Juvenile injustice at Ramsey County

The sign says it is the Ramsey County Juvenile Justice Center. But to the Robinson family, of Country Club Hills, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Ramsey County’s claim is an oxymoron at best. The sign says it is the Ramsey County Juvenile Justice Center. But to the Robinson family, of Country Club Hills, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Ramsey County’s claim is an oxymoron at best.

The Robinsons were at the Juvenile Justice Center on the eve of Christmas Eve, bringing the present of reunification to a set of five-, seven- and eight -year-old siblings who have been in foster care for the past two years.

The Robinsons underwent the standard adoption services investigation by the state of Illinois. That investigation recommended their family and home for adopting the children.

Ramsey County Department of Human Services, Social Services Division, also recommended that this family be allowed to adopt the children. Social Services Division twice brought the family to St. Paul for interviews, hearings and visitation with the children.

The visitation, observed by Social Services Division professionals and representatives of the court, according to the children’s uncle, Reginald Robinson, went extremely well. "We talked, we hugged, and we just rolled around on the floor. It was great! We felt good about the visit. We are sure the children felt really good, too," he said.

The children, two girls and a boy, belong to Talangea Robinson’s sister. The court terminated her parental rights due to neglect. She was involved in drugs.

The Robinsons said the sister agreed to termination of parental rights with the understanding that her sister and brother-in-law would be able to adopt them, thus keeping them with blood relatives…keeping them in their family.

For the past two years, however, the children have been in foster care in White Bear, MN. Their foster care status was and is temporary, until a permanent adoption home can be found. The foster care provider is White.

A White couple was being approved for adoption based on Ramsey County Social Service records indicating no blood relatives could be found who would consider adopting the children.

But the reason no relatives could be found, it turns out, is that nobody was looking for them. Both the County and the Court, at various points, had dropped the ball in seeking to maintain the children’s connection to their family.

According to court documents Ramsey County had conducted a relative search. But there was no supporting documentation proving that indeed a search had occurred. What the court accepted as a "search" was a statement by the mother that she didn’t believe her sister or other family members were in a position to help at the time. The court did not ascertain that the mother’s opinion reflected true circumstance or capability or interests of the relatives.

Independent of that snafu, the County also failed to execute a proper and thorough search. It corrected that problem when it was contacted by the Robinsons. The Robinsons said while the County was claiming it could not find relatives willing to adopt the children, some case workers and court representatives seemed to be doing all they could do to prevent them from providing a home in the family for their nieces and nephew.

It was when they finally reached a supervisor by accident that someone earnestly considered their interest in adopting the children. Their emergence as willing and able relatives seeking adoption, in part, led to the withdrawal of consideration for adoption by a White family.

There are several parties involved in the process of evaluation and eventual adoption. The children are in the custody of Ramsey County Social Services, which has maintained them in foster care for the past two years. Social Service is responsible for preparing and facilitating the adoption of children in its care. The Agency follows state law, which requires the agency to first seek out blood relatives fo

December 31, 2003
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