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12.03.2014

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Advocate Impact:  Joanie McMullan

When Advocate Joanie McMullan took this case, she knew it would be a tough, five children, one of the children, Monica, age 4, was missing.  The biological parents had sold Monica after horrendously burning her hands. The baby of the family had just been born with heroin pumping through his system and the birth father was being sought for alleged sexual abuse of the two other daughters. He was arrested, and is still in prison today awaiting trial, due to the sexual abuse against the girls. The birth mother did not have visitations with her children during the first year as she was addicted to heroin and refused to undergo drug testing or complete any services as ordered by the judge. 

Two weeks after Joanie took the case, she saw on the news that a 16 year old boy had been hit and killed on his bike.  Joanie saw his tearful mother on TV and was heartbroken for her.  However, through this news broadcast, she discovered that Monica had been living for 3 years safe and taken care of by the loving family who just lost their son.

The oldest child, eight year old Abcde, was sullen and unresponsive, and even ran away from her foster home.  Joanie visited Abcde in school every week and was thrilled the day she finally got Abcde to smile!  Three year old Ariana was exhibiting psychotic behaviors; pulling out her hair and teeth and threatening to kill her sister.  The caregivers had to wrap her hands in mittens and duct tape them to keep her from scratching herself.  Both girls were put on psychotropic drugs to control their behaviors. Joanie consistently advocated for therapy and was a huge support to the foster placement as they struggled to handle Ariana’s behaviors.  Ariana began drinking out of toilets and developed worms, which sent her to the hospital.  While there, she was diagnosed with a rare form of diabetes which inhibits the kidneys to hold water.  She was literally dying of thirst.  She began medication and her thirst problems were resolved.  The girls’ therapist wasn’t equipped to deal with the children’s extreme behaviors, let alone their past of sexual abuse.  Joanie worked hard to get the girls into appropriate therapy where their emotional needs were finally met and they began their healing under the guidance of an experienced therapist.

The five siblings had never been together.  Monica often asked about her sisters, so Joanie advocated for a sibling visit.  That visit proved life-changing for all parties.  Monica recognized her two sisters and met her two brothers.  Abcde was finally able to see the sister who went missing so long ago.  The four older siblings also met their baby brother.  It was beautiful to see them running up to one another and hugging tightly.

Ultimately the girls went to live with their sister, Monica, in the loving environment she’d been in all along.  Without Joanie’s persistent advocacy in maintaining the sibling relationship, Monica’s caregivers would have never had the chance to fall in love with her sisters and welcome them into their home. 

Being in a loving home with their siblings was exactly what these children needed.  Joanie worked closely with the caregivers and the medical providers and slowly weaned the girls off all their psychotropic drugs.  Due to the loving support all around them, the girls are now all adopted and doing well in school, bright and happy; a far cry from the angry, sullen, scared children Joanie met at the beginning.  On their adoption day, their caregiver hugged Joanie and thanked her for all she had done – and said that there is no way these beautiful girls could have made it this far without all Joanie had done.  

View photos of Joanie with Monica, Ariana, and Abcde and listen to her story in our Gallery of Hope.

Advocate Impact:  Joanie McMullan