CHICAGO — A Cook County judge ruled Friday that the three children of a former Clinton woman and her husband will remain in state custody while their parents continue their efforts to regain custody.
The state took the children after learning of the 2003 deaths of Amanda Ware's three older children.
Ware was known as Amanda Hamm when her two sons, ages 6 and 4, and a 23-month-old daughter drowned in the back seat of her car in Clinton Lake. Ware has been embroiled in a two-year battle to bring her three younger children home.
She was acquitted of murder but sentenced to 10 years for child endangerment in connection with the older children's deaths. In a separate trial, her former boyfriend, Maurice LaGrone, was convicted of murder and is serving a life term.
A Chicago doctor recognized Amanda Ware as the woman involved in the DeWitt County case when Ware was in the hospital for the delivery of her third child in March 2014.
Veronica Resa, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Children and Family Services, said Friday that Amanda and Leo Ware were found to be unable to care for the children, who will remain in foster care with a family member.
A Dec. 12 permanency and planning hearing is scheduled to review the parents' progress. Similar hearings will be held every six months.
Resa said it is important for the children to "maintain their bond with the parents, even in these circumstances."
The Wares, who separated several months ago, will be allowed to continue their supervised visits with the children, said Resa.
In his ruling, the judge found the mother unable, unfit and unwilling to care for her children. Leo Ware was found to be unwilling and unable to parent. Both parents fell short of the substantial progress standard in their remedial plan, the judge ruled.
Carol Casey, a court-appointed guardian, recommended at a hearing Wednesday that the mother be given a chance to continue working toward the goal of returning the children home, noting that Amanda Ware has "a huge trauma background" going back decades.
Leo Ware "landed on his feet" after his release from prison and should be recognized for his efforts despite a drug relapse about a year ago, said Casey.
Cook County State's Attorney Gina Perdue argued Wednesday that Amanda Ware has not effectively dealt with the psychological impact of the events at Clinton Lake. Leo Ware's history of drug offenses and domestic violence make him a poor candidate for parenting, she said.
Greg Hamm, Ware's first husband and the father of 6-year-old drowning victim Christopher Hamm, said Friday that he does not support the return of the children.
"She's too mentally unstable to be a mother and she's proved it," said Hamm.
Under Illinois law, the goal in child abuse and neglect cases is the return of the children to the home. Separate proceedings to terminate parental rights are initiated only after a judge finds that such a goal cannot be reached and it is in the best interest of the children to place them outside the family.
Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny