Forty-three years. That’s how long Arnie and Donna Brubaker have been foster parents in Oregon.
If you take a minute to consider that number, you realize that the Sweet Home couple first signed up to support youth at their home in 1976. Some of the first teens they fostered are now grandparents.
The Brubakers began fostering through Department of Human Services and Linn County juvenile department, but they’ve taken in Oregon Youth Authority youth for at least 20 years. OYA staff have come to rely on them to provide a stable, caring home where youth are always welcome.
So, when the Brubakers announced they were retiring this month, OYA staff understood, but were sad to see them go.
“Arnie and Donna have been fantastic foster parents because of their openness, flexibility, and willingness to accept all kinds of kids into their home,” said Robyn Marshall, OYA foster care manager. “They never give up. We just value that in them and wish we could clone them.”
OYA hosted a retirement party for the couple on July 11. Attendees included a wide swath of staff from OYA, DHS, and from the Linn County juvenile department.
Many in the crowd spoke about the Brubakers’ caring nature, not just for the youth, but also for youths’ families and OYA staff.
When it was Donna’s turn to speak, she said she found all the comments overwhelming.
“You guys are the reason we did it for so long,” she said. “When I needed help, I knew I could get it. Sometimes I would call one number after the other, but I always got somebody. … That’s really why we kept going.”
Mike Runyon, OYA field office supervisor, Marion County
“Before we had PHD (positive human development) and PYD (positive youth development), brain development, and trauma-informed care, you taught me how to look at them as kids. I took that with me my whole career.”
Priscila Hasselman, OYA juvenile parole and probation officer, Lane County
Jesse, a youth on her caseload, lived with the Brubakers off and on for five years.
“They have been incredible to him, giving him a home, making him feel a part of the family, and that’s something he’s been struggling with for years. He thinks of them as parents and he’s incredibly grateful to them. … When I think of them, I think of compassion. That’s their reasoning, and love is their drive.”
Rod Green, OYA transition juvenile parole and probation officer, Lane County
“If you could have one model home that you could recreate how much they care for the kids, how much they have a heart for kids, it would be their home.”
Monique Runyon, OYA juvenile parole and probation officer, Linn County
“There’s a lot of foster homes where they don’t really want to talk to the kids’ parents. … But you helped so many parents come around. We all know that if the kid changes and the parent doesn’t, it’s really difficult. You worked equally as hard with kids’ parents by being on the same team with them.”
Zak Spiegel, OYA juvenile parole and probation officer, Linn County
“You got to know (staff) on a personal basis. … You would always ask me how my son was doing. It felt more like a family relationship than a provider. You were interested in my personal life as opposed to just what was going on for work.”
David Owens, social service specialist, Department of Human Services
“You’ve taken (youth) into your house — they’re discarded, a lot of times people turn their backs on these kids — but you brought them into your home. You took what’s there and you created something beautiful in these kids. … Down the road, they’re going to remember this home with Arnie and Donna. They’re going to remember these people who took them in when they didn’t have to.”
Jason Jones, OYA field office supervisor, Lane County
“I’ve been to a lot of foster homes where I walk in and feel like they’re doing it more for the paycheck instead of the kids. It was very clear the first time I met you, you’re not just doing it for the paycheck. It’s been crystal clear to me that for you, it’s been about the kids.”