Lost And Found

Lesley Stahl On Efforts To Place Foster Children Back With Their Families

Lakesha says there was no hesitation at all to meet her daughter. She had Samara when she was just 14 and in foster care herself; she says she was a rebellious, irresponsible teenager.

"I refused to go to school. I refused to go to counseling. Parenting classes. I refused to go," she recalls.

One day, she ran away and left Samara behind. She tried to get her back, but failed to show up for the big court date, was accused of neglect, and lost her parental rights.

Lakesha says she never physically abused her daughter and admits that some people think she neglected her child. Asked if in her own eyes she neglected her daughter, she says, "There's a lot of things that I could have done better, as a parent, I think, but I don't think, I don't think I did so much to have lost Samara."

Lakesha says she's a different person today. She has a full-time job as a teacher's aid, and is raising three young, healthy children.

After Family Finding called, Lakesha met with Samara's therapist and underwent a criminal background check. Only then was she allowed to meet with Samara.

"At first I was nervous. I couldn't say anything. Like my mouth was so dry. So she was just talkin'," Samara recalls.

That was in April 2006 at "Five Acres." The last time they had seen each other, Samara was six years old.

Samara didn't have a photo of her mother and didn't remember her face but when they met she knew it was her. Samara says she didn't cry during that encounter. "I was trying to hold it back 'cause I don't like people seeing me cry."

Samara has trouble expressing any emotion, and connecting. When her mother talked to her, Samara looked away. And yet, when Lakesha told her she had actually kept her picture all these years, Samara was surprised.

"So it's evidence that she was thinking about you all this time," Stahl remarks.

Samara never stopped thinking about Lakesha. Eight months after their first meeting, they talked about Samara moving in with Lakesha and her three young children. But it will be a huge undertaking, given Samara's behavioral problems.

"She's not used to the close physical proximity. Nor the emotional proximity, says therapist Marylou McGuirk.

McGuirk says after Samara first met her mom, she regressed a little.

"You know, breaking some property. Don't really like this: going to break something. You know, she was really confused at some point of: 'How do I do this? How do I have a parent now? I don't know how to do this,'" she explains.

Lakesha seems more worried about providing for her daughter. If Samara movies in, she'll likely lose things like free therapy and tutors, a clothing allowance, and help paying for college.

Samara acknowledges she will have to give up certain things and could stay at the facility while seeing her mother but it's not something she wants to think about.

Over the past six years, Campbell has trained social workers from 40 different states and so far, they have found relatives for 3,000 children. Of those, only about 25 percent have moved out of foster care and back home with family. But another 50 percent develop relationships with a relative.