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“I’M NOT GOING TO BARTER MY CHILD’S LIFE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 23, 2017) — On Tuesday, The Post & Email published a second article summarizing a hearing held on April 14 in the Edelman Children’s Court concerning a now-28-month-old girl removed from her mother’s care after receiving a referral from a police detective about an altercation between her parents.
The first installment, published on April 15, asked the question, “What is in the best interest of the child?”
The mother, Michelle Robinson*, has not seen her daughter for six months since encountering challenges in locating an appropriate monitor, which the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) imposed as a condition for visitation.
The child was placed with her father, who had reportedly physically abused Robinson when they shared a home. Following that incident, Robinson said she ejected him from her home and obtained a restraining order.
Robinson told The Post & Email afterward that the presiding judge, Frank Menetrez, did not appear concerned during the hearing that she accused her child’s father of having committed a very serious crime, noting only that the information was already known and “on the record.”
While the father did not file a police report over the December 20, 2015 altercation, Robinson did. As Detective Sean Horton conducted an investigation, he interpreted Robinson to be the perpetrator and made a referral to DCFS about her young daughter, who reportedly had been asleep in her car seat in a parked car when it occurred.
Horton reportedly told DCFS that a person in the area of the altercation took video footage of the incident, but it has never been produced. Robinson said that DCFS accepted Horton’s word that a video existed which he had viewed without his having to provide actual proof.
Despite the altercation with her child’s father, Robinson insists she has “done nothing wrong” and should regain custody.
One of the items raised in Friday’s hearing was that of a courthouse visitation session between mother and daughter being established for April 25, the date on which a contested hearing is scheduled regarding the child’s permanent living arrangement, which Menetrez did not alter from that of the father, who is expected to be granted complete legal and physical custody.
In an interview prior to the April 14 hearing, Robinson told The Post & Email that her daughter now resides in a home where she likely does not have her own room or even a crib in which to sleep. Members of her husband’s extended family reportedly occupy the three bedrooms, while her child’s father is believed to occupy the den. According to Robinson, her daughter’s father does not cook, and she is concerned for her daughter’s nutritional needs as well as emotional, psychological, and physical health.
It is Robinson’s understanding that DCFS workers have visited her daughter in the father’s home only once in the 13 months in which she has lived there. Robinson also told us that transients occupy the home at various times and that no one has been required to be fingerprinted by the Department, as her eldest daughter was.
Robinson has made it clear that she believes that she is the victim of unwarranted retaliation by DCFS social workers and has requested that case manager Elise Matz and her supervisor, Kassandra Love, testify on April 25.
As The Post & Email has reported, the parents in the three Los Angeles DCFS cases which it has covered were not accused of neglect or abuse. Rather, the detention of their children appears to have been ordered by judges and commissioners who believed that the children would be better off elsewhere for various reasons.
The federal law enacted by Congress in 1974 known as “CAPTA” provided block grants to the states for the purpose of providing “a wide range of programs that support various social policy goals” relating to child abuse and neglect.
The law was followed by numerous revisions and additional related statutes, the most recent of which involve human trafficking.
A certified letter sent by The Post & Email to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on March 15, 2017 has received no response other than proof of receipt via the green mailing card. In our letter, we asked if taking children from the biological parents without evidence of abuse or neglect is not a form of human trafficking and other types of child exploitation.
Robinson said that her daughter’s father has not complied with court orders to take domestic violence classes and enroll in personal counseling but that she has complied with the same orders and had proof with her on April 14. However, the documentation was not requested by the court.
During the hearing, a motion was introduced for Robinson’s right to decide “educational” matters for her daughter to be restricted.
As of Saturday, Robinson said she has not yet received copies of documents needed for the hearing on Tuesday consisting of a “Minutes Order per WIC 248.5; documents submitted to Court on 4/14/17 by County Counsel, including TRO attachments; and a planned Notice to Appeal ALL orders made on 4/14/17.”
She has also not been notified as to whether or not an approved monitor is available that day so that her daughter could be brought to court for the proposed visit.
Robinson said that following the hearing, she was presented the option to allow the court’s recommendation that her daughter’s father have complete legal and physical custody to stand and pursue a different arrangement in family court which she rejected because of a mandatory four-month waiting period to open a case and the requirement that a major change in the child’s circumstances have occurred.
“I haven’t seen my daughter in six months and have no idea what her situation is,” Robinson told us. “I know nothing about her life right now, so it would be extremely difficult for me to prove that a major change for the worse has taken place.”
“I’m not going to barter my child’s life. You can’t tie up my life for this many months and then just walk away unscathed,” she added, referring to decisions the court has made. “I think her father could one day realize that what they did to his child impacted her for the rest of her life.”