In the past few years, Amy Holubar and Dawn Hunt’s Minneapolis home has become a halfway house for some of the most disadvantaged youths in the county.
The partners have been foster parents to more than a dozen at-risk kids, many of whom tested positive at birth for narcotics and faced a long recovery process without a stable guardian. Right now, they care for seven children ranging in age from 17 months to 12 years old.
“It takes a lot of love, a lot of patience and time,” Hunt said. “And no sleep,” they added in unison, chuckling.
On National Adoption Day, Hunt and Holubar became one of the first couples to permanently welcome their foster children into the family. Twenty-five other Hennepin County families pledged to raise 40 minors during finalization hearings Saturday morning at the Juvenile Justice Center.
This year, more than twice the usual number of children had their adoptions finalized, including several sibling groups who were reunited. But about 520 youths are still waiting for adoptive families in Minnesota, advocates said.
Hunt and Holubar adopted four Native American boys who have become one close unit in their home, which also includes Hunt’s 12-year-old biological son and two infant foster daughters.
The women, both full-time moms, began taking foster classes when they agreed to build a large family together — and vowed to provide a secure and loving environment for as many youngsters as they could manage.
Hunt and Holubar joined the “foster to adopt” program around 2011 and have been caring for displaced children ever since. Many have stayed temporarily — anywhere from 10 days to six months — but the boys are the first to officially join the family.
The importance of their role was emphasized during a conversation with 4-year-old Levi, Holubar said.
When they asked him what being adopted meant, “He thought for a minute and he said, ‘It means that you’re going to save me,’ ” she said. “How do you respond to that?”
For their big day, Hunt and Holubar dressed the boys in matching outfits of white button-down shirts, plaid ties and gray slacks. Friends and family helped wrangle each child into the courtroom and keep them occupied throughout the hearing with a basketful of Beanie Babies.
The juvenile presiding judge, Margaret A. Daly, asked an adoption worker to testify on the family’s behalf then turned to the mothers, who were each bouncing a child on their leg. “Are you in good physical and mental health at the present time?” she asked.
“I’m adopting four children,” Holubar joked, sending the courtroom into bursts of laughter.
“Good answer,” Daly said, moving on to the next question. “Do you clearly accept the obligations to provide them with love and security, a home and the necessities of life with the best available education?”
“With all my heart,” Holubar said, tears welling in her eyes.
Hunt goes through the same process before all four children are pronounced legally theirs. A joyous family embrace leads to photos — with and without the judge who made it happen.
“It is absolutely the best day of the year,” said Daly, who heard six adoption cases Saturday. “You see the tough journey these kids have been on; it’s incredible.”
The couple’s oldest son, Tyler, allowed his new brothers to chase him around the lobby as their moms signed four birth certificates and adoption decrees.
Lisl von Steinbergs, the Hennepin County adoption worker who oversaw the Hunt-Holubar case, praised the mothers for their dedication.
“They take turns sleeping, and they’ve done everything they possibly can to welcome these children into their home and incorporate them into their family,” she said.
But you don’t have to have super powers in order to be a foster parent, she said. Many youths are sitting in shelters because there aren’t enough homes willing to take them. Often this stems from perceived barriers, such as being a single parent or living in an apartment.
“By no means are our foster parents perfect — and we don’t expect perfection,” she said. “I always say it’s probably better if you aren’t perfect because the kids that are coming to you, most of the time, aren’t going to be perfect either. And they want to be able to relate to the person they’re living with.”
Hunt and Holubar said all children need is a fighting chance.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Holubar said. “My door is open, join my village.”
“OUR village,” Hunt chides.