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Judge Rules Two Black Infants Can Be With Affluent White Couple

August 16, 1990

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A judge on Thursday granted a black woman’s wish that her two young girls live with an affluent, suburban white couple, ending social workers’ plans to place the children with black, inner city foster parents.

Milwaukee County Children’s Court Judge Ronald S. Goldberger ordered that the woman’s 5-month-old daughter remain in the care of foster parents Beverly and David Cox of Delafield, a suburb about 30 miles west of Milwaukee.

The judge also ordered the woman’s 16-month-old daughter moved there.

The Milwaukee County Department of Social Services wanted to put the girls in black foster homes in the inner city to keep them in the same social and economic environment as their mother.

The judge made the ruling after social worker Bonnie Finkler told the court her agency had changed its position and agreed to drop plans to take the 5- month-old child from the Coxes and place her with a black family.

″This case is unique because of the close friendship that has developed between the Coxes and the natural family,″ Ms. Finkler said. ″We are hopeful that this relationship will prove to be an asset in reuniting mother and daughters as soon as possible.″

The children were taken from their mother earlier this year after social workers determined the woman was unable to ″maintain a proper home″ for them, said Jeff Aikin, a spokesman for the department.

Initial placements were made before social workers fully reviewed the circumstances. The younger child was placed with the Coxes. The older one was put at a different white home but later moved to a black foster mother’s home.

The 30-year-old mother, who hasn’t been identified in court to protect her children’s identities, has not contested the removal of her children, but she petitioned the court to overrule the social workers on relocation.

The Coxes joined the children’s mother in protesting the social workers’ decision, arguing race should not affect any foster placement decisions.

But Goldberger ruled the couple had no legal standing and that only the mother could appeal.

Jim Ries, a foster care official with the Department of Social Services, said the older child will be placed in the Cox home as soon as possible to reunite the two sisters.

″It’ll happen right away, but it’ll happen in a way that will make it easiest for the kids,″ Ries said.

The black foster family recently asked the department to withdraw as a placement alternative for the youngest girl, ″due primarily to the publicity surrounding the case,″ Ms. Finkler said.

Mrs. Cox said she was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

″This will be very nice to have this out of the way, and have all our families back to normal,″ she said.

But she added that the children’s mother needs counseling that should begin right away to expedite a reunion with her four children. The woman’s two older children have been living with relatives.

The mother has not been receiving counseling since the placement dispute began, Mrs. Cox said.

Michael Vruno, a lawyer appointed by the court to represent the children, had first advocated placement with a black family. He changed his mind, but said race was not his primary concern.

″The concern that I had about these two children living with the Coxes is that they are quite a distance from the mother,″ Vruno said.

He said he was convinced the Coxes would continue to provide transportation so the children could visit their mother, although they have no legal duty to do so.

Vruno said he believes the Department of Social Services should consider race in adoption cases and permanent foster placements.

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