FEDERAL LAWSUIT APPEAL ALSO BEING PREPARED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 24, 2017) — The parents of three children successively placed in a foster home by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) on a trajectory toward adoption are in the process of writing an appeal of the juvenile court judge’s decision ordering the adoption of the elder two children.
Judge Marguerite D. Downing has presided over all three of the cases, which are adjudicated separately, at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park, CA. The department’s involvement with the family now spans more than five years.
The appeal will be filed in the Second Appellate District Court, Division Four in Los Angeles. The case is particularly painful because the contemplated adoptive parents are the mother’s parents, Willie and Katie Grant. The children’s mother, Kanika Grant Williams, is the Grants’ only child.
On December 23, The Post & Email reported that a ten-day extension to January 10 was granted to Roosevelt and Kanika Williams, who are representing themselves, but upon formal appeal of that deadline, the court granted another extension to March 6.
The Williamses have insisted that they have never neglected or abused their children and should never have lost custody of them. They have described tensions between them which they said were seized upon and exaggerated by DCFS social workers once their eldest child, a son who is now nine years old, was willingly sent by Roosevelt to live with Kanika’s parents after Kanika was hospitalized.
At the time, the family was living in Alabama, but Roosevelt made arrangements for two of his aunts to take the child to the Grants’ for a time, not expecting that he would not be returned when Kanika regained her health.
“We completed all case plans and Court Orders three times” in an effort to regain custody of their children, Kanika told The Post & Email on Wednesday. She and her husband believe that proper procedure has not been adhered to in both Downing’s decision and subsequent denial of their request for a jury trial on the matter.
In a case adjudicated in the same court with the same judge several years ago, Erica and Jeffrey Henderson reported that after their children were placed in foster care following their arrest, the charges from which were later dropped, every aspect of their lives was closely examined by DCFS as they attempted to regain custody. The Hendersons said that they completed all required parenting classes, attended all scheduled court hearings of which they were made aware, met with social workers, and attended all scheduled visitations with their children in their respective foster homes.
The last The Post & Email heard from Jeffrey Henderson in late 2014, all eight of the children were on a path toward adoption, some by family members and others by strangers. The Hendersons had explained that if “family reunification” efforts by DCFS are deemed to have failed within a certain period of time, adoption is then aggressively explored.
In the case of the Williamses’ eldest child, the prospect of adoption was raised just six weeks after the case was officially opened in juvenile court, a step which DCFS spokesman Armand Montiel told The Post & Email is out of sequence except in the case of parents accused of or known to have acted violently toward a child. The Williamses have not been accused of violence toward their children.
Kanika has observed that their experience with DCFS appears to be very similar to that which the Hendersons reported. As with the two youngest Henderson children, the Williamses’ third child was ordered “detained” by Downing even though there was no evidence of neglect or abuse while she resided with Kanika for the first nine months of her life.
In a second legal action, the Williamses are writing an opening brief to appeal an opinion rendered in their federal case filed in June 2015 against the State of California and other parties claiming that as the plaintiff, Roosevelt’s civil rights were violated as well as several federal laws and asking for $1 Billion in damages.
Roosevelt’s state of residence is noted as Alabama.
Last February, Judge Alexander MacKinnon denied a request filed by Roosevelt for a change of venue from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California based on a statement Downing reportedly made at a hearing in her court that the federal case would be dismissed.
According to Montiel, “reunification” is the primary goal of the department, although the Williamses do not believe that principle has been applied to their children’s cases.