BATAVIA, Ohio (Nov. 22, 2016) – Dan and Viola Rice’s home in Mount Orab is spotless; nothing looks out of place. A few instruments in cases are tucked next to the piano in the large family room. The kitchen is immaculate, with no crumbs in sight, and no dirty dishes in the sink.
Photos are everywhere – on walls, on shelves, in cabinets, in books. Photos of kids. So many kids.
This home seems too neat to be the home of 9 children. But it is. It is a home full of indoor and outdoor play, chores and assignments, homework and sports, shouts and laughter. And love. Plenty of love.
Dan and Viola, who have been married for 17 years, began their life together committed to becoming foster care and adoptive parents. They never looked back. Through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, they became licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. “We did not have our license more than a week or two before we started getting phone calls,” Dan said.
One of the first phone calls was for Joshua, who was 8 months old. “We went to pick him up at CPS,” Dan said. “My wife picked him up. He laid his head down and fell asleep on Viola’s shoulder. We fell in love with him.”
They later adopted Joshua. A couple of years later, they adopted his brother, Nathan, then a newborn. Today Joshua is 14 and Nathan is 12.
After that came Natalie, their birth daughter, who is now 10. In 2013, siblings Samantha, now 13, Katelynn, 11, and David, 9, were adopted. Their adoption was finalized on Dec. 24, 2013 – the best Christmas present any child could have.
In between, Dan and Viola have been foster parents to 42 children. Currently three foster care children who are 14, 12 and 11, live with the Rices. Two of them are siblings.
Every child in the family, including the foster care children, call Viola and Dan Mom and Dad.
In Clermont County, as elsewhere, it is sometimes difficult to get people interested in adopting older children, as well as fostering and adopting siblings. This has never been an issue for Dan and Viola. For the children, being with their biological siblings, as they become accustomed to their new siblings, allows them to support each other, Dan and Viola say.
But once they are in the family, they all feel like brothers and sisters, Samantha says. The kids nod and smile in agreement. And since all the adopted children were once foster care children, they can make the foster care kids who come into their home feel comfortable right away, Samantha said.
Several of the Rices’ kids and foster care kids are in the same school and often grade at Western Brown – most of them at Western Brown Middle School. “When Samantha sees me in the hallway at school, she’ll say, ‘Hello, little brother,’” Nathan says.
All of the children, including the foster care kids, are involved in after-school sports and activities. As they tick off their interests and clubs – basketball, wrestling, baseball, soccer, 4H, Teen Advisory Board, book club, art club, softball, running club, yearbook, band, band, band, band – they each mention jujitsu. Dan enrolled all of them in jujitsu classes. “This was something they could all learn and it helps to build up their self-esteem,” Dan says.
“We make sure they tap into their full abilities,” Dan says, which is one reason he and Viola want to make sure the kids stay busy. Faith is a big part of their lives, and the whole family attends church together.
Dan, who is retired from Clermont County, is a stay-at-home dad. He makes sure the kids get to sports practices and doctors’ appointments. Viola, who works for Clermont County’s Job & Family Services, puts out a weekly spreadsheet with the kids assigned to specific chores and tasks. With two loads of laundry a day, dishes to load and unload, beds to make and bathrooms to keep clean, everyone needs to pitch in, she says. “We try to teach them life skills,” Viola says. Responsibilities for chores help with that.
“The big thing is, they need to have structure and routine,” Dan says. “They are not used to having rules. They have had to raise themselves. It’s amazing how these kids thrive in a structured environment.
“These kids are good kids,” he says, the pride obvious. “Every one of them is smart.”
Dan and Viola are ambassadors – they want other people to become foster parents and adoptive parents. It’s something top of mind especially in November, which is National Adoption Month. “We love being foster care parents,” Dan says. “We ask our friends, or those we are just meeting – have you ever thought about foster-to-adopt?”
They won’t have to persuade one group – their children. In fact, each child raised their hand or offered a comment saying they wanted to become a foster parent and adopt children as well. They know the difference it can make. In fact, they are living it.
To find out more about foster care or adoption through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, please call 513.732.7765. The website www.clermontforkids.org has information on how to become a foster care or adoptive parent; it also has information on each of the children who are now eligible for adoption in Clermont County.