Dukatz family offers inspiration to fill need for more foster parents

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by Marshanna Hester

MILWAUKEE -- Visions of fairy tale dreams and goals of superhero strength are now a possibility for Lucy and Cooper.

"Everyone deserves a second chance," said Gene Dukatz, foster parent.

Both came into a home as foster kids and have since been adopted by the Duktaz family.

"If you want to talk about the trouble in the community, there's only one way to change that," said Gene. "We have to take these kids who are basically homeless and bring them into our home and love them."

Love, empathy, understanding is what Gene and his wife Betsy have unselfishly given to 15 foster children over seven years.

It's a calling they say requires no judgment and a holistic approach to family healing.

"Many of their parents you know didn't have certain things growing up either," Betsy said. "You foster the child and many times you foster the parent as well."

"Every month, we see about 50 to 75 children come into the program," said Arles Lawrence, recruitment specialist.

Those numbers have Children's Hospital Community Services searching to fill the need for more foster parents.

"You don't have to come with excellent parenting skills," Lawrence said, "because you get excellent training that teaches you how to deal with situations."

The recent Ribbon Tie Campaign throughout the city looks to create more awareness and open the doors for new foster parents to join this special group.

"A lot of people start out thinking I'm going to meet a need in a child's life," continued Lawrence. "But, if you ask our foster parents, it has the opposite effect, that they are getting blessed by the situation."

Although it's not easy, Gene, Betsy and their two biological children, Sam and Grace, have grown from each experience, a living inspiration of true kid heroes.

"I think we're average," Betsy said. "And I think heroes can be everyday people who take the ordinary and make it extraordinary."

Working together, the Dukatz family and Children's Hospital Community Services, are Making Milwaukee Great.

If you're inspired to become a foster parent or want to learn other ways to help children, visit chw.org or call the Kid Hero Hotline at (414) 543-4376.

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