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Couple fill home with love

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Catherine W. Idzerda
January 20, 2008

No words can describe the love in the Kienbaum home.


It’s just there, as tangible as a piece of furniture or child’s drawing on the fridge. It’s seeped into everything and leaks out of the doors and windows, spilling into the yard, then out into Rock County, soothing the hearts of distressed parents and their children.


Barb and Scott Keinbaun are one of the few foster homes in Rock County that care for sibling groups—a job that requires an extraordinary amount of love, tolerance and respect for children and their parents.


“There are other foster families that will take a sib set of two,” said Renee Sutkay, Rock County Human Services substitute care supervisor. “The Kienbaums can take four or five siblings at the same time.”


Most recently, the Kienbaums hosted two sets of twins, both from the same family, and two brothers. Barb’s children, Brandon Roost and Alyssa Roost, and Barb’s 19-year-old niece live with the family as well.


Barb, a stay-at-home mom and a former day-care center owner, and Scott, an electrician, have a cheerful energy about them—as though having 11 people in their tiny home isn’t madness.


What would make any family take on such a challenge?


“My mom died when I was 7 from ovarian cancer,” Barb said. “She left the house in an ambulance and never came back.


My dad was left with four kids aged 11, 9, 7 and 2. He did manage for three years, but he was an alcoholic.”


The family moved from one ramshackle situation to the next, and, finally, Barb and a few of her siblings were placed into foster care. She lived in eight different homes in as many years.


She refers to her first foster mother as “my angel, Yolanda.”


Yolanda took her to McDonald’s for the first time.


More importantly, she loved her, and that’s something Barb has carried with her all her life.


“She taught me how to love,” Barb said. “That’s the thing with these kids; you want to give them a lot of love, even if it’s only for a little while.”


Yolanda took her shopping and allowed her to pick out one of her first dresses, a pink affair with a big skirt that ballooned out when she spun around in it.


Scott has heard the story before, but it gets to him every time. As he stands leaning up against the kitchen counter, his eyes fill with tears.


Her story is one of the reasons why he is involved in foster care.


“If my wife is really passionate about something, I say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Scott said.


Scott and Barb work with the birth parents to help reunite the families.


“There’s no purpose in doing this if you’re not working with the parents,” Scott said.


The ultimate goal, Sutkay explained, is to keep families together.


“They are very birth-family focused,” Sutkay said. “Barb and Scott focus on family strengths and similarities; they think along the lines of the positives.”


“A lot of studies have been done on the importance of sibling connections and out of home care; there’s a powerful love there,” Sutkay said.


That love has a home at the Kienbaums.


Barb and Scott Kienbaum
Community: Lima Township
Occupation: Barb is a stay-at-home mom and former day-care owner. Scott is an electrician.
Family: Brandon and Alyssa Roost; and Allen, Jessica, Courtney and Gwendolyn Kienbaum. The family also includes two dogs and several cats
What they do: Foster care for large groups of siblings. Many foster parents can take a sibling set of two, but not many can handle four or five.
Favorite music: Country and gospel
What they’d like: A night off

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