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Couple honored for fostering 86 kids

By JR Ortega
Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.
Updated Oct. 24, 2013 at 5:24 a.m.

Ysrael and Sulema Hinojosa's home is filled with photos of their four children and four grandchildren as well as snapshots of many of the 86 children they have cared for as foster parents over the past 21 years. One child they fostered, Kaycee, 9, seen on the center table, was adopted by the couple's daughter.. "I keep doing it probably because I'm crazy," she joked. "and because I love kids. They make you happy, they make you smile."

These days, the surface on the walls of Sulema Hinojosa's Victoria home have little space for expansion - but that's what happens when you have photos of your 90 children.

Well, four are hers biologically, and the other 86 are her foster children, but she's always felt like they are her very own.

"We have a picture of each kid who we've had," Hinojosa said as she looked at the photo frames in a narrow hallway in her home.

Hinojosa, 69, and her husband Ysrael, 77, who have been foster parents for 21 years, were named "Foster Family of the Year," by the Texas Health and Human Services Region 8. They foster mostly infants.

Right now, they care for two infants, a 14-month-old boy and 15-month-old girl.

The Advocate is not naming the children to protect those involved.

Each child has his or her own story, Hinojosa said. For instance the 14-month-old comes from a broken home, and the 15-month-old's parents do not want to be involved.

"It's sad," Hinojosa said. "But when they're here, we treat them like family - like they're our own."

The courts place the children in foster care as the courts and other agencies work with their parents.

Hinojosa even gets the occasional call from former foster children. Some still call her mom, even though they are now mothers themselves.

Hinojosa's husband helps just as much, she said, but his main job is working as a contractor in Wharton to make sure they provide for the children.

They have experienced as many happy times as heartaches in raising the children.

More than a decade ago, the Hinojosas fostered Crystal Ramirez, who was 18 months old at the time. Crystal was later adopted by a Gonzales couple.

In 2007, the couple, Steve and Bettie Ramirez, were charged with murder, injury to a child, unlawful restraint and endangering a child.

Crystal, who was then 8, had been beaten, bound and starved to death, according to Advocate archives. A judge sentenced the Ramirezes to life in prison.

Hinojosa said she does not like to focus much on what happened to Crystal.

She chooses to remember Crystal as a baby.

"I just think, 'What if they would have left her here'," she said. "They were doing good."

But then, there is the positive, Hinojosa said.

She got so attached to one girl, Kaycee, that they considered adopting her. When they learned the adoption process would be too difficult because of their age, they asked their daughter to adopt Kaycee.

Now, Kaycee is their granddaughter.

"You get so attached to these babies," Hinojosa said laughing.

Wanda Montag, the executive director and founder of Foster Parents of Victoria, said she is proud of the Hinojosas' award.

Montag and her husband, Kenneth Montag, have fostered more than 100 children over 32 years. She prefers fostering teenagers.

The Golden Crescent region has about 100 foster parents, Montag said.

The need to foster will always exist, she added.

"There is always a need; that's the sad part," Montag said. "The best part is that you have the privilege to touch a life and to help mend a broken heart."

Fostering a child requires taking classes, training and other certifications. There is also a background check, home inspections, references and a financial check.

The Foster Parents of Victoria acts as a support group, offering advice, training and other activities.

Bottom line, she said - the Crossroads could always use more foster parents.

"I'm glad for the Hinojosas. They are very sweet and simple people. Each foster parent has their niche; it's just tremendous."



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