Marcy Cook can't think about her 15-year-old daughter's adoption without tearing up.
Before joining the Cook family, Shaunacee was in the foster care system for seven years, living in and out of different homes throughout the state. One of the only consistencies in Shaunacee's life was her court-appointed special advocate of five years, a volunteer who helped guide her through the court system up to the day of her adoption.
"She turned to me and said, 'I hope I can change the world for foster kids,'" Cook said Shaunacee, then age 11, told her on the day of the adoption. "I hope we can do that through this book."
As a way to give back to the people who helped her daughter and family come together, Cook wrote "Nessy's New Home." The picture book parallels how children enter the foster care system through the story of a baby bird and her siblings as they are placed in a new nest.
"We just wanted to portray a positive image (of foster care)," said Cook, who is the wife of Carl Cook, CEO of Cook Group Inc., which was founded by his father, the late William Cook. "You only ever hear about the ones that don't work. You never hear about the thousands that do work."
"Nessy's New Home" was released on March 6 and has already sold more than 300 copies. Proceeds from book sales will benefit Monroe County Court Appointed Special Advocates, a volunteer program that pairs child victims of abuse or neglect with adults who represent them in juvenile court.
"We have a whole new respect for CASA after going through the process," Cook told The Herald-Times. "They are the voice of the child."
The book is for sale at CASA and through the website of Cook's ministry, Placed for Purpose, for $15. Of the book proceeds, $10 is donated to CASA and the other $5 goes toward printing costs. The book is also available for purchase at the French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs hotels.
"The impetus for this book is due to the good work of an amazing CASA volunteer who helped a very bright young woman transition to a safe, loving, permanent home," CASA Director Kristin Bishay said in an email. "This is our hope for all children referred to us, and we are thrilled that Marcy chose such a creative way to help not only our program, but countless children who are lucky enough to hear the message portrayed in 'Nessy's New Home.'"
Cook hopes readers young and old can take away three lessons from the book: No one is perfect; someone will always be there to love and care for you; and people don't have to come from the same nest to be a family.
Since the release of "Nessy's New Home," Cook has visited several public library branches to read the story to groups of children. At every reading, there has been at least one child with experience in the foster system.
"The kids were so receptive," Cook said. "Several of them said, 'I saved my money, I want to buy the book.'"
Cook said she tried to keep every aspect of the picture book's production as local as possible. "Nessy's New Home" is published by AuthorHouse, and illustrated by Bloomington watercolor artist Deborah Rush. Readers can also buy a purple Nessy stuffed animal, made by local American Girl Doll clothing seamstress Amy Wu.
Cook hopes to continue writing books for children about the adoption process and living as an adopted child in a new home. Along with Marcy and Carl Cook's biological daughter, 5-year-old Eleanor, and Shaunacee, the Cook family is fostering another child, Joslyn.
"You need to live by what you say, and Carl and I try to do that," Cook said.