By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
UPPER SANDUSKY — An old wooden door painted a weathered blue rests on its side, and its 15 rectangular panes of glass serve as a giant picture frame for the Hoy Family.
Dozens of photos show Dan and Lisa Hoy along with their biological daughter and son, Cassandra and Joseph. There are also prints of the children that the Hoys have fostered, including a group of siblings — Ruthann, Garret, Kevin and Isabelle — who were adopted by the couple last month.
The phrase “Family is forever,” painted in flowing dark blue letters beneath the photos, has special meaning.
“These kids — and any child or adult — just wants a place to feel like they belong,” Dan said.
Both Lisa and Dan are from Upper Sandusky. Dan is the youngest of five siblings. Lisa and her brother were adopted and raised by their grandparents. She said that experience played a role in her desire to provide a foster home.
“I look back and think if it wasn’t for my grandparents, I don’t know what would have happened to my brother and I,” Lisa said. “I guarantee we would have ended up in the foster system. It was just a matter of where, if we were even together kind of thing.”
The couple married 20 years ago and had Cassandra and Joseph. For the past four years, they’ve also fostered with The Twelve of Ohio, a private, nonprofit foster care and adoption agency.
“We were like, ‘Let’s do this. There’s kids out there,'” Dan said.
Obtaining a license required 60 hours of preservice training. The Hoys take additional training every two years because they provide a treatment home for children who have been through more trauma.
Their first foster children arrived in October 2015 and stayed for eight months.
“The aim is always to reunite them with their families when possible,” said Dan.
Because the children were having a hard time adjusting, Dan quit his job as an assistant manager at Arby’s in Upper Sandusky and became a stay-at-home dad. Lisa works at Angeline Industries.
Since 2015, they have provided longterm care for 13 children. Another 12 or 13 have stayed for shorter amounts of time as the Hoys provided respite care for other foster parents.
“It takes a major adjustment when you get children who are not used to a structured environment or don’t understand your family,” said Dan.
Ruthann, Garret, Kevin and Isabelle came to the Hoys in June 2016. At first, the goal was to try and get them back to their family. When that didn’t work, Dan and Lisa decided to adopt.
It’s a long and tedious process, according to Lisa. But on Sept. 30, after 1,453 days in foster care, the adoption became official. Each member of the family wore special purple T-shirts to court that read “Heaven Sent,” “Court Approved,” “Forever Loved.”
A big celebration party was held at Angeline. Each of the children, including the two foster children currently living with the family, got to invite friends from school.
Dan said the newest members of the Hoy family, who range in age from 6 to 11, are all involved in extracurricular activities like band, soccer and cheerleading.
“It helps them get grounded,” he said. “As soon as they’re comfortable, don’t let them breathe, put them into an activity. But we have to try and figure out what that is a lot of times, because they have no clue.”
Their current foster daughter had never been involved in anything, but now she does gymnastics and cheering, “and she loves it,” he said.
The couple credits the Upper Sandusky community, school system and churches with supporting their mission to provide a home to foster children.
“We’ve gotten kids that came with what they were wearing and a backpack with a stuffed toy. And sometimes the clothes they have on don’t fit,” said Dan.
“It takes an army to raise children, and our community has been behind us 100 percent,” Lisa added. “There’s no way we could have done it without the community behind us.”
Life is definitely hectic for the family of 10, who are also trying to find a larger home.
“Our house has not been empty in the four years that we’ve been doing foster care but for four days,” laughed Lisa.
Dan encouraged others to become foster parents.
“Anyone can do what we’re doing, it just takes a commitment,” he said. “The kids don’t need perfection, they need love. That’s the key.”
Dan said the couple plans to continue in the program.
“Our only intent to stop is if we were to adopt enough that it was not feasible that we could give them the care, or the other option would be if one of us had a health issue at some point. Otherwise, I can see us doing it another 10-20 years,” he said.
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