http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/newssun/news/698554,5_1_WA15_HTTH_S1.article Foster parents give new meaning to 'mom' and dad' December 15, 2007 By JUDY MASTERSON [email protected] LAKE VILLA -- Kids Hope United could not help children without the boundless compassion of people like Jerome and Donna Cole of Zion. Foster parents to 11 children, eight whom they have adopted, the couple gives new meaning to the words "mom" and "dad." The couple had raised two sons and still had a 15-year-old daughter at home as well as a goddaughter they were co-raising when they became convinced they were being called to adopt hard-to-place African American boys. They adopted brothers James and John at ages 5 and 6 out of East St. Louis 17 years ago. Then, through Kids Hope United, formerly Central Baptist Children's Services, the Coles became an emergency foster care home and little girls including two sets of sisters began arriving. Nicole, 15, Dominque, 14, Alisha, 12, Angela 11, and Anna, 8, all now share the last name Cole as well as the warm and loving parents who gave it to them. Charles, 20, brother to the three oldest girls, came at age 12. "It's heartbreaking to me that kids are growing up without saying 'Mom' or 'Dad,'" Donna Cole said. "You don't have to be a saint to be a foster parent. You just have to love children." "We can either help children today or help them tomorrow," said Jerome Cole, an ordained minister and pastor of Valor Faith Ministries in Zion. "It costs a lot more to let a child be raised by the streets and then get sent to prison. I'm asking everyone in the community to reach out and touch a child." Joyce Heneberry, Kids Hope director of development, said the need for foster families is continuous. "We recruit, train and support them," she said. "We are always looking for foster parents for older children. They are particularly difficult to find. That's our greatest need." The Coles run their household with military efficiency -- Jerome Cole is a Navy veteran and the four oldest boys in the family are serving their country in the Air Force, Army and Navy. The home also runs on prayer. On Christmas morning, the children celebrate the birth of Jesus instead of opening presents. "If it was up to me, we would get rid of all foster homes," said Donna Cole, 56, who took a one-year leave of absence from her job at Abbott Laboratories and grew too busy raising kids to return. "Children would never be taken away. But when they have to be taken, they need to be in homes where they're loved." The Coles recently returned two girls, ages two and three, to their birth mother. They had loved and cared for the sisters for 15 months "I bawled when they left," Donna Cole said. "Whether you birth them or not, they are your children. But you have to remember this is not about the foster parent. It's about raising children, giving them memories." Kids Hope United envisions "a safe, nurturing home for every child." The agency served nearly 3,000 clients through placement services last year. It also offers kinship care, residential treatment, emergency diagnostic placement, independent living and community-based corrections.