A child protection case that has touched a nerve in the local Somali community drew large crowds again outside a Hennepin County courtroom on Thursday.
About 150 people gathered at the Juvenile Justice Center in Minneapolis, where a contested emergency protection hearing took place to determine whether the children of Dahabo Hussein Hassan and her husband, Bulale Mohamed Ali, should be returned to the family home.
Six of the eight children were removed from Hassan's custody after child protection officials received reports of physical abuse.
Hennepin County District Judge Frank Magill took the matter under advisement after listening to testimony from county social workers involved in the case and from Somali community members who know the family.
Community members have said they fear the children were removed because of a culture clash and poor communication between the family and county officials. Child protection workers, however, said the family had rebuffed several attempts to address the allegations of abuse.
Hassan's children ages 6 to 16 were placed in emergency shelter Monday after a 16-year-old girl reported she had been physically abused. The girl has apparently run away from the shelter and is missing. Three other children, ages 6, 7 and 9, will stay with relatives until Magill issues a ruling. Meanwhile, Hassan's 15-year-old and 11-year-old children were returned to the family home Wednesday.
According to the child protection petition, the 16-year-old girl's claims of abuse were consistent with injuries including a black eye and scratches on her arm. Three younger siblings backed their sister's story that all of the children were physically abused; and a 9-year-old also had a mark on his arm. Hassan's lawyers argue that the 16-year-old girl's injuries happened during a struggle with her older brother who was trying to block her from running away; and the 9-year-old hurt his arm while playing on a playground.
Those who jammed the Juvenile Justice Center halls on Thursday voiced their support for the parents and questioned whether Hennepin County officials have properly handled the case.