Foster Parenting is a gift from the heart. To selflessly give yourself, your home, and a solid, stable family to a child is an irreplaceable gift. With statistics pushed hard against these children, it’s family like this that help break the mold and give our future a chance!
The Family that Started it All
Back in 1996, Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer were just your typical nuclear family – two parents, three children, and three dogs. But one day, the Hasemeyer family’s definition of typical changed with a chance encounter. At the time, Jaci Hasemeyer was an elementary-school physical-education teacher. During gym period, she was handing out coupons to a local skating rink as a reward to her students for showing good sportsmanship. A fifth-grade boy lingered after class and returned his coupon to her, explaining that since he was a foster child living in a group home no one would be able to take him to the rink so it would be wasted on him. Until that moment the plight of kids in his situation had never been on Jaci’s radar.
“My heart just broke,” she recalls. The backstory was as sad as she feared: “It turned out that this 10-year-old boy’s father had abandoned him and his mom was in jail on drug charges. I couldn’t stop thinking that we had to do something to help kids like him.”
After doing some research she found that his story was far from uncommon. It was just something most people didn’t think about. Jaci’s husband, Eric, and their three biological kids – 6, 7, and 8 at the time – all agreed that their family would become part of the solution. And so, after getting in touch with a local agency, the Hasemeyers began the process of becoming a foster, and then an adoptive, family themselves.
Two years later the first children arrived, two sisters, ages 4 and 9, and a half brother who was 18 months. Since that day, more than 30 kids have lived in the Hasemeyer home, and as of press time they’ve personally adopted nine of them. “Some kids stick around for three days until a relative can be found to take care of them, some for three weeks, some for six months to a year until the parents get things together, and for the rest of the kids: a lifetime,” says Jaci. “Our philosophy has always been that if a child is not returned to her parents or relatives or moved elsewhere by the court, then our home would be their final stop, their ‘forever home.'”
Helping Other Families Grow
Incredibly, the Hasemeyers’ generous concept of home spread even beyond the lives of all those kids. In 2001, not long after Jaci and Eric began opening their home, four other couples who were close friends of the Hasemeyers were inspired to do the same. This prompted Jaci and Eric to formalize a role they already found themselves playing: starting a support group for foster and adoptive families (and those considering taking the plunge) in the community. The need turned out to be so great that Eric quit his job as a stockbroker and went back to school to get a master’s in counseling.
After he got his degree, he opened a center to help families who want to foster and adopt as well as women who need to give up their children. As part of their mission to get others to participate, Krista Hasemeyer, the couple’s oldest daughter, came up with the Walk Your Talk Walk, an event that raises awareness of the needs of foster children. In the first year, 2006, 40 people showed up, mostly friends of the Hasemeyers, and they raised $1,500 for foster and adoptive kids in the area. In 2009, the annual Walk Your Talk Walk drew more than 1,000 people and collected $30,000, and the concept was replicated in churches throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Although the Hasemeyers are not planning on any new additions, they hope their story will encourage others to become foster and adoptive parents. “Each evening when we look around the dinner table, we come face-to-face with the good that comes of adoption,” says Jaci. “Our kids have added so much to our family, and the simplest message is that everyone can make a difference in the life of a child.”
Families like the Hasemeyers are the heroes for foster children.They show children strength and perseverance, but most importantly, unconditional love.
Do you know of a star foster family? I’d love more than anything to feature them here. Not only to give them the recognition they deserve, but to show others the trials and rewards that come with being a foster parent. By sharing their stories, we can spread the support to other families experiencing similar events in their lives!.
Thoughts, comments, questions? Email me, JennKaysen@gmail.com
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If you’re interested in learning more about CASA of CGS, email email@example.com. Cumberland County ranked last place in Child Welfare in New Jersey. Let’s stand up for our children and do something about it! Visit www.wespeakupforchildren.org for more information and follow us on Facebook for daily updates and information.
Do you know of a Community Superhero?
Help CASA of CGS recognize the effort put forth by them to improve our community! Email Jennifer Kaysen at Jennkaysen@gmail.com. Be sure to share this post with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter to reach a bit further and find our Superheroes!