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Prosecutor: Willie Robinson's parents to blame for his death



Published: Sun, March 18, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

Official says Trumbull Co. agency ‘perhaps’ could have acted faster

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

An assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor says she thinks Trumbull County Children Services “could have acted more quickly” to ensure that an 8-year-old former Warren boy got medical care in the months before he died in Cleveland from undiagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

But Anna Faraglia, who prosecuted Willie Robinson’s parents in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for failing to provide medical care for the boy, says the real blame lies with the parents.

“I think they tried,” Faraglia said of Children Services. “When they went to the home, they [Willie’s family] gave the impression that everything was hunky- dory,” Faraglia said.

“Could [Children Services] have acted more quickly? Perhaps,” Faraglia said by telephone recently.

Willie’s parents, Monica Hussing and William Robinson Sr., pleaded guilty to attempted involuntary manslaughter, and each was sentenced last month to an eight-year prison term.

Hussing, Robinson and their six children lived on York Street Northwest in Warren until late February 2008, when they moved to Cleveland, apparently because Children Services had threatened to take the parents to court to force them to get Willie medical care and to send four of their children to school.

Faraglia said the appalling decision by Willie’s parents to refuse medical care for Willie in spite of obvious signs that he was seriously ill places the blame for Willie’s death on them.

As parents, “you have a responsibility to care for a child,” Faraglia said, adding that doctors indicated that there is a 96 percent survival rate for Hodgkin’s lymphoma for children who are diagnosed early.

Willie “never once saw a doctor from the time he was born — no wellness checks, nothing,” Faraglia said.

Willie died March 22, 2008, in a Cleveland hospital, where his father took him after Willie collapsed at home.

The autopsy done on Willie’s body determined that Willie died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a highly treatable form of cancer. The coroner reported that Willie’s body was emaciated, which the judge in the case said should have indicated to anyone seeing him that Willie was seriously ill in the months leading up to his death.

Faraglia said evidence shows that toward the end of Willie’s life, including his final months on York Street, “Willie wasn’t able to walk, and he was always in the bedroom.”

Children Services first began to visit Willie’s home in July 2007 and continued the visits multiple times per month until Feb. 14, 2008, the agency told an ABC News reporter in 2009.

Children Services was called there by Hussing’s sister, Sheila Slawinski, who lives in a Cleveland suburb. Slawinski said she called Children Services out of fear for Willie’s health because of a lump on his neck and because Willie and three of his siblings had never been to school.

Faraglia said the Children Services caseworker observed a lump on Willie’s neck when he first visited the home in July. The caseworker told Hussing to get Willie to a doctor and to get the four children enrolled in school, Faraglia said.

But Hussing, whom Faraglia called a “big liar,” never took Willie to a doctor or enrolled the children, Faraglia said. The two oldest children did attend school, Faraglia noted.

How, then, did a Children Services worker miss the apparently obvious signs that Willie was deathly ill?

Faraglia says it’s because Willie had a brother one year younger, and the caseworker apparently saw the younger brother without realizing it during most of his visits.

Faraglia said prosecutors concluded that the caseworker was seeing Willie’s little brother because, he said, “Willie would always draw me pictures.” From family members, it was learned that Willie never drew pictures, but his little brother frequently did.

“I think the social worker thought he was seeing Willie when he was actually seeing a younger brother,” Faraglia said.

“I believe [the caseworker] saw Willie at least one time, but toward the end I don’t believe he did see Willie.”

Nick Kerosky, executive director of Trumbull Children Services, said it’s possible that Faraglia is right and that the caseworker wasn’t seeing Willie.

And because Willie reportedly had “good days and bad,” Kerosky said, it’s possible Willie looked healthy part of the time.

“It’s possible we didn’t see the right kid. There were a lot of kids, and the kids looked alike,” Kerosky said.

Children don’t have identification cards, so it would be impossible to know whether the caseworker is seeing the right child, he said.

It’s rare for a family to try to hide one of their children from Children Services, Kerosky said. And rather than assume that a family is lying, “We pride ourselves on having a relationship with the family. It’s unusual that we don’t have a good rapport. I’m sure if our worker would have perceived that the child was at risk, we would have acted quicker.”

Kerosky noted that the worker on that case “is no longer here,” saying he believes the worker retired. Kerosky said he doesn’t believe any employees were disciplined for their work on the case.

Asked whether several high-profile cases in recent months suggest that the agency failed to recognize how devious the offending parents could be, Kerosky said the opposite is also true.

“I could show you just as many cases where the family said we went too far and the family was unhappy.”

Last year, Children Services was criticized for allowing two Warren parents to have an essentially unsupervised visit with their biological daughter, who was 9 months old, when the agency knew the father had been previously convicted of a sex offense against a child.

The parents are both accused of raping the child at the Children Services offices on Reeves Road during the visit. Police say the couple videotaped the rapes on a cellphone.

Defense attorneys for Hussing and William Robinson Sr. said Hussing tried to get treatment for Willie from a Warren health clinic, but she declined the treatment because it was going to cost $180.

Faraglia said investigators checked into those claims, however, and found them to be false.

Hussing did make a visit to a Warren health clinic, but all the clinic asked her to do was fill out a paper and make an appointment for Willie — things she never did, Faraglia said.

“A single blood test would have determined that the child had Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Faraglia said, adding that testimony given at the sentencing indicated that there were a variety of locations where Willie’s parents could have taken Willie for medical care that would not have cost any money, such as the emergency room of the two Warren hospitals or “many clinics in Trumbull County.”

“I don’t fault anybody,” Faraglia said of Children Services. “They claim they followed their protocol, and I respect that,” Faraglia said, adding that Children Services was cooperative throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case.

Slawinski told reporters she thinks the reason Hussing and William Robinson Sr. didn’t get medical care for Willie was because it was easier for Hussing to stay in bed during the day and do drugs. Both parents have abused drugs, their attorneys told the judge in their case.

“The reason they chose not to take care of this child is known only to them,” Faraglia said.


Comments

1Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Willie Robinson's parents can blame everyone but themselves. The parents are the ones that killed this little child, no one else. You bring children into this World then you better be able to take care of them, not everyone else. Pitiful cockroaches.

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2tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Both the parents and Children's Services failed this little boy miserably. They should all be ashamed. The parents are despicable and Children's Services is derelict. The agency's primary responsibility is to protect the children, not the family, and until the people who work there realize that this sort of thing will continue to happen. How could they not see that something was terribly wrong in that household? How could they not know which child was which? What an abysmal failure of the system.

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3janitspace(94 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

tonne, can you read? The parents moved out of the county to avoid CSB. Rather than ever take the child to the doctor, they moved. CSB was not derelict, but they might do better by hiring licensed social workers instead of just anyone with a degree.

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4Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

tonne

CSB did everything they could have done. The parents are the despicable and useless ones here, not a Government agency. It shouldn't take a agency to know and TELL you your child needs medical attention. Common sense does that and the Parents don't have any. Wish people would QUIT blaming everyone but themselves.

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5tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Yes, Janitspace, I can read but if you had read the whole article, you would know that the Trumbull County CSB had this case for a long enough period of time to have known something was very wrong. Even the prosecutor who cleared it of any wrongdoing stated "perhaps" it could have acted more quickly. Lifes2SHORT, life has been too short for a couple of the children who have come under this particular agency's care. If you've read pervious stories about TC CSB, you know this isn't the first time it has dropped the ball and a child has paid the price for it. I said both the parents and the agency failed this child and I stand by that opinion. The parents didn't care if their child saw a doctor or if their children attended school. It was the agency's responsibility to see that those children were taken care of by virtue of the fact that the parents were not, and it should have done so before the family moved to Cleveland. That is its job and that is what it is paid to do. When a caseworker is doing his job the way he's supposed to, the number of children living in the home is known and children are not confused with one another no matter how much they may look alike. One more thing, does anyone know why the family wasn't tracked in Cleveland? If it had been and authorities there informed of what took place here, that little boy may have survived. Sorry, but, in this case, I don't agree that CSB is blameless.

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6CountryGirl51(197 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

The major fault is with the parents for not taking this child to the doctors. He was treatable and probably could have lived a happy long life afterwards. They were selfish for whatever reasons. And no excuse for not sending those kids to school as well. There are places to get free clothes/supplies if that was a problem. CBS if at fault too. They have to be blamed somewhat here. When they were going there , they knew the number of children in that house. Take a count. Ask to see all the children !! When they moved CSB in Cleveland should have taken over ! There is no reason why this should have happend. This child should have been taken from this house way before it got this far !! NO EXCUSES !!

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7tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

CountryGirl51 -- exactly.

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8steelwagon(284 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

CSB made mutiple monthly visits to the home between Juyl and Feb and we're suppose to believe they didn't know anything was wrong or that they were being duped and lied to by a couple of dope using rats ?

Even with CSBs' terrible record that's a tough stretch.
The fact is that poor little kid was failed all the way around by everyone who knew he was sick including extended family.

Here's what I question the most in this sorry matter...
If a CSB caseworker saw the lump on Willie's neck during a visit and then the parents switched a healthy child in place of Willie why didn't the case worker ask about where the medical treatment and health care was given and what course of treatment was planned for Willie ?

I mean cancer doesn't simply disappear in a few days and if mutiple monthly visits to the home were being made certainly the caseworker should have been suspicious enough to ask a few basic questions about the child's care and medical treatment.

The key here is mutiple monthly visits.
You don't have cancer one day and it's completly cured the next few days or a week later !!
If the parents were ordered to get treatment for Willie why wasn't proof of his medical treatment demanded by CSB ?

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9janitspace(94 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Ok people please read the article, he wasn't diagnosed with cancer until after he died....the autopsy determined what the child died from.
If a family ups and moves... how is CSB supposed to know where they moved to? They moved because they did not want to take their dying emaciated child to the doctor. What part of that absolves the parent of their responsibility?

-Be a part of the solution ...make a difference in a child's life.

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10CountryGirl51(197 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

PEOPLE ARE NOT STATING THEY KNEW PER-SAY HE HAD CANCER, BUT WHEN A CHILD HAS A LASTING LUMP AND IS SICK...WELL...YOU BETTER BE GETTING TREATMENT ASAP, BECAUSE IT IS NOT LOOKING GOOD ! THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO GET THE INFO WHERE THEY MOVED TO..POST OFFICE...FRIENDS, RELATIVES, NEIGHBORS, ETC....

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11janitspace(94 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Ultimately, the parents are responsible for his care.

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12Ceaman(54 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Drugs yet again. Eight years seems a rather short sentence fifteen seems about right and it would send a message to other parents that the courts will not stand for this behavior.

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