It's a bleak Wednesday morning as E.J. sits at her kitchen table, poring over boxes of court documents. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment just north of the metro, where the walls are covered with her children's crayon drawings. The table is spread with toys and picture books; overhead, a Thomas the Tank Engine poster spells "Happy Birthday" in bright blue.
She hoists a slender cat onto her lap as she points out the pictures on the fridge. There's her son, a brown-eyed boy smiling in a pressed shirt. There's her daughter with a missing tooth.
The children live about 25 miles away with their father now. They visit only once a month.
The exact location of E.J.'s apartment is a secret. Her driver's license lists her address as a P.O. box because she's enrolled in the secretary of state's Safe at Home program for victims of domestic violence. The names of all the families in this story have been changed to protect the children's privacy.More »