Tom and Jean Gaunt are the proud parents of sixteen children, some being homemade (natural birth) and others being handpicked (adopted). They have fostered well over 100 children over a period of sixteen years while raising their family. Growing up in close proximity to one another in northeastern Indiana, Tom and Jean were destined to meet in high school and later marry in college. His goal to become an engineer and hers, a teacher, would be achieved in round about ways as they put their family first. After building a couple of homes, the second home being a self-sufficient earth home, they moved their four birth children and three foster children to Indianapolis to advocate foster and adopted children. Two of the three foster children were eventually adopted by Tom and Jean. Jean knew firsthand the importance of permanency having been the daughter of a former foster child adopted by his foster parents. While Jean’s father died of cancer when she was twelve years old and her mother died when she was a young adult, Jean felt blessed coming from a stable home. Her husband Tom was supportive of his wife’s desire to give back to society for the blessings of her parents’ lives.
Jean’s Advocacy on the behalf of children which included trips to Washington DC, including speaking before a Congressional Committee, to Indiana’s State Legislature, and serving on state committees wasn’t received well by some in the child welfare agency. Tom and Jeanne found themselves no longer welcome to have foster children in their home: the results were devastating to them as well as to their children – foster and birth. Fast forward almost nine years to 1999 when on Mother’s Day Jean reads an article in her Sunday morning paper outlining the need for a home for a sibling group of nine children. Reluctant to share their desire for the nine siblings with others and understanding the complexity of a family with many and special needs, Tom and Jean submitted their home study consideration with hopes for the best.