upon your return.

It is my understanding that you want to leave the short-term guardianship in place and that you
do not want a court order for guardianship of the twins at this time. If you decide that you do
want to proceed with court-ordered guardianship, please write to us with the guardian’s contact
information, or have her call us at 312-675-0912. You will need to sign an Appearance and
Consent form, and if you do decide that this is likely to be an uncontested matter, we will
consider representing the guardian free of charge based on your request.

We are closing your file at this time. We wish you the very best of luck.

Sincerely,


Molly Sharma
Staff Attorney
CLAIM

				
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