Couple Inspire 50 Adoptions in One Neighborhood

Gimundo: By Kathryn Hawkins. Posted on April 28 2010

In 1996, Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer already had three children, and had believed their family was complete. But when Jaci, a P.E. teacher at a Riverside, California elementary school, handed out coupons for a local skating rink one day, the response she received from a 5th grade boy made her think twice.

The boy, who was a foster child living in a group house, told Jaci that he didn’t need the coupon because he didn’t have anyone to take him skating.

“My heart just broke,” Jaci told Parents Magazine. “I couldn’t stop thinking that we had to do something to help kids like him.”

So Jaci and her family began to look into options, and discovered that there were hundreds of local children in need of a supportive family home. They applied to become a foster family, and in the years since, they’ve opened their home to more than 30 foster children—and have adopted nine of them.

“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,’” said Jaci.

But the drive to provide a home to children in need didn’t stop in the Hasemeyer household. When the family’s friends and neighbors became aware of what the Hasemeyers were doing, they, too, were inspired to foster and adopt. Now, 20 families in the Hasemeyers’ neighborhood have adopted 50 children.

The Hasemeyers are committed to helping other families learn about fostering and adoption possibilities, and have dedicated their lives to the movement. Several years ago, Eric quit his job as a stockbroker and went back to school for a master’s in counseling. He now runs a center that serves as an adoption resource for both prospective parents and women who must give up their children.

And in 2006, the Hasemeyers’ oldest daughter, Krista, organized the Walk Your Talk Walk, a fundraising event to raise awareness of foster children. In the first year, the walk raised $1,500, but last year, it collected more than $30,000, and churches throughout Southern California modeled their own fundraisers after the event.

Now that the Hasemeyers have 12 children, it’s a pretty full house. But even though they’re not planning on any more adoptions, they are passionate about helping other families connect with children who need homes.

“Each evening when we look around the dinner table, we come face-to-face with the good that comes of adoption,” Jaci said. “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.”

It Just Takes One: Foster Mother Mollie Jelks Raises 36 Foster Youth

A great story…good for a Mothers Day Memory:

HuffPost   |  Erica Liepmann
Posted: 05- 3-10 06:00 AM
After spending 22 years of her life working in mortgage banking, Mollie Jelks admits she never found the sense of fulfillment she longed for. When her Citibank office relocated to St. Louis, Jelks wasn’t willing to follow. Instead, she picked up a temp job at the Children’s Bureau, a Southern California organization working with abused and neglected children, pairing them with loving foster and adoptive parents. She reflects, “I didn’t know what it meant to be a foster parent, I just wanted to help kids.”

Inspired by the children she saw daily at Children’s Bureau, Jelks took in a foster child of her own. Jelks’ biological children were grown, with the youngest finishing her last two years of high school. Jelks filled out an application, and before she knew it, she had a rambunctious five-year-old under her care. Jelks recalls, “Her name was Precious, but she was the opposite.”

Despite Precious’ best attempts to thwart her guardian’s warmth, she soon found herself eager for her daily hugs from Jelks. A psychiatrist who worked with Precious was stunned at the difference. “What did you do to her? She’s been in the system for 18 months. We thought she’d never give or receive love.”

Jelks’ experience inspired her to keep going — over the last 16 years, she’s taken in 36 foster kids, many of whom came to her malnourished, scared by abuse or neglected by drug addicted parents. Four of the children that passed through Jelks’ doors never left — she adopted two boys and two girls.

To support her family, Jelks started a day care center on her property, based on the same principles she uses to raise her own children: “teaching love and sharing.” Jelks now employs three staff members, each committed to her vision of fostering a “home away from home” for the youngsters.

By far, her biggest challenge was Kendra, a young girl who had been bounced around to different homes countless times. After struggling with a schizophrenic mother, given up by her biological grandmother and being rejected after two years with an adopted family, Kendra was an emotionally scarred little girl — deemed “too difficult” by many that tried to care for her.

Frustratied by the circus that left Kendra feeling rejected and unloved, Jelks decided to give her a permanent home. Getting Kendra to come out of her shell, however, was another task altogether.

Through it all, Jelks didn’t give up hope, continuing to support Kendra, even when her actions seemed to go unnoticed or unappreciated. She explained to Kendra, “What’s your last name? Jelks. What’s my last name? Jelks. That means we’re family now.” It took nearly five and a half years, but slowly, Kendra began to open up, to trust Jelks and to accept that she could be loved.

Jelks speaks fondly of Children’s Bureau, the same organization through with she took in all of her foster and adopted children. She laughs, “I’m not biased, but they’re the best.”

The feeling, it seems, is mutual. “Mollie is an inspiration to all parents. She has a true love for children along with the warmth, kindness and patience it takes to make a difference in the lives of these special children. We are fortunate to have this extraordinary woman as part of our Children’s Bureau family,” said Lou Graham, Children’s Bureau’s director of foster care and adoption programs.

Now, rising to take care of her four young adopted children and oversee the day care center, Jelks believes “every morning is a joy.” Jelks is proud of her brood, speaking excitedly of each of their unique talents. Of young Tyler, she gushes “oh, he’s the lawyer.” Between track practice for 14-year-old Kendra, piano lessons for 12-year-old Amy, dance classes for nine-year-old Sean and basketball games for 11-year-old Tyler, Jelks has a busy schedule, helping all of her kids reach their potential.

Now in her 60s, Jelks is taking a step back from foster parenting, focusing on raising her adopted children. Jelks shares the knowledge she’s accumulated over her lifetime of parenting as a mentor to other foster parents.

When she encountered a foster mother struggling to get through to a girl, who, like Kendra, was introverted, she knew how to help. The mother had hoped to solve her own unhappiness by caring for the girl, but the struggle was making her even more unhappy. Jelks advised her, you’re “putting too much on the child. Find happiness with yourself, so you can take demands off the child.”

When the mother returned to Jelks, months later, to announce the pair had had a breakthrough and were finally getting to know each other and develop a loving relationship. “To hear that victory, that’s the ultimate goal of mentoring.”