HOLT – While the Rocheleau kids' father is serving in the Army overseas, their mom is serving at home.
The family has taken in 17 foster kids over the past four-and-a-half years, even continuing to foster when Army Sgt. 1st Class David Rocheleau was sent to South Korea in May 2016.
David and Beverly Rocheleau were recently honored by their Lansing foster care agency, Child and Family Charities. The organization threw in a twist: They flew in David Rocheleau from Camp Humphries in South Korea to surprise his family at a fundraising event at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath Township.
At the event, Beverly thought she was watching a tribute video that included an interview with her husband from South Korea. But he was actually being videotaped back stage. He walked out and hugged his wife.
“I was completely shocked and dumbfounded ... I was bawling my eyes out,” she said. It had been 11 months since she last saw David in person.
The agency paid his expenses, including flight, rental car and hotel room, to surprise the family. Only daughter Liberty, 17, was in on the secret. Her Dad told her the day after Thanksgiving that he was coming for the Dec. 9 event. He returned to South Korea a week later.
“I don't know how she kept it a secret,” Beverly said in an interview from her Holt home last week.
The Rocheleaus are both from Michigan originally. They moved to Holt more than five years ago from Fort Polk, Louisiana. David was working as a ROTC instructor at Michigan State University before he was sent to South Korea to work in an equal opportunity office.
Much of his nearly 20-year career in the military has been in the infantry with two tours each in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The family's four biological children are Liberty, 17, a senior; Destiny, 16, a junior, and twins Gage and Harmony, 15, sophomores, and all attend Holt High School. The household also includes Joshua, 5, a former foster child adopted by the Rocheleaus, and they have a 12-year-old foster son the family intends to adopt. There's also two cats and two dogs.
It's a busy five-bedroom household. There's bowling, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, German club, robotics, archery and other activities. And Beverly works about 32 hours in administrative support at Jackson National Life Insurance Co.
Fostering a child means more laundry, more cooking and more driving kids around, she said. Her two oldest daughters both have driver's licenses.
“My girls help me out tremendously,” she said.
Beverly said military communities often have a high need for foster homes. The couple first considered it years ago but then she found out she was pregnant with her twins.
“It was a desire in our hearts. We knew there as a need,” she said.
Then, in 2012, Beverly was delivering Christmas stockings for foster kids donated by her workplace when she asked what it would take to become a foster home.
After a six-month licensing period, the family received its license and its first foster child the same day.
Sixteen foster children would follow. At one point, the house had four foster children, including an infant, plus four biological children.
“I know there's such a huge need out there. Being able to help fill that need, it makes me feel good that I'm able to do something,” she said.
The family never intended to adopt a child when they signed on as foster parents but when their foster son, Joshua, became available they quickly agreed to adopt him. They now plan to adopt a second foster child.
They'll be able to take in another foster child in February when Liberty turns 18.
Ceirra Hoch, a development associate with Child and Family Charities, said there's a growing need for foster homes in Michigan.
“Especially with the opiod epidemic, we're seeing a rise in the number of children, and we're seeing a decrease in the foster parents,” she said.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there's been a 12% drop in foster care homes since 2012, with 6,231 homes as of Sept. 30. The number of foster children, 13,298, dropped slightly in the same period, though it jumped by 5% in the past year.
Hoch said the Rocheleaus were honored for their ability to both love kids and let them go.
“They see all kinds of trauma and abuse and neglect and they surround the child with love,” she said. “We ask them to do the impossible – to love the child like their own but be willing to let go when the child returns home.”