By Tom Busselberg
Davis County Clipper
LAYTON — Coming from an abusive family situation, Suzanne Larson became a foster child at the age of 14.
Now, over the decades since, she has fostered – and adopted, many children with her husband, Richard.
Fortunately having the resources to do it, over the weekend, the family moved to a much larger home. That’s so they could provide space for their family, which now includes a mix of nine foster and adopted children.
Ages range from about 2 to teenagers – an age that is often very hard to place.
Their four biological children are grown and out of the home.
“With my biological mother, my home was horrific,” Suzanne said. “I was 4 1/2, and I couldn’t help a sister” who was being abused.
“It’s about being that little child and not being able to make a difference,” she said. “Now I can, and I want to fix it,” at least for as many kids as possible, she said.
“I tell the story of the starfish on the beach” and the child who wants to save them all, Richard said. “You can’t save them all, but look at the difference you’ve made.”
As fate would have it, Richard went to work for Suzanne’s father. “We were great friends for seven years” before they got married.
“I knew growing up that I was going to have a big family,” Richard said, just not realizing how it would be created.
“You don’t have to birth a child to love a child,” he emphasized. “We feel fortunate to have them,” he said of their mixed family. He values being able to do something as seemingly simple as lacing the shoe laces of one of his intellectually challenged sons.
“It’s what we can do to help each one of them,” Suzanne said. “We know where they came from,” whether it’s autism, significantly low functioning, etc.
“It’s not for the kudos. It’s what we can offer these kids. If they can function in society, they at least had a good start,” Richard said.
“So many people discount foster kids. They don’t think they can do anything. But we can’t give up on them,” Suzanne said.
“There’s no guarantee, either with a birth child or a foster child, or one with disabilities,” she said.
Suzanne stays in the home, but does receive help through a program that provides therapy during much of the week.
That enables Richard and Suzanne to keep their weekly Friday night dates, allowing for some alone time, or being able to attend church with those who want to or can attend that Sunday.
“We own a 30-foot travel trailer, and try to go out as a family three times in the summer,” Richard said. But there are a lot more shorter trips, even if it’s overnight to roast marshmallows and maybe drop a fishing line for a few hours.
In the summer, Suzanne will often take the kids on excursions, whether it’s to Antelope Island or the Clark Planetarium, or what have you.
When Richard was working a job in Duchesne, they brought the trailer and family out for a week for a mini-vacation.
As a family, Christmas will mean going out to chop down a live tree and decorating it with a whole new set of lights and all the holiday glitter.
“We are just everyday common folks,” Richard emphasized of what they’re doing. “We think they’re just outstanding,” he said of all the children in their home.
“They’ve given our other kids understanding,” he said particularly of the intellectually challenged children. “All our (four) biological kids have compassion for those kids.”
“If we could clone them, they are absolutely tremendous,” said Utah Foster Care Foundation Northern Area Representative Brenda Durtschi of the Larsons.
For more information about foster care, call 1 (877) 392-1114 or visit www.utahfostercare.org.
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