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Judge orders permanency petitions be filed in Carlton County child care case

In a child care case against two mothers and involving 10 children, Judge Rebekka Stumme ordered the county to file permanency petitions for three of the children.

File: Carlton County Jail aerial
The Carlton County Courthouse (left) and jail in Carlton. Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Pine Journal
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CARLTON — In two separate hearings on Tuesday, Aug. 23, Judge Rebekka Stumme ordered county officials to file permanency petitions for three children in Carlton County child care cases.

The children are currently living in out-of-home placements. They were removed from their legal mothers' care in January after allegations of abuse were made against the women. If granted a permanency petition, the three children involved would not return to the care of their legal mothers. A total of 10 children are involved in two cases.

According to information presented to the court, the three children have no interest in returning to their legal mothers' care.

One of the women, Nicole Ammesmaki, was criminally charged with three counts of malicious punishment of a child by the Carlton County Attorney's Office on March 24. As of Tuesday, the criminal case is under advisement by Judge Amy Lukasavitz.

In her order, Stumme said she was happy to hear that Ammesmaki had taken ownership of her actions and how they affected the children.

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"Until you do that basic step, healing cannot even begin," she said.

For Ammesmaki's case, the judge ordered the permanency petitions be filed for two of her legal children.

Jeffrey Boucher, a Carlton County deputy attorney, said that therapists involved in the case have recommended that three other children return home, as continued removal provides negative impacts on them.

Melinda Nelms, guardian ad litem for the children, said all of the children are doing well. The two children who are recommended to remain out of Ammesmaki's care are safe and comfortable, and the other three children wish to return home. Nelms recommended a transition and slowly moving to a trial home visit, adding that family therapy would be very important as it would allow the children a place to safely voice any issues.

Stumme authorized continued unsupervised visits with the three children and approved a "robust and cautious" transition plan for a trial home visit to occur, she said.

It was also noted to the court that Ammesmaki moved to Wisconsin, and Stumme said an investigation into the new living arrangements needed to be made before a trial home visit could take place.

The biological mother for some of Ammesmaki's children also spoke at the hearing and was concerned as to why she has not been able to have contact with them. The woman said she had court-approved visitation with her children, but she had been told by county officials that an investigation was ongoing and she could not have any contact with her children until it was concluded. She said she has been sober for seven years, earned her high school diploma and has "turned her life around" for her children. She added that she felt it was not fair that Ammesmaki was able to see the children despite facing criminal charges.

Stumme ordered the investigation be completed as soon as possible so that, if deemed appropriate, the biological mother can resume visitation.

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In the case against the second woman, Rebecca McConkey-Greene, attorney for the petitioner, said she did not share the same optimism as in Ammesmaki's case, as the woman denied responsibility. McConkey-Greene said it does not seem like the woman was taking what she needed to heart and making the changes that are needed.

For this case, Stumme ordered a permanency petition be filed on behalf of the eldest daughter.

Scott Buchanan, attorney for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said the Band opposes the woman getting custody of the children. There had been issues in the past with the woman getting the children to school, he said.

"Unless (she has) demonstrated improvements, the Band can't get on board for return of custody," he said.

Jessica Sterle, the woman's attorney, said her client supports the permanency petition for her oldest daughter. Sterle was also hopeful that the parties would be able to come to an agreement before the trial in October.

Stumme said she was not going to authorize a home visit for the woman for a number of reasons, one being that the mother violated a protected plan for unsupervised visits that was in place, and when asked about it she became defensive, angry and argumentative, according to Stumme.

"It really raises red flags to me that you are ticking boxes, but you are not internalizing any of the things people are saying in this case," she said.

Unsupervised visits are able to continue, according to the order, but at the discretion of the county, the guardian ad litem and the Band.

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Stumme also said it was concerning that the guardian ad litem for the children in this case, Tammy Walker, reported that the children were being asked to lie or keep secrets.

"This case highlights the children have been vulnerable for a long time ... and taught not to talk," she said.

The next scheduled pretrial for Ammesmaki was set for Nov. 15, and the other mother has a pretrial scheduled for Sept. 20.

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