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Victor's story, part 2: No hope for family placement

When it became clear to Victor Rodgers that he wasn’t going to have custody of his daughter, Karee, he turned to his twin sister, Victoria, for help. She agreed to take the child in .

“I’ve never had to deal with DHS or anything before. This is my first experience. But I felt like when DHS came into my brother’s life, he needed the support of the family,” she told me. “Family reunification, I always thought, was first and foremost.”

Victoria has no children of her own. She has never been arrested, has a stable place to live and a good job working as a full-time cook for kids at an Illinois residential treatment facility. There was every indication she could provide a stable, loving home for Karee.

At Iowa’s request, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services did a home study of Victoria’s home on Aug. 31, 2010. They approved her for relative foster care placement.

But when it arrived, the social worker just set it aside. Already, the court had started hearings to terminate Victor’s parental rights.

After Victor’s rights were terminated in November 2010, Victoria told social workers she wanted to adopt Karee. In April 2011, Iowa asked Illinois to do another study of Victoria’s home. Again, she was approved, but Iowa said it wasn’t sufficient – Illinois workers had conducted another relative placement study, not an adoptive home study.

“Every time I cleared one hurdle, they came with another hurdle,” Victoria told me. “It was almost like a decision had been made before they even interviewed me.”

Victoria even submitted letters from coworkers and her minister attesting to her character:

“Victoria has a fun and outgoing personality and a love for people,” wrote her bishop at the First Free Will Baptist Church, where she’s been a member for 20 years. “She often spends time with the young people and gives them words of encouragement. They love it when she volunteers to cook for them on special events.”

A social worker who had worked with Victoria for a year praised her “innate ability and desire to provide for and protect those that can not protect themselves.” She encourages the children she works with “to be the best person they can be while providing them with the support and love needed to freely be their best.”

“Victoria will be great at providing a safe and nurturing home for a child,” She wrote. “She has emotionally adopted several young people in her life time and their lives are enhanced because of it.”

Last October, Victoria was interviewed by Iowa DHS adoption specialists, who later noted they were concerned by “Ms. Rodgers’ insufficient information regarding her brother’s legal issues and the risks that he would potentially pose to the child if allowed access to the child or to care for the child.”

Oct. 14, 2011, Victoria received a letter signed by a DHS adoption specialist. It read: “Dear Ms. Rodgers: An adoption staffing was recently held to match the family who would best meet the need of Karee Robinson. While your family was given careful consideration and many strengths were noted, another family was selected.

“We want to thank you for responding and we encourage you to continue your interest in special needs adoption,” the letter read. "Your home study will continue to be available for consideration for other children.”

She had no right to appeal.

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