Sara Packer once called being a foster mom "very rewarding." She said she wanted a career working with kids to "make a difference" in their lives.
"I know that wherever my career takes me it will be in a position where I can benefit my fellow human," she wrote in a 2002 application to be an adoptions caseworker in Northampton County.
The comments, in records released Tuesday, starkly contrast with the image that emerged after Packer and her boyfriend were charged last week with the rape and murder of her 14-year-old adopted daughter, Grace Packer. But they show how the 42-year-old won and kept her job in the child-welfare system, and had a career working with children before becoming a foster parent to dozens and adopting at least two.
Since the arrest, criminal investigators and state and county officials have opened inquiries into the Packers' contact with the child-welfare system. Most have declined to discuss the case or their reviews. But the documents, released to the Inquirer after a Right-to-Know request, offer a glimpse of Sara Packer's path.
A native of Brodheadsville, Monroe County, Packer had earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Randolph College in Virginia, and worked there as an assistant teacher in a nursery school, according to Northampton County Children, Youth and Family Division records.
She said she had jobs as a coordinator or caseworker at Communities in Schools, the Impact Project, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, all in Lehigh County. In 2002, she said, she quit work for two months to "be a stay at home mom."
It's not clear which children she was mothering. Grace Packer, who was born in 2001, was 3 when Sara Packer adopted her, the Bucks County district attorney has said.
In early 2003, Northampton County had approved Packer as an emergency hire as a caseworker - meaning she was appointed even before she had taken the State Civil Service Examination, though she later had to be approved again to keep the position, according to the records.
Packer said in her application that she and her then-husband, David Packer, had recently become foster parents.
"This experience has been very rewarding on many levels," she wrote, adding that "it has given me the opportunity to open my home and heart to many children."
According to the job description, her position required her to work with foster children to create a permanent plan, such as adoption or placement with relatives. She was to provide support services to foster children and families, monitor the status of their living arrangements, and to make sure homes complied with foster-care regulations.
"I feel that a position with Children, Youth and Families would give me the fulfillment I need in a career because it is a place where I would have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others on a daily basis," she wrote.
In September 2005, Packer was promoted. In June 2007, she became a casework supervisor, in charge of five caseworkers, the records show.
In January 2010, she was fired for serious allegations of misconduct, according to the termination letter from Dolan. The letter was heavily redacted by county officials, and does not reveal the details of the misconduct claims.
It was the same year her husband was arrested for sexually assaulting Grace and one of their foster children. David Packer was later convicted and sent to state prison.
Sara Packer also lost her rights as a foster parent. But she remained the adoptive mother to Grace.
Packer and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday on rape, murder, and kidnapping charges. Neither have entered a plea in the case, but Sullivan has allegedly confessed.
Authorities say the pair, who shared an Abington apartment, began plotting the girl's murder months before her death. In July they allegedly raped and killed her in a Quakertown apartment, and months later dismembered her and dumped her remains in Luzerne County.