September 10, 2009 at 7:54 a.m.
In 18 years, she raised five kids of her own and took in 196 foster kids - a number that was surprising to hear.
"I was always busy, I didn't ever keep track, we just went day by day," Boelter said.
For her exceptional service to Chisago County in those 18 years of opening her home, Boelter was honored Aug. 26 with a resolution by the Chisago County Board of Commissioners.
Boelter's commitment to being a foster mom began when she had small children.
"We decided we wanted to do foster care, but then I became pregnant and with three toddlers, we put it off for a while," Boelter said.
Later, the couple adopted their fifth child as an infant, and began taking in foster kids.
The couple was licensed to host up to four foster kids, but had decided they would only take one at a time.
That plan went out the window with their first foster placement.
"We took in two-year-old twin girls," Boelter said. "And we had our own two-year-old, so there were three in our home."
That first placement began several years of a full house for Boelter, as she was busy with her own five kids and usually four foster kids.
During her years as a foster mom, Boelter remarried, and husband Dennis is very accepting and supporting of Boelter's commitment to being a foster mom. He also has five grown kids of his own, so there is always activity around the Boelter household. Two of Boelter's own children are still living at home, the rest are grown.
Each placement has been exciting, but brought the anxiety of the unknown as well. Foster kids have stayed anywhere from one day to six years with Boelter, and it hasn't always been easy, she said, but it's always rewarding in the end.
"We always get excited when the call comes that we're getting a new placement," Boelter said. "It's like a rush of adrenaline."
There have been the occasional behavioral issues and difficult relationships with foster kids, but Boelter hopes they all learn something about family when they are at her home.
"Even if they're here for one day, I hope they can learn something - and we learn from the kids too," she said.
Boelter said the entire family makes the foster kids feel welcome, and they take part in daily family activities and responsibilities.
The one thing Boelter has always kept separate is vacations. She feels it's important to spend time with her own family on vacation, giving everyone a needed respite from the demands of foster care.
But there are plenty of rewards in foster parenting, Boelter said. Like the phone calls and cards on Mother's Day from her foster kids. Or learning that they have been able to overcome obstacles to become happy and successful.
It has been hard to let go of those strong relationships over the years, particularly when Boelter is worried about kids returning to their own homes.
"The goal is to reunite them back with their parents, even though sometimes we don't like that," Boelter said.
The demands of caring for foster kids of all ages (she is licensed for birth through age 18), was countered by the opportunity to stay at home while her own children were young.
"I was able to stay home, but with foster kids, you're running a lot," Boelter said.
She has always appreciated having a weekend off each month to spend with her own family. During this time, a respite foster home takes in the foster kids. Boelter has also served as a respite care provider during her foster mom years.
Boelter has also enjoyed opening her home to moms and babies, and hopes she has been able to instill confidence in the young mothers.
"I hope I can show them they can do it on their own without the county or abusive men in their lives," Boelter said.
When the County Board recognized Boelter, it was both exciting and a bit embarrassing, Boelter said.
"There were a bunch of people taking pictures, and they told me I had taken in 196 kids - I thought, oh my gosh, that's exciting," Boelter said.
The Department of Health and Human Services had received word of Boelter's retirement from foster care work and wanted to publicly recognize her 18-year commitment.
The only problem - Boelter isn't ready to quit.
After talking to her husband, she decided to continue as a foster mom, and currently has a five-year-old girl staying at her home. When she and her family return from a two week vacation, Boelter said she will be ready to open her home to more (she is now licensed for three kids).
"My husband said he didn't think it was time to be done," Boelter said. "I honestly believe God didn't want me to be done, and I'm excited to start again."