The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

May 27, 2013

Heart for kids: Family faces medical challenge after more than 20 years of housing foster children

SENECA, Mo. — A Newton County couple has raised four daughters, adopted nine boys and girls and foster-cared more than 200 children over a span of 20 years. In that time, Mike and Sandi Simpson have done a lot of good for a lot of people, said daughter Darci Brown.

"If somebody needed help, my parents would help them," Brown said. "They would do whatever they could to help. They never worried about themselves."

Then, on March 12, Mike was diagnosed with advanced Stage 4 renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer). The cancer has spread to his right lung.

"Now, things are reversed," Brown said. "Now, it's my parents who are the ones needing help."

Crowded house

Darci was attending fifth grade when her parents sheltered their first foster child. From that moment on, up until Darci moved out of her parents' house, it was a "steady stream" of faces. Some of the children stayed for more than a year. Others were emergency-care children, who would stay in the home, at most, for 30 days.

"I would wake up and there would be someone new in the house almost regularly," she said.

In all, the Simpsons fostered 215 children before they lost their license. Brown said because of their big hearts, her parents had adopted too many of those foster-care children Ñ six in all Ñ including three more nieces and nephews.

"It really didn't bother me," she said. "I had my own room, and if I needed to get away, I could. My parents were real good about giving us our space."

She said she was used to the comings and goings of faces inside her childhood home.

"It was normal to me. It wasn't different," she said. "My parents don't like sending kids to someone else. I mean, they were a family. They wanted everyone to stay together. They tried not to shuffle the kids around more than what was absolutely necessary."

For her mother, raising the children Ñ her children, the foster children and, later, her adopted children Ñ become her career.

"And my dad has just been along for the ride," she said with a laugh. Yet living inside their crowded home was "just how we did life. It was very normal for us. And I saw what a lot of these kids were going through. You see what they're gong through, and you have a heart for them.

"Some of their stories," she said, "would just break your heart."

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