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Inspiring Couples: Merle and Ernest Bean have shared their home with more than 84 children

BY DAVID ZIZZO Modified: October 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm •  Published: May 9, 2010

uot;That was kind of heart-wrenching.”

The couple were always clear about their children’s responsibilities. "Being a foster family meant sharing your mom and dad, your home, your bedroom, your toys and your clothes,” Merle said. "Whatever you had, you had to share.”

It was worth it, Rachel said.

"It was a joy to be able to share it with kids whoweren’t as fortunate,” she said. "Even though we were the kids in the house, we always had a part in helping to better somebody’s life.”

Today, Rachel is director of a child care facility, where she comes across abused kids. "I have a heart for children who are going through tough times.”

And so it went in the Bean household, with kids coming and kids going. Some would stay a few weeks, others up to four years. Parting was almost always sorrow.

Except with a few very disturbed kids, Ernest said.

One 6-year-old who had been severely abused by his mother’s boyfriend had "a lot of anger.” After visits with his mother, "he’d come back and say, ‘I’m going to ... get a knife and kill you all.’” Then he’d calm down. But after the boy shared a bunk bed with the Bean’s son, the couple found a stuffed animal sliced to pieces.

"He’d gotten up in the night and went to the kitchen and got a knife,” Ernest said.

Along the way, the Beans had tried to adopt several foster children. However, at that time DHS preferred to keep kids with their families. After leaving, a few foster kids kept in touch for a while, but most "get out and get busy,” Ernest said. "You lose contact.”

Thoughts turn to their temporary family members sometimes. Marie, for instance.

"She was a little tow-headed doll,” Ernest said. "Everybody loved Marie.” The girl stayed with the Beans for two years and went home when she was 6.

"We never heard anything,” he said. "You always wonder.”

The Beans managed their busy home on the $10 a day DHS provides per foster child along with Ernest’s appliance repair work and heat and air contracting business, and a small military disability. Today, Ernest is ready to retire, sell the house and travel in a motor home if he can persuade Merle, who says she is "almost there.”

Even then, the Beans will look to help others, planning church mission trips.

"That’s the secret,” Ernest said. "If you ever retire, don’t just do nothing.”

Inspiring Couples