The Family that Started it All
Back in 1996 Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer were just your typical nuclear family -- two parents, three children, and three dogs. But one day, the Hasemeyer family's definition of typical changed with a chance encounter. At the time, Jaci Hasemeyer was an elementary-school physical-education teacher. During gym period she was handing out coupons to a local skating rink as a reward to her students for showing good sportsmanship. A fifth-grade boy lingered after class and returned his coupon to her, explaining that since he was a foster child living in a group home no one would be able to take him to the rink so it would be wasted on him. Until that moment the plight of kids in his situation had never been on Jaci's radar.
"My heart just broke," she recalls. The backstory was as sad as she feared: "It turned out that this 10-year-old boy's father had abandoned him and his mom was in jail on drug charges. I couldn't stop thinking that we had to do something to help kids like him."
After doing some research she found that his story was far from uncommon. It was just something most people didn't think about. Jaci's husband, Eric, and their three biological kids -- 6, 7, and 8 at the time -- all agreed that their family would become part of the solution. And so, after getting in touch with a local agency, the Hasemeyers began the process of becoming a foster, and then an adoptive, family themselves.
Two years later the first children arrived, two sisters, ages 4 and 9, and a half brother who was 18 months. Since that day, more than 30 kids have lived in the Hasemeyer home, and as of press time they've personally adopted nine of them. "Some kids stick around for three days until a relative can be found to take care of them, some for three weeks, some for six months to a year until the parents get things together, and for the rest of the kids: a lifetime," says Jaci. "Our philosophy has always been that if a child is not returned to her parents or relatives or moved elsewhere by the court, then our home would be their final stop, their 'forever home.' "