PRINCETON (WCCO) — A widely-respected foster care mother from Mille Lacs County has been charged with the cruel punishment, endangerment and neglect of a child.

Mille Lacs County District Court records say 46-year-old Mary Roelofs of Princeton put a 3-year-old boy out in the cold in little clothing, and even withheld food as punishment when he didn’t do as she instructed.

Court records show on December 9, 2011, Mary Roelofs was caring for the child of one of her employees. That mother noticed a bruise on her boy, and the child’s doctor was concerned about the extent of the bruises on his upper body.

When questioned by authorities, Roelofs told investigators she “grabbed him and put him in the garage” and admitted to putting him outside in the cold when he didn’t sweep the floor. She said she put him out in the cold three or four times, because that was how the boy’s mother punished him, and she was trying to be consistent.

Authorities say the weather in Minnesota that day ranged between 5 and 17 degrees. A witness at the home told investigators the boy was outside with a T-shirt and “pull-up” diaper.

Other court allegations include punching the boy after he pushed another child, saying, “How do you like to be bullied?” Records also say Roelofs withheld food and naps as punishment.

When asked to explain the bruises on the child’s upper body, Roelofs told Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s deputies she didn’t remember doing anything that would have injured the boy. According to court records, she said she didn’t recall being frustrated, but added that “it’s possible on any given day to step over the line, but that’s not her goal.”

At her home, Roelofs referred WCCO to her attorney, Kevin DeVore, saying she couldn’t comment with the pending case.

“I can tell you they are absolutely devastated and shocked because of the charges,” said DeVore. “They’ve dedicated their lives to caring for some of the most troubled youth and adults in the state.”

The Roelofs residence has been home to at least 300 foster children in 24 years, according to DeVore, who says Roelofs employs people to help her care for foster children.

Roelofs has already experienced hardship, after her 12-year-old son Micah was killed in a car accident last March. She shared her sorrow with WCCO back then.

DeVore says the true character of a loving mother will be revealed in court.

“Mary Roelofs will vigorously defend herself against these charges. Her day in court will come and she will have her opportunity to tell her side of the story, and I know when that happens it will be clear she is innocent of these charges,” said DeVore.

Roelofs’ foster children were removed from the home as part of the protocol with the investigation.

Roelofs appears in court Tuesday. If convicted of the charges, she could face up to nine years in prison or a $22,000 dollar fine.

Comments (45)
  1. Dianne says:

    Since when does anyone expect a 3-year-old to sweep a floor! What is wrong with this woman! She should not be able to get her hands on Foster Children again. I’d say she’s done,with that,at this point. She apparently has another job since she has employees whose child this belonged to. I don’t put my dog out in this weather for more than one half hour, how can a child in a diaper and t-shirt handle it without getting hyperthermia, even in a garage! Shame on you Mary, it appears you might have known better at some point!

  2. Me says:

    She expected a three year old to sweep? Yes, they like to help out at that age but any parent can tell you that you’ll have to clean up after they’ve “cleaned” up. And what if he had wandered off when she put him outside? Where is the thinking?

  3. tan pup says:

    Makes me sick! That’s all I got to say about that. Makes you wonder about another very famous “foster care mother” who has never let those children speak . . . Just saying.

    1. Uncle Rico says:

      no it doesn’t make anyone wonder, idiot.

  4. Jake says:

    I imagine we might hear a few more complaints against old mother hubbard as the investigation continues. I commend the mother who spoke up, she may have just saved a young child’s life, thank you.

    1. Lisa says:

      EXCUSE ME – “ Save a Childs life. I understand standing up and being a voice for a battered child, but…… You may want to wait to speak your mind until she has her day in court. YOU DON’T know the family, you were not there… Please, where is innocent until proven guilty. ”?. If you knew the family and all of her children and those foster children and foster mothers that show nothing but kindness and lives changed, changed for the better. GOD BLESS MARY and may the truth be the truth and the lies be set aside, AMEN!

      1. Dianne says:

        Mary admitted to doing what she did to that child and she gave a reason why. She may have all the references in the world but the truth is that stress and grief can play to the dark side in every person, they get angry and confused and they aren’t the same person they used to be. All this could be caused by the loss of her OWN child. She is surely asking why, being a good person and taking care of so many traumatized children, why did she have to lose her own child! God did not do this to her, but he can help her because he loves her and knows she needs help. Suffering the consequences of her action is a sobering notion and perhaps will help her get back in touch with herself and God.

  5. Stick her outside Up North says:

    @ ez…
    Unless they fixed it, the paragraph says
    “Mille Lacs County District Court records say 46-year-old Mary Roelofs of Princeton put a 3-year-old boy out in the cold in little clothing, and even withheld food as punishment when he didn’t do as she instructed.”

    1. ez says:

      They fixed it, they always do once someone says something. lol

  6. big banjo says:

    whoa nay sayers…..reserve judgement until the facts are known—that means BOTH sides of the story…….however i must say that her quote about “going over the line on any given day” is a bit concerning……..even a possibilty of that happening should preclude anybody from daycare.

    1. getthekidsaway says:

      what do you mean ‘reserve judgement ’til the facts are known’ the ‘fact’ we do know is ALL we need to know: the jerk-lady put a young child out in the cold w/little clothing on. Enough said!!! charge her with endangerment and at the very least take ALL those children away from her.

  7. dave setzer says:

    how can mary be devestated and shocked in her own words to the police she said she put a 3 year old child outside in the cold multiple times , made him carry fire wood . punished him cause he wouldnt sweep a garage floor . just proud of wcco for airing this story . keep up the good reporting and if this goes to trial i can imagine what the verdict will be . good job by the mille lacs county deputy as well glad that he took pictures and on tuesday more will be known . god bless the poor child and his mom .

  8. missy says:

    Sounds like she’s overwhelmed, frustrated, grieving, etc….If this is the first incident, which only those who have resided in that home, would know, this is a big wake up call for her to get help, and get those children out of her care. That poor child, with all that he’s been through, to be abused like that. Has she never heard of a time-out? And I agree with all the comments, except Sensitive Male, about expecting a 3 year old to sweep. That’s ridiculous.

  9. steVE says:

    300 hundred foster children ! sounds like a puppy mill. this is way to sad. i hope they lock her up for a long time.

    1. ez says:

      That’s over a 24 year period. It does not sound like a puppy mill.

  10. See BS says:

    I bet she gets court ordered to take a communist political re-education program for not living in a perfect and mistake free society.

    Everything is felony child abuse — because it gives Union thugs job security and pension money.

    1. CPS says:

      to See BS – what kind of stupid remark is that?? child abuse gives Union thugs job security and pension money??? you must be an abuser to have such harsh feelings against child abuse.

      1. See BS says:

        Union thugs like to bully people around with pretend make-believe-politically-convenient-paranoid-schizoprenia.

        And then Bridges get neglected, collapse and kill people.

        1. Me says:

          So…you’d like a union construction company to repair the bridges then? How about showing some concern for the story at hand?

          1. See BS says:

            It sounds too sketchy, vague and nothing outside stupid things people do every day.

            “Inalienable right” means citizens of this state have the right to live in an imperfect world.

  11. Marney says:

    What a dispicable woman….puttin a child out in the cold with only a diaper and t-shirt on.!! how horrible for that little boy! Lets put her out in the cold…like sittin in a cold jail cell with little clothing on, see how she likes it. sounds like she was requiring that little 3 yr old to do chores she should of been doing. whats wrong with that Millacs county, they need to take ALL those children away from her right now. sounds like the ‘foster home from hell’. This Mary foster parent is horrible.

  12. do do says:

    How much money do they collect for caring for little brats, i mean kids…….

  13. Kate says:

    Who makes a 3 yr old sweep?? Not right to begin with.

  14. Cyndy says:

    i was in fact one of her foster children with my son who was 4 months old and she is a very loving and great foster mother so before any of you say how bad of a person she is you all should know the whole story or the facts…i lived with the family for over 9 months even when i would start to get frustrated with my son who was 4 moths old at the time and was colic i could count on her no matter what time of day or night to help me and i would say i never seen her so much as put a hand on a child not even any of her 6 children when a child acted up they would be sent to their room to think about what they did wrong or had to sit in the time out chair even with her having special needs children in her home i never once seen her get upset or irritated with them some kids she got were really messed up with attachment issues autism adhd etc as for making the 3 yr old sweep i can see that for the fact that her family and the foster kids would work together as a team to keep the house clean orderly and happy i was there when her son Micah (may he rip) was 3 and he would help also their family including extended and church family are very close and would make every single foster child feel like they were apart of the family i know it is human nature to make judgement of ppl with only the facts that you hear im just saying you all dont know the whole story she is a very honest loving and caring woman and the truth will come out and she can get back to what she loves the most and thats helping children who are in need

    1. anti bachmann says:

      that is so touching lets give her mother of the year award

    2. Molly says:

      Cyndy, the woman put a 3 yr old child out in the cold dressed in a diaper&t-shirt….that is mistreatment, that is fact, that is abuse period. no matter how wonderful a person is most of the time one act of child endangerment&abuse is bad& a crime. My heart aches for that little boy that had to endure Mary’s mistreatment. Those children should be taken from her immediately!!!. . If she wants to work with children she definitly needs to be under strict supervision.She deserves to be charged&stripped of her fostering for good.

      1. Dianne says:

        Molly, I agree. With the loss of her own child, she should get away from children for a while and grieve her son without distraction. Her days of being a caregiver for children are over, she lost her perspective on child rearing.

    3. Tammy says:

      is that one sentence??

      1. Dianne says:

        I know if I had lost a child I would be angry at God and everyone else who didn’t, this woman needs to go to counseleing not prison.

        1. kody says:

          so you you thelling me that if i was a forster parint instead of a foster kid and my son died then i could put you child in the grash during the winter?

  15. Debbie says:

    I live in Princeton and we know Mary is a nice person however if she knew the mother was doing that to the child then Mary is a manatory reporter and she should have call someone on this matter. She has know right to with hold food from a child. And yes I did foster care and daycare for 25 years and ncver would I think of that. She needs help because of the lose of her son but not to go to prison. Just pray that she will get the help she needs.

    1. Dianne says:

      Awesome comment,I wondered why she would “be consistent” with such an outrageous punishment as putting that child in the cold. She really does need help and perhaps a little mercy along with it. These people are paid well for fostering children and they also seem to get a pretty good salary for babysitting. Maybe the help’s kid was a free-bee

      1. jackactionhero says:

        Awesome comment? She should be jailed. You can’t make a 3 year old do housechores and punish them for not doing it correctly. Period.

        Why does she need help or mercy if she is a child abuser? Please be specific.

      2. N J M says:

        People do NOTget paid well for foster. We did for a while you may get up $14.00 for small kids and less as they get older depending on the childs care and needs. Please get your rates and facts before you post information that you are paid well for foster care. The Roelofs need love and support not bashing. There never has been any other complainants or alligations until now. With over 300 placements in the last 25 years which is about 8-12 a year depending on long care short care and there are times when you can have no placements. They have a specialized care that take whole families which has been the best and a model for the state of MN> DO NOT SPEAK OF WHAT YOU DONOT KNOW>
        People have mercy and grace.

    2. jackactionhero says:

      So no punishiment, just help? What the he77 is wrong with you? I do NOT CARE about her story. What I care about is her neglect and abuse of children.

      You can’t make a 3 year old sweep the floor. Period. It is beyond their comprehension that it has to be done a certain way “or else.”

      She needs to go to prison, or at the very least be put on probation with a suspended prison sentence.

      1. Lisa says:

        I don’t understand why she would place the child “in the garage even for 1 minute at a time”. Statement was “this is what her worker (his mother) used as punishment and she was following his mother’s requests.” You stated twice…. that she made him sweep the floor (help with chores). To place her in prison because she made a 3 year old sweep the floor. Don’t you think that is a little extreme?

        1. Dianne says:

          NO! Putting a 3-year-old out in the cold with minimal clothes on in 15-29 degrees is why the punishment is suggested, which is only one option for HER punishment, so let’s see what they do.

          1. Lisa says:

            I am aware of what she is facing, I was commenting to jackactionhero comment.

  16. VICTORIA says:

    Put her in prison, she knew what she was doing, do not let her foster anymore children. If she needs help over the death of her son she can get that in prison!

  17. KD says:

    Just because someone has been doing fo$ter care for that long without any previous complaints does not mean there have not been any previous incidents. Vulnerable children are often very hesitant to speak up if they’ve been abused. No doubt some of her fo$ter children have came from homes where domestic violence was very common and they think that it is the norm. We’ll maybe never know if this child was the first but I certainly hope he is the last. I know the Roelofs have hired a lawyer but I’m pretty sure the mother of this child is not financially able to do the same so I would not be at all surprised to find out that Roelofs gets nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

  18. Aaron MILACA says:

    This is horrible….. everyone believes what the news says, wait for the court date. She is one of the most wonderful people I have met. Her kids were raised good, they have great manners and love and respect her. No one knows but her, give it time PEOPLE!!!!!!!

    1. dave setzer says:

      wonderful people dont punch a 3 year old child , doctors dont have to call in county deputy for the wonderful woman they dont do this aaron . no excuse period all her godly upbringing dont mean a lick if she puts a 3 year old out side in the cold for not sweeping the floor . may be she will have a jury trial and get prison time then justice will be served . mary is not very nice or she would have not acted like she did there is no excuse to hurt a child she belongs in prison to sort her feelings out this kid how can he heal ? now all he knows is mary roelofs abused him and it will stay in his mind for the rest of his life it wont leave my mind ever . when youre fists hit another person you have crossed the line its how it is thank god mary got charged and maybee she should try her luck with a jury just may bee justice will be served . just pray the woman and child are safe and nothing happens to them .AARON IT IS HORRIBLE MARY HIT THIS 3 YEAR OLD IN THE FACE ARMS CHEST AND HEAD I SAW IT IN THE LOCAL PAPER . , THIS CHILD KNOWS HIS MOM KNOWS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE KNOW EVEN CRISTION PEOPLE LOSE THEIR TEMPERS AND BASH KIDS . may god bless wcco for their special report on this story and all the news papers that ran this artical i am sure marys mom and father are very very proud of their loving daughter and will defend her with unlimeted funds . just wish it was done by jury and then justice would be served .

    2. davesetzer says:

      A day-care provider in Princeton was arrested on Dec. 23 after a Mille Lacs County Deputy was dispatched to Fairview Northland Hospital in Princeton on a report of a case of possible child abuse.

      Mary Janelle Roelofs, 46, of Princeton is facing multiple counts of neglect, endangerment and malicious punishment of a child.
      The deputy met with a 3-year-old boy and his mother. The boy had bruises on his body, allegedly from being punched. According to the complaint filed in the Mille Lacs County District Court, the child told the officer that he had been made to stand outside in the cold without any pants on while at Roelofs’.
      The deputy went to Roelofs’ home. A witness told the deputy that Roelofs made the child stand outside in the cold without shoes or a coat multiple times because the child refused to sweep the floor. The witness also told the officer that she saw Roelofs put the child on the kitchen counter and punch him in the stomach, sides, arms, shoulders and top of the head.
      Roelofs later told a Mille Lacs County investigator that she placed the child outside because he refused to do what he was told. At one point, Roelofs said, the child wet himself while he was outside, and Roelofs brought him back inside and put a pull-up diaper on him prior to putting him back outside. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the Twin Cities reached a high of 17 degrees and a low of 5 degrees on Dec. 9, the day of the alleged abuse.
      According to the complaint filed in the Mille Lacs County District Court, Roelofs also had the child clean out the garage, and didn’t feed him until after 3:30 p.m.
      Roelofs is charged with three counts of malicious punishment of a child, one count of child neglect and one count of child endangerment.

  19. Lisa says:

    Grace and Mercy, that is what is needed. That is what Christ did for us. This is a follen world where many people see the worst and jump on it. I understand more then you would know, that the safety of our children is the most important thing we can do for them. Those who are making such harsh comments “Don’t really know her or her family or all the lives changed because of her”. As I said before, May the truth shine thru and all the lies be set aside. God Bless you Mary and may the Lord Bless the little foster boy as well. Amen

    1. davesetzer says:

      Lisa may bee she needs punishment , mary crossed the very most basic line of mother hood , god says do not punch a 3 year old child , a eye for a eye a tooth for a tooth and mary needs a few years in a prison cell to realize you do not hurt young kids so be it , pray i am chosen to be on the jury with 11 of my peers . justice needs to be done here not a slap on the wrist this case is the chance for the county to show how tough they are on abuse . and thus why mary needs a big gun lawyer to defend her inocent people do not hire expensive mouth peices . god bless the poor child and his mom she is up against wolfs trying to make it seem like its the kids fault for not sweeping a floor