- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2004

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The walls and tabletops in Roger and Imogene Gorsuch’s home are lined with photos of their extra children — all 233 of them.

After 45 years as foster parents, taking in mostly infants and toddlers of many nationalities and skin colors, the 86-year-old couple called it quits.

“It’s all been good,” said Mr. Gorsuch, a retired printer.

Of course he would say that, his wife of 67 years jokes. “He was gone most of the time.”

The state Children’s Services Department does not know whether taking in 233 children is a state record, but they are sure the Chattanooga couple have been a blessing for those in need.

“We had been married 20 years, and life was good,” Mrs. Gorsuch wrote in a diary, describing the decision to start taking in children in the late 1950s. The pair also raised three sons and a daughter of their own.

“Blessed with a comfortable home, adequate income and everything we needed, we had a desire to share this with others less fortunate,” Mrs. Gorsuch wrote.

Sometimes there were six foster children at a time. Some arrived at their modest home with broken bones and bruises from beatings. Some stayed only a few months; one girl stayed 15 years.

“Whether sick or well, it didn’t matter,” Mrs. Gorsuch wrote. “They were ‘ours’ already — 13 different cultures, seven sets of twins, physically or developmentally delayed, abused crack babies, profoundly retarded, tiny preemies, or with severe medical problems, all needing tender, loving care.”

Crystal Hopper McCoun, 28, was among the children taken in by the Gorsuch family “because, as far as I know, my mother and father just had an unstable marriage.”

Miss McCoun lived in foster care until she was adopted as a 5-year-old.

“Even though we were aware of being not a typical family home, it felt like one with them,” she said. “I can still call them my parents. I still have a deep love for them.”

The children were a source of joy, but it wasn’t always easy.

Mr. Gorsuch recalled one foster child who was returned to her biological parents, but later called and begged him and his wife to come and get her. “And we couldn’t,” he said.

The couple also said they stopped attending the children’s court hearings because it was so frustrating when a judge wouldn’t listen to their recommendations.

“There was no use going and getting up to be let down,” he said.

Cathy Shell, 55, said she was 8 when her parents opened their home to strangers.

“It was a good life,” their daughter said. “We just had more brothers and sisters.”

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