We recognize Doris and Wayne Jeske of Tilleda as this week’s Community Helpers for their work over the years as treatment foster parents.
The Jeske’s have been fostering children since 1987, but became licensed treatment foster parents through Family Works, a nonprofit organization based in Madison. With the treatment foster children referrals, the Jeske’s typically have their hands full.
“They’re more difficult,” Wayne said with a sense of humor.
“Typical foster parents can take care of level one and two children and treatment foster parents, as I understand it, can take care of three, four, five and I guess there’s a six, Doris added.”
Children and teens referred for treatment foster care often need to address more serious levels of emotional and possibly medical needs. Treatment foster parents also receive specialized training each year.
While it can be challenging handling children who have experienced this kind of trauma, Doris says it’s important to carry an open mind.
“I think so many times we can’t be scared away by a referral because I think of it this way: what happened to them in the past is probably not going to happen here, so therefore I shouldn’t judge what happened in the past as much.”
Of the children the Jeske’s have fostered, they’ve never fostered a child from Shawano County, adding to the challenge. The children they take in have all come from different parts of the state, which Doris explains has to deal with qualifications and what the county workers are looking for.
“If you are a likeable person and you get [the children] to like you and trust you, that’s half the battle right there because they’re quite insecure, I would be too. You’re going to a strange area of the state, you’re meeting strangers and you’re not only meeting them, but you’re meeting everyone they visit with.”
The Jeske’s take pride that they’re currently fostering their 20th child over their 30 years, a number that’s incredibly low compared to other foster families. They say it’s because they can provide structure and patience.
“We had another girl that in three months was in 19 different homes before she came, but some of those were not even morning to night,” explained Doris. “They signed all the papers, yes she was going to stay here and then by night she was out. It’s just a horrible feeling.
“She was here about two years and she turned into a real sweetheart,” Wayne said.
The Jeske’s 190-acre farm, they believe, has played an integral role with providing their foster kids with structure and life lessons that the children have never had before.
“We worked together in the barn morning and night,” Doris told. “We taught that work is a privilege just like in real life. If you want to keep your job, you do it well. Otherwise we give it to another person in the family. The children just begged to be a part of this.”
Many of the children had never previously worked on, or even stepped foot on a farm before, but they learned to appreciate it.
“Can you imagine what the kids think when they first come here and they go into the barn,” Wayne reflected fondly, “Especially when the barn is closed up? You open the door and that smell hits you.”
“A couple of girls, they just gagged,” Doris said. “They were gagging and then after a couple days they just couldn’t get enough of it.”
With that displayed patience and structure, they’ve found that as the children are welcomed into a family, they’re more receptive to what they learn and are being told, which only benefits their life ahead.
“What I’m trying to teach you isn’t for today or tomorrow,” Doris said of how she looks at fostering. “It’s to help you grow up and be a happy person and a successful person. Like I told the girls about the farming, do I ever expect you to own a farm? Probably not and you may never, and you probably will never, but the work habits you’re learning are invaluable.”
In May, the Jeske’s were honored by the Department of Children and Families with the 2017 Governor’s Foster Care Award. Doris and Wayne say they don’t need the recognition, but they would love if their work inspired others into becoming foster parents themselves.
“You don’t have to be perfect, but I would hope out of all of this, somebody is just a little interested in being this and checks it out. You have to have your own personal reset button and be willing to use it. You might have a rough evening, but the next morning is a new day. Let’s do this again.”