Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Amy Baker Outrage

Amy Baker is considered a household name in Greater Cincinnati. When the story of murdered foster child Marcus Fiesel took the area by storm, Amy Baker was front and center in a twisted nightmare that seemed to belong on an episode of Jerry Springer instead of on the front pages of our local paper.

She and her three kids were living in Marcus' foster home at the time of his death. Amy was the live-in girlfriend of foster parents Liz and David Carroll. During Liz Carroll’s murder trial, Amy testified that she and David had burned the remains of Marcus’ body and dumped them into the Ohio River. For those of you just tuning in and wanting to know the full story, click here.

Amy never served prison time for her participation in the death of Marcus. She was offered immunity in exchange for giving prosecutors information about Marcus’ disappearance. I interviewed Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier for my book, Invisible Kids. Over coffee he seemed thoughtful and chose his words carefully when the subject came to Amy. He believed we might still be looking for Marcus if not for her confession.

Say what you want about Amy. People in Clermont County put signs in their front yards telling her to leave their community. That’s fine. They are entitled to their opinions and their outrage. But perhaps their time and energy could be better spent by putting up signs encouraging foster parenting. Maybe the signs could read, “Four thousand kids in Ohio will go to bed tonight awaiting adoption. No one has stepped up to love them forever.”

I digress. Amy Baker was back in court recently regarding the custody of her own three children, two girls and a boy. They were 6, 5 and 3 respectively in August 2006 when Marcus died and they were placed in foster care. Ten months later, in June 2007, they had changed foster homes three times.

It has been two years since then. How have they fared? Are they together? Have they been safe in foster care? And why does it take our judicial system so painfully long to make decisions about permanency for children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect and significant trauma? And more importantly, when are we as a community going to figure out better systems for protecting our children? If we wait for the government to fix itself or come up with something better, we’ll be waiting a long time.

On August 29, 2009 Amy Baker and her estranged husband, Brian, signed permanent surrenders on each of their three children. This means their parental rights have been severed and the kids can be placed adoptively. They are 9, 8 and 6 now. Who will adopt them? Will they be adopted together or will they lose each other forever? What kind of emotional needs will they have after enduring early childhood trauma?

In Hamilton County, Ohio, adoption subsidies that help adoptive parents with the care and cost of raising adopted children have just been reduced due to budget cuts. Post adoption services, such as therapy, have been eliminated. Who is going to step up and have the financial means and community support to adopt three innocent, blameless children? I hope and pray someone does.

If and when that happens, I hope the rest of us can get past our anger and outrage and find ways to support the loving foster and adoptive parents who are brave and kind enough to do what the rest of us won’t.