Proud to be Kolweys
Family of 13 includes grandparents, parents, biological kids, adopted kids, foster kids, and a foreign exchange student
After Bill and Jenny Kolwey welcomed a son and a daughter to the world, Bill asked the question: Are we done having kids?
Bill thought he’d like a family with a couple of kids, after all. And here they had two wonderful ones.
Jenny thought maybe she’d like a little bit bigger family. Her answer to Bill? “Well…maybe someday we can foster or adopt.”
That “maybe” turned into a definitive yes. Today, the Kolwey family is a beautiful, lively, fun group of people with two biological kids, three adopted kids, three foster kids, one foreign exchange student, two parents, and two grandparents. The youngest kids are infant twin girls; the oldest is their 19-year-old son.
“Our family grew really fast in a short amount of time,” said Bill.
Neither Bill nor Jenny would have it any other way.
On Sunday mornings, the Kolwey family jumps into two vehicles to come to worship. They settle into a pew, with babies and kids and teens. At least some of the family is here on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, too.
Church is one of many activities for the Kolweys each week. They are involved in scouts, Tae Kwon Do, play dates, and school activities. All of it is kept track of on “the schedule pages” – a weekly calendar that’s tucked in a drawer in the family’s rural Walcott log cabin home.
The family also loves and cares for a variety of animals – cats, dogs, goats, and horses.
Carter is the couple’s oldest. He is pursuing a degree at Hamilton Technical College. Bruna is a foreign exchange student from Brazil, and a student at Davenport West. Cassidy is about to turn 16, and is a student at Davenport West, too. Nasir and Nasaih are 12-year-old twins, and Ashanti is 9. They all attend school in Walcott, and were adopted in 2012 after living with the Kolweys for more than a year.
Recently, three foster children have come to live with the Kolweys: a three-year-old boy and the twin girls.
Jenny’s parents, Rick and Peggy Hobbs, are a vital part of this family, ensuring that all runs as smoothly as possible. Jenny and Bill both work full-time jobs, Jenny as a nurse practitioner at Urological Associates and Bill at Oscar Mayer in Davenport.
“Our kids are proud to be Kolweys,” Jenny said. “It’s fun for them. One of our kids’ friends says she loves coming to our house because there’s always something new going on.”
Foster care is a temporary home for a child with a caring family. The goal is to safely reunite the children with their birth families, according to Iowa KidsNet, the organization that leads the foster and adoptive initiatives in the Iowa Quad Cities. Children in foster care come from all backgrounds. They range in age from birth to age 18. Many have siblings in foster care with them. Most have experienced abuse or neglect.
“Being a foster family may be one of the toughest jobs in the world, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding way to make a difference in a child’s life. Foster parents are urgently needed to make sure every child and teen in our community has a safe, nurturing place to call home,” said Theresa Lewis, project director for Iowa KidsNet.
There are approximately 6,300 youth in Iowa foster care, which includes foster family homes, relative homes, trial home visits, group care, institutions, pre-adoptive homes, and supervised independent living.
“Foster care isn’t just about providing safe, temporary care for kids, but it’s also about mentoring birth families so they too can create safe environments for their children. When reunification isn’t in the best interest of a child, other solutions for permanency are sought, such as adoption, but the goal is for families to stay together whenever possible,” said Lewis.
Who can be a foster parent? A person can be married, single, a couple, a homeowner or a renter. Foster parents are from all ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Foster parents can have children already or not.
The most important thing is that the home is safe and secure, providing a stable and nurturing environment for a child.
More foster homes are especially needed for teenagers, sibling groups, children with special needs and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth. Iowa also has a high need for more African American, Latino, and Native American families who can maintain and increase a youth’s connections to their cultural background.
“Entering foster care is hard on all kids, but keeping children connected to their families, friends, and community when they enter foster care can ease the transition and minimize trauma,” says Lewis. “By helping kids stay with siblings and keep ties to their culture, foster care plays an important role in helping entire families move toward wholeness.”
Every time the Kolwey family receives a call about receiving a new foster child into their home, they worry a bit. Will the new child be able to adapt to a new environment? Will the current members of the family be able to adapt? Will this make the household too busy?
Everyone works as a team to get all of the household tasks done – from laundry to cooking to checking backpacks and going to doctor appointments.
“You always think that you’re busy, but when more come, you adjust,” Jenny said. “Every single child has changed our lives positively.”
Bill and Jenny do say that for those considering foster care or adoption, there are challenges, and support to help make it through those challenges. Kids may not express gratefulness. Jenny smiled. “Nobody is going to think you’re awesome for making them go to bed on time and get their homework done.”
Foster parenting and adoption are ways to help break the cycle of poverty, they said.
“The message we share with biological parents is that ‘we’ll keep your babies safe until you’re ready to get them back,’” Jenny said.
Want to learn more?
Adults can become licensed for foster care, licensed for foster care and approved for adoption, or approved for adoption only.
It usually takes about six to nine months to complete this process. Prospective foster parents must fill out an inquiry form, attend an information session, complete fingerprint and background checks, attend a ten-week series of training classes, and complete a home study before the Iowa Department of Human Services makes a decision on licensure.
For more information, visit www.iowakidsnet.com.