Todd and Mary Sechler of Cherokee raised their two children and sent them out into the world as adults. What they weren't prepared for was the "empty nest". They didn't enjoy it at all, saying, "it was too quiet".
They had heard stories about abused and neglected children and decided they would like to help by becoming foster parents.
They took their time to get through the training required, so they could be very sure about what they were going to do. After taking a year to go through the training together they became licensed foster parents five years ago.
They have enjoyed it a great deal and say they have "no regrets only great rewards". When they became foster parents they were able to suggest which ages of children they would prefer to take on (usually seven and under), but social services always ask foster parents when they have children to place, regardless of their ages. The Sechlers have taken all ages of children.
The children they take in are not always from Cherokee county, since this area is included the 14 northwest Iowa counties under the direction of the Department of Human Services.
When the Sechlers began foster parenting there was a big learning curve because they didn't really know what to expect. The first night a child stays is usually pretty awkward for both parties until they settle in and are more comfortable with their surroundings.
Foster parents are taught to love these children as if they were their own and after a child has stayed with a family long-term, the Sechlers say it is hard to see them leave. "You have to be prepared for heartbreak," the couple said.
Most of the children that have come to the care of the Sechlers have come from situations of abuse, drugs in the home, and some have been neglected. Over the last five years the Sechlers have cared for 32 children. When the last three long-term children they had in their care were adopted, they took a short break. They had fallen in love with the three and when they left it was hard. However, it didn't take long and they are back in the saddle now, with another young charge.
The Sechlers own children have taken it all in stride and their three grandchildren have enjoyed the company of the children they have cared for. The couple is a typical Iowa working family. Many may know Mary as a pharmacy technician at Valley Pharmacy in Cherokee and Todd is a production worker at Pioneer Seed.
Unfortunately due to the growing meth epidemic more children are ending up in the foster care system and the need for foster families continues to grow. Many foster families often end up adopting children in their care when it becomes apparent that reunification with the birth parents is impossible. Although this is great for those children it makes some of those families unavailable for foster care.
The Sechlers say that the best part of foster parenting is that it fills the house up with love. The worse part of foster parenting is letting them go. They add that for those considering becoming a foster parent need to be prepared for both of those things.
As much as they have cared for the children in their care and have hated to see them go, they are happy that they have had good outcomes. They have been fortunate to have cared for some really great children with only a few presenting some extra challenges. They have also had the opportunity to adopt some of the children in their care and although nothing would have pleased them more, they decided that there are many other younger families wanting children. They also felt it was important for them to stay available for the foster care program.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can contact Linda Mummert at the Department of Human Services at 225-6723.