Former Johnson County officer adopts three cousins after learning they were abused

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A metro woman and her children discovered a "mom" isn't always the person who gives birth to you.

Now, for these kids, Mother's Day is finally something to celebrate.

Micki Benson said her life changed when she became a mother.

"I grew up in a lot of coldness and a lot of dysfunction, and a lot of those things, and even being motherly did not come easily or even naturally," Benson said.

Even though she grew up in a difficult situation, Benson said being a mom was her calling.

Having her two daughters pushed her to give them a better life. She became a police officer in Johnson County and became the mother she never had.

"She was a single mom," Benson said. "I spent a lot of time by myself. She worked all the time. That kind of thing."

Years passed and Benson's two daughters grew up. She moved into a much calmer job, decorating cakes and enjoying time with her family.

She didn't expect what came next for her.

One of her cousins confided in her about their younger siblings in a possibly abusive situation, and she decided to intervene.

"She had come home for Christmas and said, 'I'm really worried about my little siblings,'" Benson said. "'Do you think you could get in contact with them?' I said, 'I have no idea.' I hadn't seen the kids for probably six, seven, eight years."

Benson said what she found were children who were malnourished and physically abused.

After an incident where the kids were seriously hurt, Benson said, she couldn't let it go on.

"I told the kids then at that point you're not going back, so get ready," she said. "I really talked to the kids a lot about -- I want you to trust me. Here are some situations that could happen. Worse case scenario this could happen."

At one point, Benson said, the children's mom accused her of kidnapping the children. But when police evaluated the situation, they left Alyssa, Ashlyn and Christopher with her.

"I had already made that commitment in my heart before I had ever said to their parents, 'I'm not giving these children back today.' So I would not have let them down," Benson said. "I would not have stopped fighting for them. I would not have given up."

"To me it feels like a whole different lifetime," now 14-year-old Ashlyn said. "A whole different chapter of my life. Whenever I look back on the oldest, it's like, 'Wow, I actually went through that.' And I used to think it was normal."

She went from being Micki to mom.

Benson decided to adopt the children and continue the commitment she made in her heart.

Amanda Privitera, their court-appointed special advocate, said she knew from the beginning the kids were where they needed to be.

"The day I met Micki and the kids I knew that this was going to be an adoption," Privitera said. "I never had to wonder if the kids were safe there. I never had to wonder if their needs were being met, if they were happy, if they were healthy."

In April, they started their new life together -- a mom and all five of her kids.

"It was very stressful and scary, but when you have that person there for you, that's willing to do anything for you at any moment, who's ready to fight for you -- just trust them because it does get better," Ashlyn said.

"Something that was really important to me was for them to know that they matter to me," Benson said. "That they are important. That they are wanted. That they are loved. That they are valued."

The three kids said it's finally a Mother's Day they're excited to celebrate. They got Micki a card and gift to show her how much they love her.

Benson and her kids said having a court-appointed special advocate through their adoption journey was vital to their case.

The advocates are otherwise known as CASAs and are completely volunteer based. A CASA's focus is on making sure a foster child's needs are being met and their voice is heard in court.

"Between Jackson County CASA and CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte County, we serve over 1,700 kids. So to see this case and this outcome it's very hopeful, and it shows me, and I think the community, what a difference a court-appointed special advocate volunteer can make in the life of a child," President & CEO of Jackson County CASA, Angie Blumel, said.

If you would like more information on how you can become a CASA and help foster children right here in the metro, you can visit its website to find out how to sign up for their next training.

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