Foster children are part of my family history

It was not until a few years ago that I realized foster children are part of my family history. It came to me that my mother’s family has a long history in fostering children. This blog is about them, my nonblood-related family members. Note: all families lived in Loon op Zand, a small village in the south of the Netherlands.

Adriana ‘Jaoneke’ Maas (1855-1936) was the widow of my great-great-grandfather’s only brother Gerrit Jansen. She had seven children of her own. When in the 1910s most of her children had left the parental house, she welcomed two foster children into her home: the brothers Wilhelm Johannes Hendrik van Ewijk (1908-1932) and Johannes ‘Jo’ van Ewijk (1911-1940) from Deventer.
Both came to a tragic end. The older one drowned in the IJssel river at the age of 24 when playing with a little boat. The younger one died in the first days of World War II on the battlefield of Grebbeberg, in the area of Rhenen. Only 29 years old, he was survived by his wife and two children.

Pieter and Dien Jansen with one of their ‘grandsons’, a son of their foster son Jos.

One decade later, my grandfather became a foster son himself. His mother was often too sick to take care of her five children and therefore my grandfather Adrianus ‘Jos’ Jansen (1916-1999) was raised by his uncle Petrus Johannes ‘Pieter’ Jansen (1886-1966) and aunt Huiberdina ‘Dien’ van de Graaf (1885-1958), a childless couple. After Dien had died, Jos moved in with his foster father. He, his wife and their three children lived with ‘grandfather’ and took care of him, until he died at the age of almost 80 years.

My grandfather’s brother, Cornelis Petrus ‘Kees’ Jansen (1913-2000), and his wife Anna Elisabeth Antonetta ‘Annie’ Donders (1914-2002) even had four foster children, all living with them at the same time. The children grew up as brothers and sisters and they were always a part of the Jansen family.

But also on the other side of my mother’s family, fostering children was not uncommon. My great-grandparents, Josephus Petrus ‘Sjef’ Snoeren (1889-1988) and Adriana Cornelia ‘Jaon’ Biemans (1891-1966), had three children of their own, of which one died as an infant. They had also two foster children. Of one I know nothing more than her first name: Fien. She came as an infant and stayed only for a short period with my grandmother’s family.

Sjef and Jaon Snoeren with their foster daughter Gon in between them.

The other one, Alida Hillegonda ‘Gon’ Roosen (1912-1998) stayed for more than ten years. She came to Loon op Zand when she was a few years old. Her parents were not able to take care of their children and through a foster care organization Gon got a new family. She grew up as an older sister to my grandmother. At the age of 11 Gon went back to her biological parents, to make a fresh start. Six years later she came again to Loon op Zand and stayed with her foster family for another three years. In 1932 she left her foster family for good when she got married. Although Gon lived in Amsterdam for the rest of her life, she stayed in touch with her fosters in Loon op Zand. She would visit them for birthdays or wedding anniversaries. In return, my grandparents would visit Gon, her husband and children in Amsterdam.

With a family history like this, it is no wonder that I am a foster parent myself since a few years. What started as giving a young Romanian guy the opportunity to study in the Netherlands changed into a true foster relationship.

It is like the French say: L’histoire se répète… history repeats itself.