The first book from author Holly Schlaack, a revealing look at the foster care system. Read Endorsements and an Excerpt below.
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“Read this book and you will understand how tragic it is when the needs of abused and neglected children are forgotten. Fortunately, Holly also offers practical ways you can help assure they get what all children deserve–safe, permanent homes, with people who love them, secure in the knowledge that their futures are important.”
— Michael S. Piraino, CEO, National CASA Association

“Your book makes a real contribution to the whole area of protective services. I expect it to be helpful and influential as we continue to advocate for programs that address human needs.”
— Frances Strickland, Former First Lady of Ohio

“This extremely moving book brings the reader into the real world of child welfare, a world we all need to learn more about if we are to save these wonderful children.”
— Cindy S. Lederman, Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court

“All of us can do something to help children in need, and this perceptive book explains exactly how. We all own, legally and ethically, the parenting of children who have been abused or neglected, and we are
all responsible for how our systems try to cope in our name. This is a community problem that demands a community response. We should all care about these children because they are human beings. We should also care greatly because done badly, our government interventions create lifetimes of vastly expensive broken grownups.”

— Peter Samuelson, President and Co-Founder, First Star, Inc.

“Foster parents, like birth parents, can be both good and bad, no matter what their own background or place in society. Holly Schlaack does a fantastic job in revealing foster parents who look at foster children and see dollar signs, while many others are dedicated people who see foster children as missing something only they can provide: love. Her book gives concrete steps we can all take to ensure there are no more kids like Marcus Feisel who is remembered more for the horrible way in which he died rather than an uplifting story about how he lived. I highly recommend her book.”
— Mark E. Piepmeier, Prosecuting Attorney in the murder trial against the foster parents of Marcus Fiesel

“Holly Schlaack’s book reads like a novel, yet her 12 action steps give professionals and concerned community members the tools to help these children who have suffered at the hands of their parents and sometimes the system itself.”
— Thomas R. Lipps, Presiding Judge, Juvenile Court, Hamilton County, Ohio

“The best thing about this book is the hope it presents. While it’s the real story on the foster care program in America-no punches pulled-it’s also a roadmap to making things better. It’s engaging, it tugs at the heartstrings, and it’s a hopeful look at how every child can have an actual childhood. If you care about children at all, you must read what Holly Schlaack has written.”
— Laren Bright, Award-Winning Writer of Children’s Animation

“Once I started reading Invisible Kids, I couldn’t put it down. I wholeheartedly recommend Invisible Kids to anyone who has a heart for protecting children!”
— Adam Robe, MSW, Former Foster Child and Author


Five-year-old Joey leaned across the kitchen table, his brown eyes as dark as night, and whispered, “Do you know about the little boy who died in the closet?”

 “Yes.  I know about that little boy.  How do you know about him?” I asked. 

 Joey’s eyes remained fixed on mine.  “My mom told me about him.  She said if I told anyone her boyfriend was living here, then I would have to go to foster care.  Then, they would tape me up, lock me in the closet and kill me.” 

“You must have been very scared when the police and the social worker came to take you to a foster home,” I replied.  

Sensing I was interested in hearing all he had to say, those big brown eyes swam with tears.  His voice quivered, “I was crying half to death when I got here.”  His words tumbled out faster and faster as he dumped his terror onto the kitchen table in front of me.  “I thought I was going to die.  I haven’t seen my baby brother.  Do you know where they took him?  Is he dead?”

Joey had been living in foster care for only a few days when I first met him.  As a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) appointed through Hamilton County Juvenile Court in Cincinnati, Ohio it is my job to represent the best interests of children who have been abused or neglected.  I was appointed to represent Joey and his six-month-old brother, Jordan, after a Children’s Services caseworker filed a motion in court seeking the boys’ placement in foster care.  I met the boys’ mother, and her boyfriend, in court the morning after the boys were placed in an emergency foster home.  

I sat through hours of testimony from the caseworker, the police officer, and finally, the mother herself.  Through their testimony, it became clear that Joey’s mother had been using drugs for several years.  The police had been called to their home repeatedly for domestic disturbances.  In the latest incident, Joey had jumped in front of his mother to protect her from her enraged boyfriend.  He had been shoved to the side and fell to the ground.  The police responded to a neighbor’s 911 call.  Joey and his brother were placed in foster care.  Now the court would decide what should happen.  

The juvenile court magistrate counted on me to learn as much as possible about the boys and their lives.  This information would determine what kind of help Joey and Jordan needed while they lived in foster care, and where they would ultimately reside.  The court also relied on me to ensure that the boys were safe and well cared for during this time.

Sitting through testimony, and hearing all the horrific details about children like Joey and Jordan’s troubled lives, is common in my line of work.  What I was not prepared for were those terrified brown eyes, convinced that placement in foster care was a death sentence.  The highly publicized story of a murdered foster child, Marcus Fiesel, had been rippling through the communities near where he lived.  County agencies and the courts were re-examining foster care practices and politicians were introducing new laws to protect foster children.  But I had no idea this ripple effect would make its way into the hearts of little boys like Joey and be used to terrify them into silence.