Fathers come in all shapes, sizes, characters.......This article mentions my little brother Bobby Rose.......Dennis Finch was more of a father to him then our ex stepfather. This man was an outstanding example of what a father should be like........
Fostering family life
By GARY DEMUTH
BELOIT -- As a young boy, Bobby Rose was used to being a human punching bag.
Whenever he did something wrong, Rose could expect to be yelled at, slapped, punched or worse.
One day he went to school with a deep rug burn on his nose, the result of being thrown across the room by his then-stepfather.
So when Rose was put into foster care at age 15 and sent to the Beloit home of Dennis and Carol Finch, he was shocked to be treated with respect and consideration.
"Dennis and Carol believed in me when I didn't believe in myself," said Rose, now 32 and living in Walton, just northeast of Newton.
In their 20-year career as foster parents, the Finches have taken in more than 100 children from birth to 18, first in Wichita and now in Beloit -- as well as raising four children of their own.
The couple provide therapeutic foster care and treatment, specifically for children and adolescents who require the highest level of structure and close supervision as a result of serious emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Often, the Finches are a last chance stop for these displaced children, many of whom like Rose who have been severely mentally and physically abused.
"By the time they come to us, they've been through the system for a long time," said Carol, 61, who also works as a paraeducator at Beloit Elementary School. "The chances of them being adopted are slim to none."
Dennis, 60, who also is a Baptist minister, said there are more than 850 kids in Kansas currently available for adoption.
"There's an awful lot of kids, especially teenagers, who need help," he said. "Many are frightened children that have been thrown away by their parents, and they're emotionally destroyed."
Steal, come home drunk
Rose was one of those severely abused teens who needed help, but he said at the time he didn't appreciate the kindness and concern the Finches showed him.
"I used to sneak out, take their car, steal stuff and come home drunk," Rose said. "On my 16th birthday, they said I couldn't live there anymore because I couldn't follow the rules."
It took another 10 years for Rose to turn his life around after multiple arrests and drug and alcohol abuse. He became clean and sober after becoming a father to his own son, Jesse.
"I decided I was going to either be in jail or raise my son," Rose said. "I chose to be a dad."
Rose gives a lot of credit for turning around his life to the example set by the Finches, especially Dennis, who showed him how to be a good father.
"It was new to have someone who really cared about me," Rose said. "(Dennis) would sit down and talk with me and make me understand things without yelling or hitting me."
Rose not only has stayed in contact with the Finches through the years, but in 2006 Dennis performed the marriage ceremony for Rose and his wife, Jennifer. The couple now have two other children, and Rose owns his own business, J.D. & Sons Tree Service.
"I owe it all to Dennis and Carol," Rose said.
3- to 4-year stay
For the last 10 years, the Finches have been foster parents through Youthville, a Wichita-based organization that is one of the largest nonprofit foster care programs in Kansas. Youthville specializes in foster care, adoption, psychiatric residential treatment, counseling and therapy.
"They're a faith-based organization, and I think a different attitude goes with that," Dennis said.
Children in foster care stay with the Finches an average of three to four years or until they can be reintegrated with their birth families, are permanently adopted or turn 18.
Currently, the Finches are licensed to have up to four foster children in their house. For some of these kids, the Finches will be the closest thing to parents they'll ever have.
"We're temporary guardians, not the child's parents, but there are some we stay in touch with," Dennis said. "One of the kids we took in is now our mechanic in Beloit. He made me the godfather of his baby."
Hidden behind the sofa
When Dennis and Carol married 21 years ago, it was the second marriage for both. Each had two children, all teenagers.
When friends invited the couple to an informational meeting about foster care, the Finches decided to become licensed foster care parents. They began their career with the Caring Connection, a division of the Wichita Child Guidance Center.
The Finches' first foster child was a physically and sexually abused 14-year-old boy who had spent years at the Topeka State Mental Hospital because no one wanted to adopt him.
When the Finches took the boy grocery shopping, the boy took several bags of snacks and hid them behind the couple's couch.
"We thought we'd left the snacks at the store, but he had hoarded them behind the couch," Dennis said. "We found out that his mother would abandon him and go off for four or five days. So this was his survival skill -- he'd hide food because there was no promise that he'd get fed."
One foster child had been placed in 32 different foster homes before coming to the Finch's home. Another child didn't spend a single night there.
"We took this kid to dinner, and when we came back his mother had called saying she had gotten custody and was coming to pick him up," Dennis said. "So we only had him long enough to take him to dinner."
Learning from Finches
Children are fortunate if they can find a foster family as skilled and empathetic as the Finches, said Shelby Bressel, a social worker at Youthville who helps place children with the Finches.
The Finches were Bressel's first foster parents at Youthville 10 years ago, and she said she continues to learn from them every day.
"It's remarkable to see the sacrifices they make to give these kids a safe home," Bressel said.
Many people think they're not qualified to be foster parents, Bressel said, but it takes no special skills or knowledge -- just a willingness to provide a safe, secure and consistent home for children in need.
"That's what these kids are looking for," she said.
Bressel admitted that not all foster families have the skills and dedication of the Finches.
"The foster care system can be difficult, but the Finches are very proactive -- they keep updated and informed about new medications and intervention programs, and they help empower other foster parents," she said.
So many in need
Now that both Dennis and Carol are in their 60s, they've thought about retiring. But Dennis said they'll probably continue to be foster parents as long as the need is out there -- and the need, unfortunately, is always there.
Several years ago, Dennis started the Kansas Foster & Adoptive Parent Association, a grassroots organization designed to support foster and adoptive families by promoting safety, permanency and the well-being of children.
"We talk about foster parenting issues," Dennis said. "We're a little closed society, and sometimes we're the best people to train each other. There's a lot of good young foster parents out there, but they need to work together. I know I couldn't have done any of this without Carol."
We owe it all to you
Foster parenting is difficult and stressful because it's a temporary custodial situation at best, Carol said, and foster parents can't afford to get too attached to children under their supervision.
"You have to have a professional attitude about it," she said.
Yet the most satisfying thing about being foster parents, Carol said, is when a former foster kid, like Bobby, turn their lives around and come back to thank them.
"We've been told by (former foster) kids that they wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for us," she said. "That makes it all worth it."
nReporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.