May is Foster Care Awareness month and local agencies are encouraging community members to take a chance on foster care.
More than 150 kids in our community are in foster care right now and about 40 percent of them are not guaranteed a home. However, one family has been doing it for over three decades and said it’s one of the most rewarding experiences of their family members' life.
"My husband Tom and I have been married 41 years,” said Maxine Jacobs, a foster care parent in La Crosse.
Maxine is a retired ICU nurse and Tom is a retired police officer.
"We have two biological children, one just turned 40 this week and the other one is 36, and we have six grandchildren,” said Maxine.
They always knew they would have a big family.
"When they left the house, we didn't like the empty nest part of it. We wanted children in the home, we enjoy that, we enjoy the confusion and the noise and all the things that go along with having a larger family," said Maxine.
The Jacobs knew they had more love to give so they decided to get into foster care.
"When we first started, we went through the licensing process, we were actually going to do care for adults and the plans changed,” said Tom Jacobs, a foster care parent in La Crosse.
"Isaac came to us when he was 10, just about 11, it was supposed to be a short term, like three to six months foster placement before he went back home,” said Maxine.
Before Isaac moved in with the Jacobs, he told his social worker he wanted two things in life, joy and respect.
"We were pretty overwhelmed by that, coming from a little 10-year-old boy so that always kind of stuck with us,” said Maxine.
Over the months, Isaac became part of the family.
"We had talked about it but he was never in a position that we thought he would be adopted because re-unification is the goal,” said Tom.
Until one day, Isaac decided to make his short-term stay a permanent one.
“He came home and says I would like you to sit down, I want to talk to you about something, he said I am going to let you adopt me and we went from there,” said Tom.
Isaac was adopted by the Jacobs in 2007. He had his own room, a stable family and all that was missing was a dog.
"He always wanted a dog because he had a dog when he was living at home with mom,” said Maxine.
When the Jacobs finally got a dog, they let Isaac name her and he named her Joy.
"So that just made me feel that the joy and respect that he really wanted in his life that he is attaining that,” said Maxine.
Isaac is just one of the many lives the Jacobs have touched, but they say they receive more than they give.
"There is much more reward than anything else,” said Maxine.
It's not only families who can think about foster care options... single parents and community members are encouraged to consider becoming a foster parent as well.
There are about 70 licensed foster homes in La Crosse...and the county is hoping to double that in the near future. If you would like more information about foster care, you can contact the La Crosse County Human Services Department at 608-789-4834.