HANCOCK (NEWS CENTER Maine) – As questions continue to swirl around the flaws in Maine's child welfare system, one woman is on a mission to help those caught in the middle.
Lesley Robinson of Hancock was inspired by a baby girl named Ella who was forced into the state foster care system when she was let go by her biological parents in the hospital.
"This child is a fighter in every sense of the word,” Erica Page said. "She's my hero for sure."
Ella was born very prematurely and clinging to life when Page took her in.
"This baby is so hers, she is saving her life in so many ways that that's what matters,” Robinson said.
Robinson met the two of them when she was trying to find someone to clean her home. Since then, she said they have become like family.
Ella’s story even moved Robinson to get involved in the national Comfort Cases organization aimed at bringing essential items to children across the country as they enter the child welfare system.
"Whether you're in the state of Maine or in the state of Maryland, or you're in California or Texas, we’re all part of the same community, and that community needs to help the over 438,000 children in care,” Comfort Cases Founder Rob Scheer said.
In Maine there are more than 1,900 kids in DHHS custody. Through the organization, Robinson has brought at least 60 cases to kids all across the state since she first started in May.
"It's a game changer for kiddos entering custody,” Page said.
With her own money and a few donations, Robinson has started building her own cases by filling brand-new backpacks with items like blankets, toothbrushes and stuffed animals in a small shed at her home.
She said children are often pulled from their homes with little to nothing in their possession, and if they do have belongings they are often stuffed in trash bags.
"Someone is essentially saying I don't want you, or I can't have you, and what you own is garbage,” Robinson said.
While she admits she cannot change their circumstances, Robinson said she does not want any child to ever feel that way again as she works to expand her effort to more communities.
"Every year about 900 children go into foster care in Maine. Our hope is to get back to every one,” Robinson said.
Ellsworth Police Department has even gotten involved. They have a handful of bags on standby in case they are involved in a protective custody situation.
Robinson hopes other agencies will follow suit.
You can find more information at comfortcases.org or by emailing Lesley Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.