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There's room for one more

One more stocking hangs in Clare Garberg's living room this year. There are seven of them now.

One more stocking hangs in Clare Garberg's living room this year.

There are seven of them now. Four belong to her and her husband's children.

The other three stockings are testaments to the kindness of human nature brought into focus each holiday season.

They belong to her foster children.

Garberg, of Moorhead, is a registered nurse with MeritCare Southpointe pediatrics.

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For more than 25 years, she has worked with Sonja Rooks, a licensed practical nurse at the MeritCare Children's Hospital.

Rooks, who lives in Fargo, is also a foster mother.

In fact, at least five MeritCare employees who work in pediatrics are foster parents.

Garberg and Rooks, however, found their foster children at work.

"I think we must have a big heart," Rooks says.

Garberg brought a hospitalized baby girl into her home 12 years ago.

Because she is a foster child, the girl cannot be named and her condition cannot be explained.

"People could not take care of her," Garberg says. "They were trying to find a home for her, but her medical needs were intense.

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"We had no intention that this was going to be a long-term thing."

A couple years later, Rooks brought the now 12-year-old girl's cousin into her home.

"Our husbands love us besides us bringing home stray children from work," Garberg says.

Rooks' foster child is 10 now and also has special medical needs. The Rooks are in the process of adopting her.

"She's been with us for so long that we figured we'd adopt her," she says. "They (Cass County Social Services) wanted us to adopt her."

Garberg is in the process of adopting a little boy who was born prematurely.

"Every single nurse fell in love with (him)," Garberg says. "I didn't even check with my husband before telling them I'd probably do it."

A year later, she brought home his identical twin brother. This will be his first Christmas with the family. The two boys turn 3 years old later this week.

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"Considering the odds, they're both kind of walking miracles," Garberg says.

With the children's medical needs, these foster parents face several challenges.

"It's hard to take her places," Garberg says about her 12-year-old girl. She has personal care attendants visit her home regularly.

"It's impossible to do anything. I don't even bring them (the twins) to the hospital without someone else."

Rooks' husband, Dennis, stays at home to take care of their 10-year-old foster daughter, who has special nutritional needs.

"When we took her home at 9 months, she weighed 10 pounds. We went through all of these things that Clare's going through," she says. "Seeing where she's at now, it's just amazing."

The same is true for Garberg and the little boy her family wants to adopt. He has regular occupational, physical and speech therapy.

"But watching him develop and grow is just unbelieveable," Garberg says. "He's a little sponge."

Both women agree more foster parents are needed, but say it's difficult to recommend bringing special-needs children into a home unless the parents are prepared for the commitment.

"You have to be willing to accept the idea they may be staying," Garberg says.

And that's just fine with her family.

"My big kids are so involved with them and they totally love them," Garberg says. "I didn't have four kids and think, 'I want more kids.' It just sort of happened.

"It just kind of made sense."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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