Hudson couple raises an unconventional family
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Hudson – There are more than 5,800 foster families in Massachusetts. They are your neighbors and friends – the couple sitting next to you at the movies, the parents serving alongside you in the PTO. They are librarians, doctors, mailmen and pilots. And they are Larry and Robin Joyce.
The Joyces began fostering in 1998, when their biological children Kristen, Kaitlyn, and Keith were 4, 6, and 8, respectively. In the seven years that followed, they had at least six foster babies in their home at all times, often babies who were exposed to substances in utero. In the seven years that they fostered, the Joyce’s took in more than 40 foster children and adopted five of them: twins Maire and Domenic, Raymond, Derek and Dylan.
“Not everyone understands our family. Sometimes people ask if we are crazy, and other times they say we are saints. We are neither. We were fortunate enough to foster children who we fell in love with. And when those children needed a family to care for them because their own families were not able to do it, we were lucky enough to be able to adopt them and call them our own,” Robin Joyce said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 400,000 children are placed in foster care annually, with more than 200,000 moving in and out of foster homes in a given year.
“Being able to help a child in order for a parent to have time to improve their own situation, and then seeing the child return to that improved situation was always a good feeling,” said Joyce. “There is pain in fostering, but there is also joy in helping a family.”
Robin advises prospective foster parents not to foster with the intention of adopting.
“It is important to remember that these children have families who they love, regardless of what their home situation may have been like. Even with adoption, the child will always feel a connection to his biological family,” she said. “In order to foster, you need to be committed to helping the child return to his own family first, no matter what your own feelings about that may be. You can keep him safe for a while and model a healthy family environment, but you always need to be prepared to send him back home.”
For the Joyce family, raising eight children in their unconventional, love-filled home has been busy, exciting, and rewarding. And trying at times. It has also had its share of humor.
“When our children were all young we bought a motor home so we could vacation with them – we just needed too many hotel rooms,” she recalled. “On a trip to Disney one year we decided to stop in Atlantic City since we had never seen it and thought the kids would enjoy the boardwalk. As our family got out of the motor home…, a man stood by watching the 10 of us step out. Not able to hold back, he asked, ‘Is this a mission?’ – assuming we must be on a religious journey, when it was actually just our family.”
The Joyce children are growing up and forging their own lives. Still, Larry and Robin’s home remains full of life as they are raising their 4-year-old granddaughter Chloe who, they say, keeps them laughing every day.
For the Joyce family, fostering was an enriching experience.
“It was rewarding to know that the children we took in were well cared for,” Joyce said. Seeing them enjoy family moments with us, seeing my own children learn that everyone comes from different family situations and knowing that we can help others when needed was gratifying. Caring for foster children also prompted me to return to school to get my degree in psychology and go into a field where I can continue working with families.”
The need for families to provide a safe, stable and nurturing home for foster children until they can return to their families is great. For more information on foster care, visit the Department of Children and Families at http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/foster-care/.
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