SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — East River Foster Parent Network was established in 2011 to help support families throughout their foster care journey.

The non-profit organization got its start by assisting a few children each month, but that number has grown exponentially. East River served more than 300 kids through its Clothing Closet during the first six months of 2022, more than all of 2021.

It’s game night for Jennifer Johnson, Scott Keckler, and their three adopted sons.

Scott is a pediatric surgeon and Jennifer is a rare textile dealer, but 20 years ago they chose to foster and didn’t have the cash to buy Boardwalk.

“We didn’t have two pennies to rub together,” Jennifer Johnson said. “We just did it,” Scott Keckler said “We were very young. I remember when we went through our training we were the youngest ones there,” Johnson said. “By far the youngest couple,” Keckler said. “By far,” Johnson said. “Yep,” Keckler added.

After completing their training, the young couple had a plan.

“Our original intention was to do just emergency placement and the social worker contacted us and said that she had a couple of boys who were in different families and if we would be willing to take them under long-term care so they could be reunited with themselves and we said sure,” Keckler said.

“They were a sibling group of three that had never been together,” Johnson said.

Suddenly they were fostering three kids, and when a different family’s plan to adopt the boys fell through, Scott and Jennifer changed their tune again and adopted Adrian, Gabe, and Nathanuel.

“It was the right thing to do,” Keckler said. “It was the right thing to do and it changed our lives completely. I think it was the most fundamentally important decision we’ve ever made,” Johnson said. “Yep,” Keckler added.

Shortly after the adoption, the family of five moved to Missouri. They made their way back to South Dakota in 2019 and landed in Sioux Falls.

Today, Johnson is a board member and volunteer at East River Foster Parent Network.

“Great, amazing group of people that are enthusiastic, that care, that are doers that want to see things happen that really believe in their heart the mission of the organization and it’s pretty wonderful,” Johnson said.

An organization that’s always on the lookout for new foster parents.

“We need more people to participate, and you don’t have to be in a situation where you can take ten kids or you can take five kids, or whatever. You can take maybe one or maybe you can only do respite or you can only do emergency. We need everybody, we need everybody,” Johnson said.

Scott and Jennifer’s first fosters were their last… that wasn’t the case for the Globke family.

Shannon and Gwindy Globke have been fostering for 15 years. The story begins with a friend of Gwindy’s biological daughter, Taya, who’s now a social worker in Minneapolis.

“I’d pick her up and there would be her friend and no one was there to pick her friend up and I would bring her home with me and she ended up in foster care and we couldn’t take her because we weren’t licensed and so he said to me one day, let’s stop talking about fostering and let’s go do it,” Gwindy Globke said.

Two weeks after getting licensed, the Globke’s got their first call.

“We took in a young boy and a girl and that started our journey in foster care, and that was a short placement, maybe seven or ten days,” Shannon Globke said.

Over the years, the Globke’s have fostered about 80 kids, with stays ranging from one day to three years. Shannon says the goal is to return every kid to their birth family.

“In some of the cases it just doesn’t happen and when they’re in our family, I think you’ll agree, we treat them from day one like they’re ours. We want to love on them and take care of them, and so naturally you become attached and then when they don’t have a home to go back to for us it’s been a natural progression, ok this child needs a forever home, we end up adopting (laugh),” Shannon Globke said.

They’ve now adopted five kids.

William in 2011.

Macie, through a private adoption, also in 2011.

Brother and sister, Sean and Bella, in 2020.

And 2-year-old Deyshaun earlier this year.

Despite fostering dozens and dozens of kids, the Globke’s don’t always say yes but are willing to listen and ask questions.

“How many kids and what their ages are and any difficulties they may have, and then we have to make a decision for our family whether or not that’s right. You don’t have to take all the placements, you can make decisions for you and your family on what kids will fit best in your home,” Shannon Globke said.

The Globkes have this advice for prospective foster parents.

“You can always get licensed and try first of all with doing respite care, where you only watch them for a few days or maybe a week and that kind of gets you in the door, gets you feeling how it is to have children come into your home,” Shannon Globke said.

“I would say to do it. It’s been rewarding, fulfilling,” Gwindy Globke said.

The Globke family isn’t done fostering and won’t rule out another adoption, and for good reason.

“We’re really the ones that have been blessed. We’ve received an entire family, five children that we’ve adopted through foster care, through adoption, and how much more could we ever give back than we’ve gotten,” Shannon Globke said.

East River Foster Parent Network is currently looking to expand its Clothing Closet by moving into a larger space. The non-profit organization is hoping to raise $50,000 by the end of 2022.

Click HERE if you’d like to donate your time or resources, or are interested in becoming a foster parent.