Willie Robinson Gives Back
“Let his mother go and get herself some help. With time and grace, people can change,” explained Willie Robinson, who is currently licensed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide kinship care.
Willie is caring for his biological son, Brian aged 13, and another child for whom Willie considers a son as he has acted as a father figure for this young boy throughout his life. The boys have lived together literally forever and were raised as brothers.
He believes that with the proper support and resources, environments and people can heal. When asked about the long-term plan for the child placed into his care, Willie emphatically stated, “To go back to his mother, of course," adding, “When she is ready to have him, I will help make that happen for all of us."
The trajectory of Willie Robinson’s life has not always been an easy one. He experienced years of substance abuse, criminal involvement, and unhealthy relationships. Willie’s familiarity with DCF stems back to when his children, Joshua and Shaneria, were young and were removed from his care. "You better get those kids back right away,'' Willie remembers his mother saying. He spent six months accepting services and working hard to get his children back home. “It was at a time when fathers were not valued like they are today, it was really hard to have anyone see me for the good father I strived to be, they were looking only at their mother," stated Willie.
Willie eventually received custody not only of Joshua and Shaneria, but also of his stepdaughter, who he raised as his own. His stepdaughter and son are now young adults, doing well with their careers. Shaneria is in the National Guard and is the first African American woman to work on the Blackhawk helicopter. She is now in college and will soon graduate with a degree in education.
The pride that Willie has for his children, is mirrored by the pride they have in him. “My dad is someone I could always count on," Shaneria Robinson explained. “I am so proud of him for taking on the role of a foster parent," she added.
Six months ago, DCF became involved with this boy Willie knew so well, and given that family's circumstances, placement was required. It was his son Brian who asked his father if they could open their home and make their family a little bigger.
Willie said he didn’t hesitate to agree, but because of his earlier protective service history with the Department, he would require a waiver from the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families to be licensed. He said his heart was hurting to imagine this child lost in the system.
The Department believes in rehabilitation. The waiver process was established for individuals who have experienced issues in their past which may preclude them from currently being licensed; it allows them to demonstrate that their past history does not impact their current ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home to a child.
Willie benefitted from multiple agencies who supported him on his journey towards healing and recovery and enabled him to become a kinship provider. He provided documentation to the Department and engaged in lengthy discussions about his previous challenges and how he was a different person today than he was years ago. The recommendations received clearly pointed to a changed man.
"This is what our department stands for," stated Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes. "People deserve a second chance. Willie Robinson changed his life, and he now has the opportunity to change the life of another person. We are grateful for his partnership and his willingness to assist this young child in need."
"We believe in the strength of our families and their ability to change the course of their lives," affirmed Deputy Commissioner Michael Williams. "Our past should not define us or prevent someone from enriching the life of a child. Willie Robinson is a great example of how the systems works in the best interests of children."
Social Work Supervisor Heather Jones supported Willie throughout the licensing process. “Mr. Robinson took everything in stride. He was open and honest, maintained a calm and respectful dignity and grace, displayed patience, and truly wanted to help us move forward despite how many times we contacted him with questions regarding his criminal and DCF history. He was clear that he wanted us to be sure and get this right, not for him, not just for the Department and its policies, but for this young boy. He never questioned the process. He knew this was important to his son Brian as well, to ensure that he would have his friend at home with them,” Heather stated.
Willie believes in forgiveness and never denies a child’s mother the dignity and respect she deserves. He explained that he understands this child's mother has had some challenges, and as she heals, he is present for this young boy and wants him to always carry love in his heart for his mother.
Willie understands the Department’s initial hesitance to consider him as a licensed kinship provider and is grateful for second chances.
“When assessing resources for licensing, we need to take the time to review their history and understand their life story," stated Program Supervisor Cathy Waylen, who was previously assigned the case. "This case was a good example of how the way we used to practice as an agency was not as supportive to Mr. Robinson and his family as our practice is today”.
“It’s just the three of us now, and the puppy," stated Willie. As he enjoys retirement and working side jobs for extra income, the boys both have daily chores, attend church, and are doing exceptionally well in school and sports.
Reflecting on his Sunday plans, Willie said with such warmth and excitement, “We have a birthday party to attend this afternoon and then we’ll sit down together and eat our Sunday meal."
Willie believes in the values of love and respect and has accepted Jesus into his heart. He just wants to be good to people, to be kind.
“I’m not a perfect father, but my love and commitment to my boys are as perfect as they can be.”
Willie's story reflects the mission and values of our Department. Our staff worked closely with Mr. Robinson to ensure that the transition for the boys did not result in the disruption of their most cherished relationships, undermining their development and sense of belonging.
We are grateful to you, Willie Robinson, for your humility, grace, and commitment to your children.
*Some details of this family were changed to ensure confidentiality