Maybe it was the mother in me who led me to choose the career I have. My second child, Grace, was just ten weeks old in 1998 when I started working as a Guardian Ad Litem in Juvenile Court. By day I represented the best interests of abused and neglected infants and toddlers. By night I held my baby and her older sister, Hanna, a little closer and a little longer, desperately wishing that all children could be so loved and protected. And when the guilt over working outside the home crept in, I reminded myself that "my other kids" needed me just as much as my own did.
Each significant moment in my life is measured against my children. My youngest, Ben, had just turned four when a little boy named Marcus Fiesel was reported missing. I watched Ben play with his toy dinosaurs as the evening news flashed the details of the three-year-old foster child. As a mother, I wanted to go join the search for Marcus who was supposedly missing in a park. As a Guardian Ad Litem with a caseload of abused and neglected infants and toddlers, I couldn't help but fear the worst. If he was in foster care, Marcus had already been lost once: lost in a world where social workers took him from his mother because she was unable to care for or protect him. Now he was lost again.
This week marks the third anniversary of the day when Marcus' foster parents locked him in a closet and left him home alone. This week marks the day he died, wrapped in a blanket and packing tape in the sweltering heat of a closet. Three years ago, the remains of his body were dumped in the Ohio River.
When the news reports of Marcus' disappearance and death started flowing in, I immediately focused my attention on supporting my Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) as we digested the news and ensured the safety of each of the 60-plus infants and toddlers we jointly represented. By day, we double- and triple-checked on each of "our kids" and their foster homes. By night, I soaked up the presence of my three kids. I watched Ben sneak into my bed in the middle of the night and for once I let him stay there, as I stroked his hair and cheek while he and my husband slept and I wept.
From one mother to another, I need to tell you that foster children like Marcus still exist in every corner of every community across America. The pieces that come together to build their futures exist in mothers' hearts just like yours. Happy endings do exist for some foster kids, but only when adults come together to make them happen. These children need each and every one of us now more than ever.
This is why I wrote Invisible Kids. To get a glimpse into the worlds of young foster children like Marcus Fiesel, pick up a copy . You will be amazed, heartbroken and uplifted by the stories it contains. Or, check out http://www.invisiblekidsthebook.com/ to get educated and get involved, or to order the book.
Because once you are a mother, it is harder than ever to turn away from children who need you the most.