Mandy Marburger’s house is full of children, noise, laughter and occasionally a few tears. She describes it as chaos, but in a good way.
Marburger always knew she wanted to be a mother and have a houseful of children - she just didn’t anticipate how it would happen.
This Mother’s Day, she’ll be celebrating with her mom, who recently moved back to Shelby after nine years in Alabama, and is looking forward to her five children making her feel loved and special.
Born and raised in Shelby, she and husband, Jeff Marburger, have one biological son, three adopted children and one foster daughter who they also plan to adopt.
Marburger said their love for children in foster care began when she started working part time in a group home. At the time she was engaged to Jeff.
“That’s really what planted a seed for us,” she said.
Marburger met her husband while the two were both working at the YMCA. They loved working with children and both felt the other would make a good mother or father.
Eventually the two became house parents in the group home, living one week in the home and then one week off.
They got to know the children, loving and serving them and doing all the things a parent would do. They both felt it was God’s plan for their lives to care for these children, and they ultimately decided to pursue their foster parent certification.
After the two got married, they wanted to have a family of their own but struggled with infertility. They decided to take the foster care classes, called MAPP, and 10 weeks into the course they found out they were expecting their son, Beckett. They decided to follow through and finish the course and when Beckett was four, they completed their license and got their first placement.
Since then, they’ve been foster parents for almost seven years and have had about nine placements.
“We’ve grown our family that way,” Marbuger said. “Honestly, these kids have changed my life. It’s been such a cool way for the Lord to stretch me and grow me, and honestly help me be a better person.”
In the process, she said, they get to provide a life and family for these children that they otherwise wouldn't have had.
Marburger said becoming foster parents has allowed them to see the needs in their own community and the situations kids come from which has given them a mission.
The two started the One More, One Less project which encourages churches to advocate for children in foster care. She said they travel around to churches all over the state to encourage them to get involved in supporting foster parents and recruiting new foster families.
Maybe not everyone can become a foster parent, she says, but there are many ways to offer support from providing babysitting for a date night or dropping off a meal to a foster family or even just offering to pray.
“Everybody can do something,” she said.
Although not all of the placements have led to adoption, Mandy said once a child enters their home - and if that family is not able to achieve the ultimate goal of reunification - then the Marburgers want to be that family for that child.
“Every kid who has left our home has left for reunification,” she said.
Marburger said two of the most rewarding things about being a foster parent is first of all, seeing a mother or father fight for their child and be reunited.
“Reunification is a beautiful thing,” she said.
The second thing is witnessing what adoption can do for a child. She said her oldest son is now 11 and before he arrived in their home a year and a half ago, he had bounced around a lot and was in a group home for three years.
They watched their son blossom and thrive.
“You would be amazed at what love and consistency and discipline can do in a child’s life,” she said. “He’s so caring and great with his younger siblings. We have watched him grow into an awesome young man.”
There are also challenges to being a foster family and one of the greatest challenges goes hand in hand with the most rewarding. Although seeing children be reunited with their families, it can be heartbreaking as well. Marburger said one child was in their home for two years before his biological family was able to welcome back into their home. She said letting him go was one of the hardest things she's done.
“It’s not about us, it's about the child and you've got to let them go,” she said.
Sometimes they provide a home for a child for a season.
Marburger said they have no plans to stop taking in children who need a home, and they will always have a role in foster care.
“We will keep our license up to date, and we’re willing to help out in any way we can,” she said. “My husband and I see this as a lifelong mission God has given us. It will always be a part of our lives for sure.”
For those interested in learning more about foster parenting or how to offer support to one, visit the One More, Less website at onemoreonelessproject.com or find them on Facebook.
This article originally appeared on The Shelby Star: The story of this Shelby couple's lifelong mission of parenting