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State recognizes local foster family

Elandts receive governor’s award

By Angie Landsverk

When Roger and Susan Elandt foster a child, they foster the whole family.

“We open our home to the birth parents,” she said.

They invite them to go along when the child has a doctor appointment.

Susan even gets permission before arranging a haircut for a foster child.

“We work together. We involve them,” she said. “We want to empower the parents. We run things past them. They’re still the parents. We’re just keeping the kids safe, happy and healthy until they can return, resume the relationship.”

Roger and Susan Elandt were among six foster families and one foster youth recently honored with the 2016 Governor’s Foster Care Award.

The ceremony in Madison included Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson and First Lady Tonette Walker.

Angie Reynolds, Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services foster care coordinator, nominated the Elandt family for the award.

“The Elandt family is very deserving of the award because of the amazing things they do,” Reynolds said.

In her nomination narrative, Reynolds said Roger and Susan work to maintain family connections, keep siblings placed together and provide exceptional care based on a trauma informed approach.

“They work collaboratively with our Department to ensure that the team approach is utilized,” Reynolds wrote. “Susan Roger repeatedly place their needs secondary when it comes to supporting children in their care or supporting the families.”

She said the family’s skills were evident with their first placements.

Two sisters became their first placements in February 2013.

The following September, the two brothers of the girls also became their placements.

“They were working on getting the family back together,” Susan said. “And then in December, they all went back to Mom and Dad.”

Reynolds said Susan and Roger were dedicated to supporting the biological parents and allowed for frequent family interaction in their home.

More recently, they accepted voluntary placements for three siblings.

Reynolds said those children were not at risk of abuse or neglect.

The family was homeless, and the parents voluntarily placed their children in foster care.

Reynolds said Roger and Susan allowed the parents to come into their home every evening after school until the children went to bed, as well as every weekend to be with the children.

“Susan and Roger supported the family through many denied applications for housing and employment. Susan was instrumental in facilitating an interview with her employer which led to full-time employment for the children’s mother,” Reynolds wrote. “Susan and Roger put their lives on hold for nearly six months while they supported this family and encouraged them to keep trying. The family has since secured housing, and the voluntary placements have ended but the relationships have not.”

In December 2012, Roger and Susan became licensed foster parents for four children.

The couple explained their decision to become foster parents.

“Roger and I got married in 2010. He didn’t have any children,” Susan said. “We were unable to have children.”

Susan’s daughter, Sarah, is 18 years old.

When they decided to look into becoming foster parents, they found Reynolds’ contact information on Waupaca County’s website.

Reynolds visited with them and explained what it means to be a foster parent.

The lengthy application process included background checks.

“We had to have people write letters of recommendation for us,” Roger said.

They provided respite for other foster parents a couple times before receiving their first placements.

Roger said being foster parents for four school-aged children was overwhelming at times.

Susan said they needed to regroup as a family after that experience.

“It’s a decision we have to make together,” she said. “It has to be unanimous for all three. Sarah has had a vote as well.”

Roger works at Waupaca Foundry, and Susan is the director of the Learning Cottage of Waupaca Daycare & Preschool.

Sarah, who will be a freshman at Concordia University Wisconsin this fall, works at the daycare as well and will be studying early childhood.

All three of them love children, and Sarah said because she is an only child, she likes being a big sister to other children.

“You get tired after a while, but then when they’re gone, you miss them,” Sarah said. “After the first placement, when the first four kids left, I cried a lot after that placement left. That was really hard. They were here a long time. It took a while to adjust.”

Susan said they have fostered preschool and school-aged children.

“We have an amazing group of foster care providers,” Reynolds said of Waupaca County. “There is a need for individuals willing to work with teens.”

She said the number of children in foster care in the county fluctuates.

“Right now, there are seven children in general foster care in the county,” Reynolds said. “We have 15 children placed with relatives on court orders. Then we also have 13 children voluntarily living with relatives, not on court orders. We have one child in treatment foster care in Clintonville. We have one individual in a group home now outside of the area.

Those who are good with teens and interested in fostering them may call Reynolds at 715-258-6410 or 715-281-5473. People may also email her at [email protected].

“Families who have teens in the home are ideal candidates,” she said.

That is because their children can be mentors without realizing it, Reynolds said.

In Waupaca County, all foster care providers are trained in trauma-informed care and Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Reynolds said people can make a difference in the lives of others when they practice compassion and ask people what happened to them instead of labeling them.

She has been the county’s foster care coordinator for about four years. She was previously a case manager for child protection for five years.

On May 31, they received their latest placement – an infant who is to be with them until the end of summer.

“We will continue to renew our license every two years,” Susan said. “It’s open ended. It’s one placement at a time. It’s one decision at a time.”

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