(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – It wasn’t necessarily the plan to foster siblings, but it was the journey for Jeanne and Dennis Hostetler.
“My main inspiration for foster care was desiring a larger family,” explained Jeanne. “There were also two families at a previous church who fostered and adopted and their stories always interested me.”
The couple started their fostering journey in 2008 with a baby boy they later adopted. In the process of adopting their son, his mother became pregnant again. The new baby girl was placed into their custody and then reunited with her mother when she was 9-months-old. “It was sad to ‘lose’ her, but it was also good to see that Mom had made good choices and therefore did deserve to have her daughter back,” added Jeanne. “Knowing Mom was doing well made the loss SO MUCH easier.”
The Hostetlers kept in contact with the mother. However, things took a turn when they learned the mother had run off with the drug-dealing father of the little girl. When the child was 5 the Hostetlers welcomed her into their home. “The agency only offered to place her with us, but we didn’t want to see the siblings separated,” added Jeanne. The family made a few adjustments to their home and were approved to take the little girl and her two younger sisters marking the moment when they fostered four siblings under their roof.
“A sibling group is good in terms of keeping the family connections, but they can be particularly challenging because the needs are so immense and multiplied,” Jeanne honestly expressed. “However, there isn’t any magical multiplying of parents. To this day, we deal with the deep sense of loss and unfairness that the kids have.”
Jeanne added that the foster care and adoption experience forced her to change in ways she didn’t anticipate, although she believes she handled it all pretty well. “Lo and behold if we want our kids to deal with their issues in a healthy way we have to be willing to look at our own issues and deal with them too,” she noted.
“Foster care is providing a safe, loving home for a child for whatever time frame they need it,” she added. “In many ways, they just join your family and participate in whatever your family participates in.” While she explained your family may become a little busier she indicated it’s all worth it. “There’s a tremendous need for ‘normal’ homes for kids. Without foster homes kids end up in group homes or more orphanage-type settings long-term that really makes it difficult for them to create a ‘normal’ home for their [own] family in the future.”
Jeanne added that while it isn’t easy it is rewarding. “Make sure you have support systems in place for yourself. People who will babysit, listen to your frustrations, love your kids without needing to know every detail, and give encouragement to you.”