Taking on the responsibility of fostering children can be a huge task. Sometimes you will get a placement on short notice. Other times, you may have to gently handle a child who has been a victim of abuse. It can also be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. You get to make a difference in the life of someone who really needs you. The following couples are celebrating 40 years or more of service in the foster care system.

Ron and Jeanne Cizek have fostered over 250 kids, ages ranging from newborn to 16, in the last 40 years. Jeanne visited an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota when she was 10 years old. The experience touched her heart. She and Ron have three biological children and two they adopted. As they have gotten older, they have decided not to foster anymore kids in the future. They are currently enjoying time with their 19 grandchildren and their current two foster kids under the age of two.

Early in their fostering career they witnessed lots of children entering the system because of physical abuse. It was hard to watch, but they say there have been less cases like that in recent years. According to their experience, drug addiction has become a greater problem. The couple worked with social workers and biological parents to do what was best for each child. Ron made sure to always photograph kids’ milestones along the way for the parents who were unable to.

Corrine and Roger Vogel recently celebrated their 40-year foster anniversary. They specialized in caring for medically fragile infants. Their alma mater, Valparaiso University, honored their public service with their 2016 Distinguished Alumni for Community Service award. A story about the Vogels appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Wellspring. The couple was dubbed “The Guardian Angels of NorthBay’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.” They have worked closely with doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers and have given a home to 120 children in need. The couple set up an annuity through NorthBay Healthcare Foundation.

Barbara and Fred Freeman have lined the walls of their home with the many photos of children who have stayed with them over the last 52 years (see image above). They estimate that 150-200 kids have been placed with them during that time. In the 1960s, Barbara went to a meeting that would change the course of her life. A woman from the Department of Child Services spoke about how much they needed foster parents. The speaker emphasized that anyone with a spare bed or crib could be useful. Barbara had both. The Freeman’s have three biological children and three they adopted. Their biological kids grew up learning that you never know what someone else is going through, so it’s important to have compassion.

All of the couples share their stories to inspire and encourage others to get certified to foster.