Congressman Ramstand (R-Minn) Staffer Working Hard to End Children's Pain
By Cheyenne Hopkins, THE HILL, Staffer Spotlight
The Newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress
Washington, D.C., October 9, 2002
Michelle Mackey takes child-abuse policy seriously - and personally.
Mackey, health counsel for Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), is a "guardian ad
litem," an attorney for abused or neglected children. In February 2001,
Mackey received her first client, an abused, comatose 6-year-old boy. Today
she considers him more than a client - and even more than a friend.
"He's my baby. I'm not his mother, but he's more than a friend," she said.
She is now working hard to find a long term placement for her charge.
Mackey knew she wanted to be involved in helping children who couldn't help
themselves when she worked for three weeks at an orphanage in Ukraine
following her graduation from the University of Minnesota. She and a friend
worked in a hospital in the mornings and a children's camp in the
"It was a life-changing event," Mackey recalled.
Mackey, who planned a career as a commodities broker prior to the trip,
changed paths after that. Instead, she went to law school for a year and
went back to the orphanage to see the children again.
That trip cemented her need to work with unloved and unwanted children.
Years later, Mackey still exchanges letters with the children she met in
After finishing law school two years ago at Hamline University in St. Paul,
Minn., Mackey moved to Washington to find a job in public policy. Four days
later she found a job working for Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.).
Six months after arriving on Capitol Hill she received her current case as
an ad litem lawyer. She began representing five children one of whom was the
hideously abused boy whom she now considers family (and whose name she
declines to release). When she first met him he was in a coma for three
weeks as a result of his injuries and because of the investigation she was
his only visitor.
She now spends much of her time looking for a permanent home or foster
family for him. (His four siblings, who were not abused, are now living with
Even with her strong commitment to her client, she says she could never
pursue ad litem law full time.
"I can't do it. You get so emotionally involved," she explained.
She doesn't even plan to take more cases for a while. The boy could be her
client until he is 21 years old.
She has, however, found ways to let her congressional and legal jobs
complement each other. Her legal experience with children allows her to put
a face on policymaking.
"In this job, people working on the Hill have the opportunity to do good
things but it's on a policy level. This is on a personal basis," she noted.
Both members for whom she has worked allowed her to pursue her passion to
help children. Her current boss, Rep. Ramstad, is also an attorney and
frequently listens to her talk about her cases.
Mackey feels her experience with children has given her knowledge and a
sense of compassion that helps her in her position as health counsel. She's
able to apply the knowledge she gained through working with children to her
conversations with doctors and her research. And she believes she's gained a
greater sense of understanding for those with whom she deals on Capitol
Hill News, Washington, D.C.