It’s a home full of warmth, laughter and love – and a family with dynamics unlike many others.
In all, 50 children have been in and out of the home of Tina and Jon Baker. The Bakers, who live in Twin Falls, are foster parents.
They married in 2009, and for the past six years, they have fostered and adopted many children. There are now four biological, three adopted and five foster children. For them, life is ordinary and everyone gets along well.
“They all just act like it is normal. It’s no big deal,” Tina said. “’Come on, brother. Come on, sister.’ It’s not weird to me.
“You would think kids would think, hmm, how come we always have people coming through here? But they are OK with it.”
For Tina, being foster parents started as a way to support teen moms.
“I was a teen mom. I had my first child when I was 14,” Tina said. “I thought we needed to become foster parents to have teen moms in our home, so we really did it for teenagers, thinking we would have teen moms and support them and love them.
“We didn’t get teen moms. We had a couple of teenagers, but mostly little kids.”
“This is what I was made for,” Jon Baker said. “I am positive. This is what God created me for.”
It’s a lot to keep track of, especially through the winter holiday period.
“We have so many birthdays in December,” Tina said. “The fourth, seventh, ninth, 28th, 29th and then January and then Christmas in the middle. All of our kids, except one, has birthdays in December or January.”
Camping has become a favorite family pastime.
“It is one of the few things that we can all do because it doesn’t matter how old you are. Everyone has their own part of camping that is cool to them,” Jon said. “There isn’t a lot we can do because of how big our family has gotten. We are diverse and it is expensive.”
Among their children, Tina and Jon adopted Josiah and his sister. Josiah was 3 months old when the Bakers met him; he is now 4.
Before the adoption, Josiah was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome. He was at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise. He needed emergency brain surgery.
“We have a lot of challenges with that. He had a shunt in his brain,” Tina said. “By the time he was a year old, he had 17 brain surgeries. He had a club foot that they fixed.
“We go to therapies at least twice a week which include physical, occupational, speech therapy. We have people that come into the home to work with Josiah here at home. We have challenges every day.”
With those needs comes added financial burden, and organizations like St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation have stepped in. The Foundation helped the family through children with special needs funding.
“They helped to provide a listening program for him,” Tina Baker said. “It’s nice to have that support. I’m just thankful for the funding to help the kids that need it and for the families because it really does help. There are always things coming up that he needs or they need. I am thankful for the Foundation.”
She is reflective, and realistic, regarding the path the family has chosen.
“It’s hard some days. Some days are harder than others,” Tina said. “I have a very supportive husband who is very good with kids.“It’s hanging out with them that makes it all worth it at the end of the day.”
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.