Sara Larsen stared at the fragile baby boy in her arms. The victim of extreme neglect, he still had vomit sticking to his hair and filling his ears. The foster mother sighed, knowing how much work this child would be, and wondered if she and husband Dick could handle it. But as soon as the Eugene, Ore. Couple left the room, Dick looked at her and asked, “How do we get him out of there?” Scenes like these are the snapshots of Sara Larsen’s life. The former farm girl from St. Charles, Iowa, grew up with one brother and never imagined the dozens of children that would one day fill her home. Today, however, the Lane County foster mother has fostered 54 children and adopted five with her husband of 43 years, in addition to raising a biological son.
Larsen began fostering in 1979 after suffering several miscarriages. Eventually, the couple began specializing in hard-to-place medically needy children. Some came with cracked skulls, fetal alcohol syndrome or drug withdrawals, but all left with a strong parent/child bond.
“When we take them into our home, they’re family,” Larsen says. “They’ve got to have nurturing and bonding and loving. You deal with the grief when they go.”
Whenever the Larsens felt strong attachments to a certain child, they prayed about their feelings. Though they were not successful in every adoption attempt, they still keep in regular contact with most of their former foster children today.
The hardest part, Larsen admits, is watching children re-enter abusive homes.
“I nearly wanted to quit after one little girl begged me to ask her mother to stop hitting her,” Larsen says, and yet the state still granted the abusive mother custody. “I told God, I’m not taking this anymore. And He said, just because it’s hard for you, you won’t do it anymore? I knew then I couldn’t give up.”
And the easiest part of opening up your home to so many children society would rather ignore?
“That’s easy,” Larsen smiles. “You fall in love with every single one of them.”
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