For nine years now, Andy and Colleen Wede have been parents, but not in the traditional sense. They have opened their doors and their lives to children who are not their own and have given them a home. The decision to do that came almost 10 years ago.
"We just didn't have any luck getting pregnant and so we said you know what, he comes from a family of 12 and I'm from eight, so yeah, we knew we wanted kids," Colleen Wede said.
They considered going through the adoption process, but that became a lengthy and expensive endeavor.
"It was like a book. You could pick out your race, you could pick out your boy or a girl, and everything was a price tag, and that's what we didn't like about it," Andy Wede said.
Since that time, they have been the foster parents to eight children. Those kids have stayed anywhere from just a weekend to even an entire year. It just depends on what the State feels the need is.
"As far as being a foster family, they'll call Colleen at noon and say 'Hey, we have a placement coming, we've got a kid,' and they can be here in an hour," Andy said.
Even though they are not their own kids, it is what they're offering the children that makes being a foster parent completely worthwhile.
"Stability, safeness. For me, a two-parent home. A lot of kids don't have that, just some place safe," Colleen said.
The children each have their own story, their own reason for needing a new home. More often than not, Colleen and Andy aren't allowed to know anything about those situations.
"A lot of the times, we don't know. A lot of the times you don't get the details. I remember when we were doing our PRIDE training, it's very scary to even do that, a lot of people go 'Oh wait, that's too much for me,'" Colleen said.
Up to now, the kids have never been a problem. Each one has offered something special to their lives that they will never forget.
"They brought us a couple siblings and they were the nicest kids. We were on the farm at the time and we went out in the garden and the kids were just great," Andy said.
That feeling of love can grow into attachment, which makes seeing the kids leave even harder, but that is part of the deal. They accept it.
"In every one of our cases so far, it's been where the kids have had to go back, we have been comfortable with it. So, we've never had a situation where we went 'Oh boy, I'm not so sure,'" Colleen said.
The one exception to the children leaving is eight-year-old Gabby. Her birth mother's parental rights were removed and her father voluntarily removed his rights, leading to Andy and Colleen adopting her.
"They're so nice and they're my friends. In fact, I won a trophy," Gabby said.
They don't let Gabby ever forget how special she is to the both of them.
"He gave it to me, and I really love it since it's so shiny, and I like stuff that's shiny," Gabby said.
They are a family, formed out of a loving gesture offered to any child who needs a home. They hope that more families open their hearts to the idea of being a foster family for children who are looking for that love.
"There's just so many kids that just need somebody to feed them a meal, to give them a warm bed to sleep in, to pay attention to them, to sit down and play games with, they just need some stability," Colleen said.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or have questions about how to start the application process, visit the Department of Social Services webpage for more information.