Forum held to address foster care issues

How could they have done this to a child?

That is the question that outraged child welfare workers, grief counselors, and concerned community members struggled with and tried to find answers to at a forum held for the community at the Union Township Civic Center Sep. 1.

“We are all grieving. We gather today because of the considerable and warranted public outcry about the Marcus Fiesel case,” said Child Focus CEO Jim Carter. “A lot of the people here today are child welfare workers. There are other cases every day almost as despicable as this, but this one seems to have captured the outrage and helplessness of the dedicated workers here today.”

Carter felt that the forum was a good way for the community as a whole to start the healing process by getting together, asking questions, sharing ideas, and making suggestions.

“We all have to realize that there are some things that happen in this world that there are just no answers to. A forum like the one we are having today is a chance for the community to share common experiences and support each other,” Carter said. “This is a tough job and it is very tough work, but we have got to do it. We are also here to recognize with the community that this was a horrible act. We know what happened to Marcus. It is the why that is without answer.”

In the case of Marcus Fiesel, there are certainly no answers.

Prosecutors say that Marcus, a three-year-old foster child, died after being restrained and locked in a closet while his foster parents David and Liz Carroll attended a family reunion in Kentucky. His body was then incinerated in an old fireplace in Brown County. In an orchestrated move, the foster parents had claimed that he went missing in an Anderson Township park. This sparked a massive but fruitless search by the community. The foster parents were later arrested and charged with the death. They are incarcerated while awaiting trial.

Attended by approximately 60 people, the forum, which was sponsored and organized by Child Focus, Inc., included a memorial for Marcus Fiesel, a presentation of a banner made by foster children in his memory, and a discussion and question/answer period.

A panel of therapists, grief counselors, foster parents, foster care workers, and mental health professionals were available to address the needs, concerns, and questions of the community.

One of those professionals was the Director of Out of Home Care for Child Focus and licensed social worker Pamela Lindeman.

Lindeman, who was a foster child herself and adopted at the age of 7, said that the mental health and child welfare community was sickened when the news about Marcus’ death broke Aug. 28.

“Nothing has been more horrifying to bear than the news of the cruel and heartless murder of Marcus Fiesel at the hands of foster parents Liz and David Carroll,” she said. “We all come here today filled with sorrow and agony as we try to cope with the cruelty and inhumanity that one little innocent boy endured in his brief life on earth.”

Lindeman vowed to turn that pain, suffering, and tragic murder into a shining beacon of hope for the future.

“Today, we hold this forum to promise our community that we as mental health professionals, social workers, child welfare administrators, foster parents, and foster care workers will do whatever it takes to prevent another child from falling into the hands of evil.”

Many foster children addressed the crowd on the positive experiences that they have personally had with their foster families. In fact, a theme of the forum was not to allow the death of Marcus to adversely affect anyone’s hope in the necessary roles and the abilities of the foster care system.

“The Fiesel case is shedding a negative light on the foster care system in general,” said Lindeman. “This negative message is being plastered throughout society today and sending a very strong message to the thousands and thousands of kids of all ages that are currently in our foster care system. They are hearing messages about the corruptness of our system, the poor quality of care, and the inappropriate motivations of some foster parents.”

Lindeman wanted to stress the importance of acknowledging the countless children in the system that are served well every day. She commended those foster parents, including her own, for doing the right thing for the right reason.

Carter concurred by saying that what the 348 children in the Clermont County foster care system need right now is community support.

“When we look across cultures, there are basic human values that we all have in common,” he said at the forum’s conclusion. “Some of these would include courage, justice, moderation, and wisdom. In the Fiesel case, we saw none of them. We will come together as a community and get through this awful time. Today was the first step in acquiring a collective. I am sure that through our collective wisdom, collective justice, collective courage, and collective moderation, we will prevail and make sure that no other foster child will suffer the way that Marcus did.”