Being a foster parent takes a lot of time and a caring heart to help provide a safe place for kids in rough situations. One couple in Wisconsin Rapids has gone above and beyond the call of duty to not only keep a family together but also make them apart of their own and are now being honored for their service.
Each year, Wisconsin's Human Services Department chooses a foster parent from each of its five regions to be Foster Parent of the Year. Social workers from each county are asked to make recommendations and this year, for the first time in its history, a couple from Wood County has received the honor.
Their social worker, Julia Dauenhauer said recommending Rhonda and Arun or "Indie" Ghodeswar was a no-brainer.
"They're so creative and unique. They're open to just about everything. They're so non-judgmental and they just have the biggest hearts."
"My house was always full. I never had an empty spot," said Rhonda.
She has been helping to provide a loving home to kids in foster care for the past twenty years.
"The kids, they keep you fresh," said Indie. "They look everything like new. They keep you really fresh. I love that about kids and they just look around."
It's a cause that has significant meaning to Rhonda, as she was a foster kid herself, beginning when she was seven-years-old.
When asked how many homes she was in and out of, she replied "all of in Adams County. I had virtually run out of every home."
She said she stayed in some good homes, but also experienced things she wanted to change and do differently for future foster children.
"There were three of us and we never grew up together, so it's something now that's very dear to me to try to keep the families united," she said.
That value has been tested and is now being honored after they not only took in and became legal guardians for an infant who seemed to be having developing issues two years ago, but they did something out of the ordinary and took in her mother as well.
"The mother wanted to actively parent the child, but didn't have the capacity to do it on her own," said Dauenhauer. "So, we were looking at the possibility of having to separate this child and the mother and that was the last thing that we wanted to do."
"I'd like to say 'We went over it and over it and over it' about keeping her and the mother, but we really didn't spend that much time thinking about it," said Rhonda. "We just decided that we knew that this was what we wanted to do."
They said little Samantha or "Sammy" has quickly become part of the family.
"She is just like him (Indie)," said Rhonda "She's caught up and she's fast and we're not as much worried now of the disabilities if she may have them."
She said being a foster parent is not always easy as you have to walk the fine line between your asserting your caregiving and respecting the child's family. However, it's an important position and she said "if you have room in your heart and room in your home, this could be an option."
"I put the heart first because you have to really love to give of yourself," she added.
The Ghodeswars and their social worker said foster parents don't have to do everything alone. They encourage anyone caring for foster kids to vocalize their needs so help can be provided. Kids are also encouraged to do the same.
The state is always looking for new foster families. If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, you can give your county's human, social, or health and human services a call to walk you through the steps.
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