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Rob and Kim Gerlach's family began in a less traditional way. They tried for 11 years to have children without success. Then a phone call out of the blue four years ago changed their lives.
"Out of the blue, one day we got call from a distant relative of Kim," Rob said. "It was one of those moments in your life where you leap first and figure out later why it's right."
That phone call was to ask them if they would consider adopting a relative, a baby girl who was about to be taken by the state.
"It was one of those moments in your life where you leap first and figure out later why it's right," Rob said.
That baby girl, Clara, opened the door to foster care adoptions for the Gerlachs. Next they met Ecum. Living in difficult circumstances, he'd been taking care of his siblings.
"He would mow people's lawns so he could go to the convenience store and buy bread and milk for his brother and sister," Rob said.
After Ecum came Ibrahim, originally from Sierra Leone.
"[We went] from a toddler learning to potty train, to a house with two teenage guys in it learning to drive and dating and dealing with high school and all the social dramas," Rob said. "It was a huge change for us."
"It's been really fun to watch our kids bond together. You know even though we've got a little girl and two big boys, they, they still have a bond," Kim said.
Ibrahim said, "Family, to me, it's like having a place to stay, like having someone care about you, bonding with you.
People call the Gerlachs heroes, but it's a title Rob says they're uncomfortable with. "It's not any nobility that has made this happen. It's the way our families come together, and we have gained at least as much out of this as anything that we could give to these kids."
"And these kid are my kids, and they came to us through a different way and but they're my kids and they feel like my kids," Kim added.
Ecum put it perfectly, saying, "This is my place and this is where I want to be."
It's something so many of us take for granted—a bed of our own and a family to love and care for us.