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Arguments continue in Carlton County child care case

The latest hearing in a Carlton County child care case brought a warning from Judge Rebekka Stumme for attorneys to remember their priority is not to win, but to get the best outcome for the children.

File: Carlton County Jail aerial
The Carlton County Courthouse (left) and jail in Carlton. Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Pine Journal

CARLTON – After a Tuesday, March 22, hearing in a child care case in Carlton County, Judge Rebekka Stumme gave a stern warning to attorneys involved in the case that the priority is the safety of the children.

The ruling Tuesday led one mother, Ashley Roy, to say: "I'm ecstatic."

"I am disappointed in some of the court's perceived attitudes in this case," she said. "This is about 10 children total and their cases."

The children were removed from their legal homes in January after allegations of abuse were made against two mothers. The Pine Journal is not identifying the women to protect the identities of the children. The latest hearing involved one of the women and five of the children. The oldest child testified against the woman about alleged abuse she received while in her mother's care during a hearing last month .

The warning came at the end of the hearing, after attorneys on both sides squabbled over information. Stumme said they needed to work on having civil discussions with each other.

Jessica Sterle, the woman's attorney, said she is only looking to get four of the younger children back and has been cooperating voluntarily.

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Thus far she has voluntarily completed a psychological exam, parenting courses and is scheduled to start therapy sessions.

"What more does my client need to do to get the kids home?" Sterle asked.

Rebecca McConkey-Greene, the attorney for the petitioner, said she had concerns that the woman's psychological evaluation did not comply with American Psychological Association guidelines.

Scott Buchanan, attorney for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, agreed with McConkey-Greene and said the assessment was incomplete. The evaluation was conducted without collateral information in the case, including details about the mother, Buchanan said.

Stumme said she thought there were discrepancies in the evaluation.

The county's "rush" to get the children back into the mother's care worried McConkey-Greene. She said she was also concerned about the woman having visits with the children.

The county supervises the visits, according to Carlton County Public Health and Human Services staff. Supervised visits are also allowed under court order, said Assistant County Attorney Claire Klein.

It has always been the county's position to return the children home, Klein said.

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"The children can return home with supervision and a safety plan in place," she said.

Under the law, the court works to reunify the children with their legal custodian, Stumme said, but she added that it is not the time to let the children go home.

Melinda Nelms, the guardian ad litem for the children, updated the court and said the five children are doing well. Therapy services are scheduled for all of the children, but not all of the children have started therapy.

Nelms said she would be against the children returning home, without therapy services in place.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Red Lake Nation's comments in the case indicate they do not believe the children should be returned home yet, Stumme said.

"That weighs heavily on my mind," she said.

Supervised visitation will continue, and Stumme said it would be less beneficial to have no contact.

The next scheduled hearing in the case is a pretrial hearing on May 17.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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