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Answering the call to help children; family adopts two, fosters four more siblings

June 9, 2011

Courtney, left, and her sister, Haley, front, stand with Jennifer and Brett. The family adopted Courtney and her sister, and now foster four other siblings.

She’d had enough.

Jennifer was tired of people asking “Why?”

“I was at a store one day and complained to a lady about it,” Jennifer said. “She told me next time I was asked why I was a foster parent to reply, ‘Why aren’t you? Why don’t you do it?’”

Jennifer and Brett have a full house, and they make it work. They adopted two of their foster children who are 12 and 14. A little more than a year ago, they took in four more children, ages 2, 4, 5 and 8.

“It’s a house of perpetual motion,” Brett said. “We have six children, four dogs, two cats and a freezer full of fish sticks. It sounds like a lot, but we’re all a team, and we all manage it well. I can’t imagine not having children in the house.”

The family is a true advocate for foster parenting. Jennifer always wanted to help children. With the newest additions, the focus is first on consistency and stability.

“The children need to first understand they have a safe place to stay,” Jennifer said. “They also need consistency – a consistent routine, consistent rules and consistent responses to their actions, good or bad.”

The family begins each day with breakfast together. All the children help maintain the home however they are capable, from cleaning dishes to picking up toys.

But the new experiences aren’t limited to household chores. Children and foster parents alike experience and re-experience the joys of a first visit to the zoo, or sharing a special sweet treat.

“We take so many little things for granted,” Brett said. “Our children hadn’t eaten a grilled steak or eaten a taco. They didn’t know what a milkshake was.”

It’s work, as raising children in any situation would be. But Jennifer and Brett still make time for themselves with a weekly date night. They rely on an extensive support network of reliable family and neighbors to help out when help is needed.

“The children see the support and operate in the house the same as every other family member,” Jennifer said. “They begin to feel safe and they start to develop and grow. You have to have a strong home and a strong marriage and be the positive model for them. Many times, foster parents are the first positive family type of influence.”

Courtney was only supposed to spend the weekend a few years ago. At first, she said she was scared they would be horrible foster parents. But that weekend turned into an adoption for Courtney and her sister. And for the first time, Courtney, 12, began school at the same school she finished the year before.

Courtney already plans to be a foster parent, too.

“You want to be a family that helps people,” Brett said. “To see our children develop and experience things, it’s amazing to be a part of that.”

Learn about becoming a foster parent at www.youthvillages.org/foster.

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