Home is Where the Heart is Part II- The Van Winkle Story


Around 4,200 youth are in the foster care system in Nebraska and placing them into loving homes is the key.

Life changing events brought one Kearney family down a path they weren't sure was for them. But, it soon became clear that foster care and adoption was a calling from God.

At first glance Kip and Janeece Van Winkle family of six may seem pretty normal. However, getting there wasn't very normal at all.

The Van Winkle's two youngest came to them through foster care and eventually were adopted by the family.

In the beginning though Kip says he wasn't sold on the idea.

"Janeece came to me one day, her family was a foster home and they had foster children in the home all the time. So she brought it to me and kind of asked me about it and it was a no go. It was something I didn't have my heart set on and I was like 'nope, it's not going to happen,'" he said.

Then after personal loss due to miscarriage and after much prayer, Kip, a fifth grade teacher at Faith Christian School in Kearney, says he felt God change his heart.

The family soon began foster care training through Compass; a local faith-based non-profit foster care agency.

After a year of being certified the Van Winkles finally received a child in their home. Janeece recalls the wait as grueling.

"That's a long time after you think you're going to get a call any day, and the months just started rolling along and it was a full year before Jos came at eight pounds," she said.

And with one soon came another.

"And then with Desie it was completely different. We decided we were ready the second time around and it was 48 hours later that they called and said they had a placement straight from the hospital," said Janeece.

The Van Winkles understood foster care's main goal is reunifying with the biological family. However, the were open to adopting.

And it soon became clear that this six member family was there to stay.

Janeece said, "You just jump in and take every day as it comes."

While bringing in new members of the family was exciting, it was an adjustment as well.

Janeece recalled, "Anytime you add a member to your family, no matter how they come it's an adjustment. It wasn't instant but now we can say they definitely have that brother/sister bond."

There have been challenges in raising a multi-background family, but the Van Winkles feel they are in turn enriching their lives, their children's lives and inspiring others to do the same.

"There were many times we questioned if we should be doing this. It was just too hard on our family and us and our marriage, but that's just the calling. We told the Lord yes and that doesn't just mean yes to the easy things, that means yes to everything. And I mean there are lives at stake, there are lives at stake," said Janeece.

And though the road hasn't been smooth and there have been bumps along the way for the Van Winkle family, they feel it's their duty as a society to take in and love those in need.

Both the Nebraska Children's Home Society and Compass say there is especially a need for those willing to foster older youth.

Right now in Nebraska alone there are nearly 300 youth ready to be adopted from the foster care system at little or no cost.