Newsline 9 got a closer look inside the Marathon County foster care system. It can be a frightening thing for a child. County leaders got on a bus this morning, making the same stops children would.
"I never felt like I had a home, even when I had a home," former foster child Ashley Lackey said.
Social service leaders say this is a common theme among foster children—a feeling of neglect and loneliness. That's why Marathon County leaders are getting together to see first hand what these children go through.
"It's a journey for our families, it's a journey for our children and for the participants today," Marathon County Social Services Department Director Nicole DeBettignies said.
And on Friday, it was a journey, one that started on a bus. It gave community leaders a look "Through the Eyes of a Child."
"Makes sense for a bus because the children are literally leaving with nothing in their hands," DeBettignies said.
A panel of foster parents says it's all worth it.
"Lots of trials, a lot of blessings," foster parent Michelle Stangl said.
"We've had 13 other blessings," foster parent Katie Howlett said.
The bus took participants to child services, and even court—allowing them to experience the foster care process.
"We really believe that educated individuals in Marathon County can have a huge impact on child protective services," DeBettignies said.
After three years in the system, Ashley Lackey is on her own.
"Feeling welcomed is a big thing," Lackey said.
"Strengthen families so children can stay with their parents because that's what they want to do," DeBettignies said.
Organizers say that's the goal, with this being one stop in the journey.
Marathon County Social Service officials say they get 1,100 complaints of neglect a year. Thirty percent of those complaints turn into cases for the county.