La Crosse woman braves the long road to motherhood

Becoming a parent isn’t always easy — for some, it’s harder than most. La Crosse resident Jo Hagen learned this the hard way, but she wouldn’t change that for the world.

The road to parenthood wasn’t so straightforward.

“All my life I had wanted to be a parent. Since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom,” Hagen said.

She tried and tried again with her then-husband, but those dreams quickly faded away.

“I had five miscarriages along the way,” Hagen said.

And then, a cervical cancer diagnosis meant she would never have a child of her own. She didn’t consider any other options at that point.

“It was a very hard time,” Hagen said.

One day, the phone rang. A friend needed to seek treatment so her kids needed a safe place to stay. They knew Jo’s home would be the perfect place.

“I got licensed on the spot and became a foster parent and the rest is history,” Hagen said.

She began fostering children in the early ’90s, bringing in about 35 children to her home.

It’s an experience that was both rewarding and sad.

“It’s hard to give up any child, you know. Even if they’re in your home for a little bit of time because when they would come into our home it was 100%, we gave to them as if they were our own,” Hagen said.

At times, she would bring the mothers into the home so they could learn how to be a parent. Some times, that allowed the mothers a chance to prove they were able to have their child back in their custody.

Some of the children stayed in her care.

“I actually adopted myself out of foster care,” Hagen said.

Five of the children that came to her in a time of need stayed, all with different quirks, needs and challenges.

“That’s the hardest thing for me to do as a mom is to cut the mom times and let them grow,” Hagen said.

Life is full of challenges but she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It’s just amazing to look at them and I know– I could almost cry– where they started from and where they are today. They really have come a long way,” Hagen said.

There are 7,000 children in the Wisconsin Foster Care System, according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. They are in need of good homes right now. If you think you could open your home to them, contact your local Department of Human Services agency to learn what it takes to become a foster parent.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.