'I was lucky. When I was 16 my birth mother wanted me back. I was freaking'
THE advertisement placed in a local newspaper was short and succinct: "Foster parents urgently required for a year-old baby."
It was answered by Margaret Sheehan from Tralee, Co Kerry, who already had three children of her own but jumped at the chance of another baby.
Today her foster daughter Michelle Sheehan simply says: "I was one of the lucky ones." Born to a troubled woman who battled alcohol and substance abuse, Michelle was put up for adoption at birth and placed with a garda and his wife, who took her in and named her Karena.
However, at the last minute, her birth mother refused to sign the adoption papers and she was torn away from her would-be adoptive parents and placed in an orphanage.
Yesterday, Michelle joined the Irish Foster Care Association to urge for a Yes vote in the referendum on Saturday, saying it would give a voice to children like her.
Being unable to be adopted caused several problems throughout her childhood -- she could not get a passport and at one stage, her foster mother had to unlawfully sign for medical treatment after Michelle fell and cut her knee badly.
Michelle remembers "always being aware" throughout her childhood that her foster parents had no right to keep her.
"When I was 16, my birth mother got in touch and said she wanted me back. I was freaking," she said.
"She always had a hold over me all my life. I was very aware of that."
The Irish Foster Care Association has urged for a Yes vote, saying the proposed amendment would make a real difference to the lives of children.