If the walls could talk at this home in Northfield, they would share the remarkable story of Jack and Jodi Leonard.
"You just do it. I can't really tell you how I do it. There was a time I had nine kids here," Jodi Leonard said.
In the last 20 years the Leonards have housed about 40 foster kids. They've also adopted three, including 15-year-old Larry.
"It's not like there is any difference from a regular family," he said. "It just feels genuine. It's good."
The number of kids in foster care is dropping dramatically across Vermont. Today there are 968 kids in state care, that's down from more than 1,400 in 2006.
The Vt. Department of Children and Families points to a major push to find relatives to take in kids that would otherwise head for foster care for the change.
Cindy Walcott of DCF explained, "We've tried to get much better at looking around and saying, OK, who is in your network? Who are your relatives? Who are your friends? Who are your church members who can really help you successfully parent?"
While families like the Leonards are helping to bring the number of kids in foster care down, the number of kids considered to be at risk in Vermont has jumped from about 80 to 450 since 2006.
"Once we said it's not substantiation that is going to determine whether a family gets ongoing services, it's really going to be their risk level, than those numbers started to climb," Walcott said.
DCF says foster and adoptive families are still essential. Kierney Leonard, who was adopted by the Leonards through foster care, agrees.
"It's good to have a sense of stability in your world," Kierney said. "You need to know you have a place, that's your home, that's your family."
A family Larry hopes is a lot like his.
"I hope they can just end up like me, you know, get a really nice place, a nice family, some nice people, just a good situation," he said.
A situation the Leonard kids say is the work of people like their mom and dad.
"I don't perceive myself as a hero at all," Jodi Leonard said. "They saved my life; they are the joys of our life."
DCF stresses it's constantly looking at how to best serve children and that placements are made on a case by case basis.
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