When I knock on the Ostranders' door, I can already feel the energy behind the door. Laughter is pouring through the walls of the home. Michelle opens the door and greets me warmly as people whirl around the large family room behind her. She’s warm and kind as she lets me in. But it’s the quietest person in the room who welcomes me.
Silently an elementary-age boy slips his hand around two of my fingers. He leads me around the house, stopping in each doorframe with minimal explanation. This is mom’s room. This is where we eat. This is where the toys are. You’ll love them. This is my room.
At the end of the tour, he squeezes my fingers just a bit tighter for a moment and looks up at me. Without saying a word, I know exactly what he’s communicating: It’s OK to be new. I was too. You’ll be safe here. You’ll be loved here.
Family is a cherished concept for the Ostranders. For them, it’s a source of energy and compassion, a mark of pride. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins are regularly together. Their home is cocoon of energy and love. Being part of their family is more than a birthright; it’s a bond that makes you special.
Ostranders help, stick up for and encourage each other. They support people no matter where they come from or how hard the circumstances. And they extend that attitude toward others as often as possible.
“Family to me was almost anybody really connected in your life,” Jerry Ostrander says. “Anybody that's over a lot, close, because my grandma was one of 14. To me, it's anybody that's around all the time. When we bring our foster kids in, they're family. They're here. They do everything with us.”
In the past two years, Jerry and Michelle have cared for 11 children through Buckner foster care. They specialize in caring for therapeutic children in the foster care system, young people who have higher level needs. These children are often harder to place with families, putting them at risk of never knowing a loving home.
“I requested special needs,” Michelle says. “I love special needs. I love everything about them. They intrigue me. Just the things that they can do. The things that they want to do. They're so innocent.”
The Lubbock couple loves to see how children blossom in a loving environment. Young people come to the Ostranders for a variety of reasons through the foster system, most commonly neglect or abuse.
The Ostrander home becomes a place of refuge for children. They learn they can relax. They don’t have to worry about anything. They can simply be cherished for who they are.
That’s when they grow. Children learn, laugh and love. They take significant steps in their development. Often they surprise others with how much they know and accomplish.
One child particularly captured the Ostranders’ hearts.
“His time was about to be up at a shelter, and he needed a place to go,” Michelle says. “I got lucky, and Buckner called me and asked me if we would care for him. I was like ‘Yes!’ We got him. He is just amazing.”
Colton bonded quickly with Michelle. She became “his person.” They did everything together. She was the rock that he could cling to. Soon after, he was bouncing around the house making friends as quickly as he was making them laugh.
Though they were strictly a foster home, the Ostranders knew Colton was meant to be a permanent part of their home. They adopted him at the beginning of 2019.
“He's made a good fit with our family,” Jerry said. “He gets along with everybody great. Everybody has a good time.”
When Jerry and Michelle think about Colton and the other children they’ve had the opportunity to care for, a smile spreads across their faces. They still keep in touch with many of the children. They’re thriving and growing. Just like the Ostranders’ family.
“When I hear 'hope shines here,' it makes me just think, when you see the hope come out in the kids' eyes, when they realize they're safe,” Jerry said. “You see their dreams, and them shining, and the hope coming into their eyes. And they can be their kid.”