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MWDN: Holliston Foster Parents Honored

May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010
By Kathy Uek, The MetroWest Daily News

FRAMINGHAM — A few years after Robert and Edna Touchette of Holliston became foster parents for the first time, they designed and built a new home – with a specific purpose in mind.

“We designed the whole house with the idea of filling it with children,” said Edna.

For the last 39 years, the couple, with four biological children, have welcomed almost 250 foster children into their home and adopted eight of them.

As parents, they practice a simple philosophy.

“No matter whether they stay for an hour, a day or weeks, if someone takes time to give a child love, it makes a difference,” said Edna.

The Touchettes were one of 51 “All-Star Families,” honored at the 25th Annual Commissioner’s Foster & Adoptive Parent Recognition Awards Brunch held yesterday at the Sheraton Framingham.

Representatives from area offices nominated the families, said Alison Goodwin, director of public affairs for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, or DCF.

“We were honored for doing our job,” said Edna Touchette.

Bob, one of 16 children, and Edna, one of eight, know something about big families. Their journey began in 1971, after the birth of their fourth child.

After hearing a radio commercial for foster parents and thinking they could find a playmate for their only son and at the same time help a child, they called the state Department of Social Services, forerunner of the DCF.

Almost four decades later, the Holliston couple continue their mission of giving children love and telling them they are special people.

Over the years, some of the foster children have returned to visit.

“Our very first foster child, who came to us when she was 8 and stayed 11 years, comes back to visit us with her own children,” said Edna. “The grandchildren call us nana and poppo whenever they visit.”

“We tried to adopt her,” added Bob.

The adoption process was not child oriented back then, said Edna.

Another foster child, who stayed for two years and was 7 when she left, found Edna recently on Facebook.

“She’s gone to college and done well,” added Edna.

The best part for Bob is “the love we get back. They call us mom and dad.”

Their eight adopted children, six of whom have graduated from college, include a biracial sibling group of three sisters and another family of two brothers.

It’s not all perfect. The Touchettes say it takes love and patience. They recalled when one foster child first came to their home, she hid under the bed and didn’t want any hugs or comfort, said Edna.

“Four months later, she gave me a big hug and said, ‘I love you, mom”‘

Yesterday’s event recognized foster and adoptive parents who care for children.

“Some parents adopt one child, learn there are more siblings and adopt three more,” said Angelo McClain, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. “Some parents adopt children with medical issues and abused and neglected children. Some foster parents get a phone call in the middle of the night for a child who needs a temporary home.”

State Sen. Karen Spilka got a standing ovation when receiving the Lisa Anne Jenkins Massachusetts Alliance for Families Legislator of the Year Award for her dealing in the Legislature with complex issues about children.

The award was established in 2009 to honor Jenkins’ life and work as a foster parent and active member of Massachusetts Alliance for Families.

In accepting the award, Spilka said she applauded all of those in the audience.

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