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Protest planned before hearing in Carlton County child care case

Pine Journal - 10/17/2022

Oct. 13—CARLTON — A child care case that began with 10 children being removed from the care of two legal mothers in January has prompted community members to hold a press conference and protest at the Carlton County Courthouse at 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17.

Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith, a legal advocate, is organizing the event to raise awareness about the case and protest returning children to homes where alleged abuse occurred.

The protest on Monday will be held prior to a pretrial hearing on Tuesday, where Smith said the court will hear arguments about a trial home visit with one of the legal mothers involved.

The legal mother, Nicole Ammesmaki, has moved to Wisconsin, and Smith said returning the children to the home would bypass the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Ammesmaki is also facing criminal charges

of three counts of malicious punishment of a child, which is a misdemeanor and has a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison, a $3,000 fine, or both, which were filed by the Carlton County Attorney's Office on March 24.

The biological mother of some of the children has been granted visitation with her children, but during a court hearing Aug. 24, it was noted that officials opened investigation into her, which prevented visitation from taking place.

During the Aug. 24 hearing, the judge ordered the investigation be completed as soon as possible. According to Smith, the woman has yet to be able to see her children.

The biological mother's parental rights have never been terminated, Smith said, as she still pays child support and deserves the chance to be reunited with her children.

"Removing her children out-of-state to someone that has an upcoming trial for criminal child abuse is absurd and extremely upsetting to many members of community, as well as past and present victims of abuse in these cases," she said.

Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, said he could not comment on the current investigation or court case.

During the August hearing, Jeffrey Boucher, Carlton County chief deputy attorney, said that therapists involved in the case recommended that three of Ammesmaki's five children return home, as continued removal negatively impacts them.

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

Stumme also required an investigation into the living arrangements in Wisconsin before a trial home visit could take place.

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