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fostercare1Growing up, Eleanor and Norman Herzig were accustomed to the constant hum of a household with eight or more children living under one roof.

It was the noise of their childhood – they came from families of eight and 11 children respectively – and it is the sound they have filled their Colrain, Mass. house with as foster parents to more than 500 children in 50 years.

Eleanor, 73, and Norman, 74 raised two biological children, adopted 10 and have fostered hundreds more.

“I just didn’t want my two children to grow up alone,” said Eleanor who has 22 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. As of April, there were approximately 2,700 children in the Commonwealth awaiting adoption. On any given day, there are about 7,000 children living in foster homes throughout the state. More than 750 of these children are legally eligible for adoption.

Many parents who foster and adopt children do so because their parents did or like the Herzig’s, they grew up in large families and love having children around. The Herzig’s house will likely never go quiet since many of the children they fostered stay in touch. Eleanor still gets a daily phone call from the very first child she fostered who now lives in Arkansas.

Eleanor said she will continue to foster children as long as she can. She currently has legal guardianship of her 50-year-old daughter, Christine Coates, and two adopted daughters Angela, 32, and Katie, 23, Herzig.

Her favorite part of being a foster parent has been working with kids who have special needs and to be able to adopt them.

“It’s really rewarding in every way,” said Eleanor. “They’re just so happy for anything you give or do for them.”

For Rebecca and Martin Anderholm it was never really a question whether they would be foster parents. As a child, Rebecca said her parents had an “open door policy” and she joked that most of her friends thought she lived in an “orphanage” since she was one of eight children, included one adopted sibling.

Rebecca (mom), Martin (dad), Owen (14), Anahbel (11), Silas (9) Christian (3), and Disney (dog)  Anderholm

Rebecca (mom), Martin (dad), Owen (14), Anahbel (11), Silas (9)
Christian (3), and Disney (dog) Anderholm

The year after she and Martin built their first house they took in their first foster child. She began taking in adolescents but soon after she began utilizing her background as a registered nurse and for four years has exclusively fostered medically complex children.

The couple adopted a little boy, Christian, 3, who is non-verbal but thanks to their attentive care is cognitively on target. He requires 24-7 care and despite being confined to a wheelchair and ventilator he goes to school a few times a week.

“It’s really encouraging and gratifying to see the change in them, medically, from the time they come and their medical status…what a loving family can do for them,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca and her husband Martin are in the process of adopting another little boy who before the age of one had been in hospice twice. In the year since being placed with the Anderholm’s he’s made tremendous gains and is now crawling around their house and is pulling himself up to standing.

In addition to Christian and their soon-to-be adopted son, the Anderholms have three biological children and a fourth on the way. The family loves to spend time camping together – “they go everywhere with us” said Rebecca about her children.

Written By:


Deputy Communications Director, EHS

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