Two area couples glad they got involved in foster parenting

Farm Forum

Devin and Teresa Hebeisen never planned to become foster parents. They got into it because they saw the need.

The Hebeisens started taking in young people who needed help. Now, more than a dozen years later, they’ve opened their home to at least 60 or 70 young people over the years.

The Hebeisens have four children of their own ages 9 to 17. For the last eight months, they’ve also provided a home to Tasha Torkelson, 18.

“God calls us to love people,” says Devin Hebeisen, pastor of The Journey church in Aberdeen. What better way to love, he asks, could there be than “to help kids who don’t have a home where they’re loved?”

Overall, being a foster parent is a great experience, he said.

But the experience does have its ups and downs. Putting a kid into a new life is a shock for many young people, he said.

The Hebeisen family has rules. Everyone has chores, and the Hebeisens try to teach manners. When foster children are introduced to structure, you’ll occasionally see rebellion, he said.

But the Hebeisens, who have been married 22 years, like to see young people grow and experience new things. Part of that growth can be spiritual, he said.

As a pastor, Hebeisen’s role is to help people see Jesus, he said. Seeing the role of Jesus in the home is beneficial, the Hebeisens believe. Before meals, not every foster child agrees to lead prayer. But some of them do.

The Hebeisens make a lot of mistakes, Teresa said. But at the root of it all, “there’s love,” she said.

The Hebeisens, who prefer hosting middle school and high school students, learn a lot from the young people. It’s helpful, they say, to learn that not everyone is raised the same way.

“There’s a lot of ways of doing things, not all of them wrong,” he said.

For the foster children, the average stay with the Hebeisens is about a month. Some will stay for only a weekend. One young woman, though, was with them for almost a year.

Another former foster child works at The Journey’s day care, where her daughter is also enrolled.

Two other longtime foster parents are Jim and Jean Mulder of Eureka. Over 21 years, they have welcomed 59 foster children into their home. The Mulders, who have three children and 12 grandchildren, are now in their mid-60s. They are no longer foster parents, but they’re glad they were.

“Our kids growing up enjoyed having these little ones around as much as we did,” Jim Mulder said.

There is a tremendous need for foster parents, he said.

When you take in 3-year-olds, the first couple of nights “they’re scared to death,” he said.

More than likely, the youngster was taken out of a bad situation. Some of the young people lived in deplorable conditions, he said.

But after a couple of days, the youngsters learn to trust you, he said.

“You wouldn’t believe what a clean, warm, safe bed and three meals a day” does for a foster child, he said. “There’s no way to explain what that can mean to someone that doesn’t have that.

“It’s just hard to explain the look on a child’s face when they know they can go to bed without threat of violence,” he said.

The Mulders hosted one girl, Julia Strikes Enemy, for 10 years. They eventually became her legal guardians.

“To this day, she still refers to us as Mom and Dad,” he said.

Strikes Enemy is now a foster parent herself.

Being a foster parent is rewarding if you love children, Jim Mulder said.

The key is that you love seeing that people are cared for.

“If you enjoy doing that for your fellow human beings, then by all means go for it,” he said. “You can’t miss.”

How to become a foster parent

Staff reports

To become a foster parent in South Dakota, you must be 21.

Before becoming a foster parent, you must undergo training and a criminal background check. You must also provide references.

Who would make a good foster parent?

“It could be a single family or it could be a couple. What we really look for is that the foster family meets the individual needs of the children who enter care by matching the strengths of the foster family with the needs of the child,” Kristin Kellar of the State Department of Social Services wrote in an email. “We also look for families in the same community as the child, so that they can continue to be educated at their school with their friends and stay in their same religious institution.”

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, the first step is to contact a local office of the state Division of Child Protection Services. The Aberdeen office, 3401 10th Ave S.E., serves Brown, McPherson, Edmunds and Marshall counties. The phone number is 605-626-2388.

A packet containing information about foster parenting will be mailed to those requesting it. Once contact is made, a family services specialist will come to your home and discuss the responsibilities and requirements for becoming a foster parent, and you will have an opportunity to have your questions answered.

Prospective foster parents must attend Parent’s Resource for Information, Development and Education training. During this time, 30 hours of orientation and three or four home visits are also required.

A final assessment is done once training has been completed to determine if you meet or are in compliance with licensing requirements.

When the training, home consultations and paperwork are complete and a determination is made that you are in compliance with licensing requirements, a family foster care license may be issued. This license must be renewed annually.