Whatever happened to ...
Lillie, baby Thomas and the foster parents
By LANE DEGREGORY
Published November 25, 2006
May 14, 2006
THE STORY: Lillie Southerland was 14, pregnant, living in foster care. In January, she met sonogram tech Amy Chandler at Tampa General Hospital. Amy, married and the mother of five, decided to take Lillie into her Ruskin home and help her raise her baby. After a few months, the Chandlers returned Lillie to the foster care system because of her disruptive behavior. Lillie’s infant son, Thomas, was soon removed from the Chandlers’ home. Lillie ran away from foster care after three weeks.
FROM THE STORY: “I was 12 years old, doing crack, prostituting to pay for it,” Lillie told Amy the day she moved in. “The court’s trying to find my baby’s daddy right now. But I don’t even know who he is. I was so high all the time, I didn’t even know I was pregnant till I got arrested . . . I’m glad now, though. If I didn’t have a baby, I wouldn’t never have been adopted.”
THE REST OF THE STORY: In June, Amy paid a private investigator $500 to look for Lillie. He found her living on the streets, and the police arrested her for a probation violation. Lillie called Amy from the juvenile jail and said she was sorry. She also said she was pregnant again. She has run away five times since then.
Last week, her probation officer said police were still looking for her. Foster workers won’t say anything about Thomas. The last Amy heard, Lillie’s baby was thriving with his new foster family. In July, the Chandlers moved to Tennessee.
“I wanted my kids, at least, to not be reminded of what we all had just been through,” Amy said.
WHAT’S NEXT: Amy is still e-mailing officials, trying to get someone to look for Lillie. She feels guilty she couldn’t help Lillie more, but she doesn’t regret sending her away.
“I just wish she knew I still love her and miss her.” One day, Amy said, she would like to take in other foster children. But not until her own five kids are grown.
[Last modified November 25, 2006, 17:55:43]
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