Charlie Brown, land management director at Pacific Union College, is "dad" and "grandpa" to a large number of foster children. He and his wife Pat, who have three grown biological children, have been foster parents to a total of 67 children over the past 27 years.
The Browns have lived in Angwin since 1973, and are members of the Pacific Union College church. They got into the foster-care field after hearing about the need for good foster homes. "We decided to give it a try as long as the state would give us children younger than our own," said Brown.
The Browns' condition was met, and for 17 years they provided shelter and care to battered and abused children of a variety of ages. For the last ten years, the Browns have worked with medically fragile infants, most of whom were drug-addicted at birth. "We just tough it through with them and give them a lot of care and a lot of holding," said Brown.
The babies take anywhere from three months to a year to withdraw from drugs; and while they do, the Browns have to care for them constantly. "I try to go to bed early and sleep until about 3 or 4 a.m.," said Brown. "Then I watch the kids until around 7 a.m. while my wife sleeps."
"It's a lot of work; but it has its joys, like when you see them straighten out and start to do well," said Brown. "We do this because we love children and want to give them a good start. The state pays us a little; but when we figure in expenses, we aren't making money."
The medically fragile babies stay with the Browns for a year to 18 months. Most then go up for adoption, and a few are returned to their parents. "You get attached to the kids," said Brown. "You can't help but get attached to them. You have to learn to love them and then let go. It's easier when you know that they are going to be adopted, because people who adopt usually really want children and provide good homes."
To their own surprise, the Browns themselves are adopting one of their foster children, a four and one-half year-old girl named Brittany. "We always said we would never adopt," said Brown. "Our friends told us that we were going to end up adopting this one, but we didn't believe them. But Brittany stayed with us for three and a half years, and we grew to love her as our own. Her trial placement was really hard on her and us. So we thought God might be trying to tell us something." The Browns' adoption is final this January.
The Browns plan to continue being foster parents for the foreseeable future."We've joked about being foster parents until we're old people in rocking chairs, but I don't know whether we'll stay in it that long," said Brown. "As long as we feel the Lord wants us to do it, we'll do it."