“ONLY AFTER REUNIFICATION EFFORTS HAVE FAILED”
by Sharon Rondeau
The parents are Roosevelt and Kanika Williams. An only child, Kanika grew up in California, while Roosevelt is from Alabama, where the couple met when Kanika’s parents, also originally from Alabama, were there for a family reunion. Kanika and Roosevelt reside in Alabama and travel back and forth from Alabama to California due to the DCFS case.
The children are living with Kanika’s parents, Willie and Katie Grant, with the elder two currently designated to be adopted by them. Kanika believes her parents were the party who initially contacted DCFS when she and her son were residing in their home as she completed law school.
Willie Grant is a prominent attorney in his area whose friends and acquaintances Kanika terms “well-connected.” As to why she believes her parents had a motive to depict her as an abusive or incompetent parent, Kanika told The Post & Email, “XXXXXX is the son my parents never had.”
To date, The Post & Email has conducted two interviews with the Williamses spanning a total of three and one-half hours. Both have supplied a significant number of emails and other documents, including an email Roosevelt exchanged with a DCFS social worker in November 2011.
Since that time, two other children were born to the couple who were also taken by DCFS and placed with Kanika’s parents, although DCFS did not initially find fault with Roosevelt as a parent and issued no mandates to him as part of the “reunification plan.” Later, however, mandates were imposed on Roosevelt based on what both parents say was “unsubstantiated allegations of domestic violence and no proof of abuse, neglect or abandonment by Mr. Williams of any of his children.”
Roosevelt has three children from a previous marriage and said he never had any dealings with child protective services while raising them.
During the time The Post & Email was covering the case of the Henderson family in July 2014, DCFS spokesman Armand Montiel told us that in the case of children taken from their parents and placed in foster care, “reunification is the most likely outcome.” During that interview, the following exchange took place between The Post & Email and Montiel:
Question: Is adoption the final goal with foster children?
Response: Adoption is the goal for all foster children who cannot safely return to their biological parents now or in a reasonable time in the future as established by law and the courts. But, as mentioned, California law gives primary consideration to reunification; it is only after reunification efforts have failed or are not possible that the court orders adoption services.
Although a new case at the time, a November 10, 2011 email sent by Tim Reeff of DCFS’s “Family First Project” to Roosevelt Williams detailed a “minute order” from November 7, 2011 stating that “Concurrently with reunification services, we are initiating an adoption assessment. Relatives have priority to adopt.”
“Parents’ preference is to be respected but hasn’t been,” Kanika told The Post & Email of that decision. She and her husband contend that her parents have “set this all up to adopt our children. If adoption is the only option or last option, then Roosevelt’s mother, our children’s other grandmother, should be given preference in the same manner the Grants have been.”
The Post & Email has redacted the name of the child and Roosevelt’s email address but otherwise presented the email as we received it from Roosevelt Williams.
From: Tim Reeff <email@example.com
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2011 12:02 PM
Subject: 11/7/2011 orders
Dear Mr. Williams,
The minute order from 11/7/2011 contains the following:
The petition was sustained as amended was declared a dependent child of the court under WIC B.
Custody is removed from parent and placed in the care of DCFS
No corporal punishment shall be used by anyone.
No visits under the influence of drugs or alcohol
XXXXXXX is not to be removed from the seven contiguous Southern California Counties
Parents to sign all DCFS requests for release of information and keep DCFS informed of current address and telephone number
Parents’ rights to make educational decisions are limited
Willie and Katie Grant are appointed as responsible persons
Monitored visits for mother
Unmonitored visits for father in the state of California
Family reunification services are to be provided to parents
Mother shall participate in individual counseling. Take all prescribed medication. Participate in psychiatric counseling.
Father is not ordered to participate in any counseling.
The matter is continued to May 5, 2012 for a 21E hearing.
Please let me know if you received this. I will be resending referrals to mother to assist her in complying with the court orders. Concurrently with reunification services, we are initiating an adoption assessment. Relatives have priority to adopt. If there has not been substantial progress toward reunification by the beginning of April 2012, the Department will be recommending termination of family reunification at the May 5, 2012 hearing and selection of a permanent plan, which could involve adoption. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have or if I can be of assistance to you. I am off on alternate Fridays.
Tim Reeff, CSW, RF-04
Family First Project
Ken Olivarez, SCSW
100 W 2nd Street
Pomona, CA 91766