Finding joy in raising other people's kids

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by TRICIA MANNING-SMITH / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 6, 2010 at 10:46 PM

LACEY, Wash. - Just imagine  waking up to a crying baby every night of your life for 29 years! That's the reality for a Lacey family, who've fostered kids for nearly three decades.

But the VanDeventers are happy to sacrifice a good night's sleep. They feel its a privilege to help get a new life off to a good start.

The VanDeventers' own backyard is one of their favorite places. It's usually packed with their favorite people: their family.

"Family is everything," said Janie VanDeventer.

For the VanDeventers, family runs deeper than blood.

"We're raising other peoples' kids, but that's our joy. That's all we do is raise these kids," said Janie with a smile on her face.

In a home where children are treasured, the VanDeventers are wealthy many times over.

"We've had over 150 kids we've had share our home," said Neal VanDeventer.

Those 150 foster children have been placed in their home over nearly 30 years through Catholic Family Services, which contracts with DSHS. They usually care for a baby for about six months before he or she is adopted.

From the moment Janie and Neal set their eyes on each other 33 years ago, they knew they shared the same destiny.

"We talked about foster care and we talked about adoption, and this was on our first date," said Neal.

"I think that's a 'God' thing. He brought us together," said Janie.

For the past 11 years, Janie and Neal have poured their hearts into the most gut-wrenching cases: medically fragile newborns, many drug or alcohol addicted.

"God called us to do this. He's equipped us. He's given us the energy," said 55-year-old Janie.

She's a pediatric nurse by profession who now uses her skills to nurture physically challenged babies. Neal works in I.T. for the state.

"We love these babies. They're ours for the time, for the time he have them they're ours," said Janie.

Then Janie chokes up as she continues. "Then we have to let them go. But that's part of the job."

Except for the six babies that they just couldn't part with and adopted.

Theirs is a family that doesn't make headlines. They're not in this for notoriety. Their only goal is to inspire others to open their hearts and change the world one life at a time.

"There's such a huge need for foster families," said Janie.

Neal continued: "There's a huge need in the foster care system for respite care," to allow foster parents a reprieve at times.

"My dream is to someday be an advocate (for the foster care system) because that's our life and that's what we're called to do," said Neal.

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