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1. After hearing a radio ad that asked families if they had room for one more, an Omaha, Nebraska couple did a few better, and took in 168 foster children in all. Bud and Sandy Wilwerding started caring for foster children eight years after they were married. That was 40 years ago, and their family grew large. They have since retired from fostering but many of little ones they once cared for still return for visits.
2. Elivs and Aline fled their war-torn Burundi with barely anything but their four children. They were at the Tanzania refugee camp with no money for clothes and only food from ration cards. They were as poor as poor could be. But when they found an abandoned baby boy in the camp, they just had to take him in as a foster child. And even though they have very little, the child continues to grow and get healthier. Says Aline: “I see him as my own now. He’s part of our family.”
3. In the late 90s, Bilkis Banu was looking after 5 orphans when a mentally challenged woman came to her home with a baby girl who she could not care for her. Bilkis asked if she would give her to her and the woman did. Bilkis named her Pritilata. That same night, she had the baby girl in her lap and had a vision of Mother Theresa. After that, Bilkis and her husband decided to build an orphanage. The two buildings in Sudan now house 55 children of different ages. Says Bilkis: “My aim is to bring up the children as good human beings.”
4. Gay marriage is still prohibited in Arizona, but Steven and Roger Ham don’t care, as they continue be the proud foster parents of seven boys and seven girls. They began fostering back in 2003, when they took in a 5-year-old boy who had been abused. The family grew from there and the men were named among Esquire Magazine’s Fathers of the Year in 2012. A 4-year-old girl and her 2-year-old brother, both victims of abuse, were two recent additions to the family.
5. More than 120 children have passed through the doors of Arizona foster mother Ingeborg McIntosh. But one stands out maybe just a little more than the rest. Ingeborg needed a new kidney to save her life, and her adopted son, Jordan, went on his own to see if he was a match. He was. And right around Mother’s Day, he gave her the gift that saved her life. Says Jordan: “Everything she’s done for me since I was a kid, I just wanted to give it back to her, and show her how much I appreciate her.”
6. Thom and Tami Wetmore’s birth daughter, Juliana, was born deaf and without 40 percent of the bones in her face, which is Treacher-Collins syndrome. When they heard about an orphan in the Ukraine with the same condition as their daughter, they just had to meet her. And they just had to adopt her. Says Tami: “We knew, as soon as I saw her. I knew, in my spirit, ‘Go get your daughter.” Danica is the same age as Juliana, and now, at 12 years old, they are the best of friends. The couple has adopted three more children since then.
7. After Jaci Hasemeyer handed out coupons to a skating rink to the kids in her elementary gym class, a 10-year-old boy later came up to her and said the coupon would be wasted on him since he was adopted and lived in a group home… that no one would take him. His father had abandoned him and his mom was in jail on drug charges. Says Jaci: “My heart just broke” for him. Jaci was then determined that she and her husband, Eric, would become foster parents to help children like that boy. Two years later, the first of the children arrived. There have been more than 30 children to live with the family since.
8. Back in Nebraska, Melissa and Scott Grove could not produce children of their own. So they became foster parents, with their first two – a 3-year-old and a 22-month-old – needing emergency care. They soon adopted them. Then another. Then another. Then they adopted another little boy who was still inside his mother’s womb at the time. He was born with Down Syndrome. Says Melissa: “It has opened our eyes, widened the horizons of our family, enriched all of our lives and brought us so much love and happiness.”
9. An empty bedroom inspired Denise and Bruce Kendrick of Dallas, who were birth parents to a new baby girl, to become foster parents for another child. Their first was an 18-month-old boy who had behavioral problems from neglect and abuse. With that, Denise and Bruce knew they were doing the right thing. Over the next 10 years, they went on to foster 24 children. The couple now has four biological children and five adopted children.
10. Jed was 3 years old when he was found in his Robeson, North Carolina home emaciated, chained to a bed and eating from a dog bowl on the floor. His parents were both severely mentally ill. Through the years, he was put into 29 foster homes but no one could deal with his behavior. He would steal from them and attack them, and he kept running away. He was in trouble and he was about to be sent away. But Billy Maddalon and his partner, Brooks Shelly, weren’t about to let that happen. The two stepped in and took 13-year-old Jed back to their home. That first night, they had spaghetti for dinner. Jed took it, jumped under the table and started eating it with his fingers. He didn’t know any better. He also didn’t know how to bathe himself or write his own name. But the couple stuck with him and helped him, and even though he ran away a couple of times, Billy and Brooks always found him. Two years after Jed started living with the couple, they adopted him. Says Jed: “They care about me. I’m not going anywhere. This is my forever home.”
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