Erlandsons named as 2020 Outstanding Foster Care award winners
By Chad Koenen
For nearly 20 years, Ken and Toni Erlandson have been providing a warm home and meals to children during their time of need—sometimes with not more than a few moments notice. As foster parents, the family has opened their home to children from across the region and provided a warm environment for children of all ages.
“We thought we had a home that we could provide love and care for a child in need. We ended up adopting four children from the foster care system,” said Toni. “For us it was a loving Christian home. We thought it was a good way to practice our faith too.”
Recently, the Erlandson family was named as the 2020 Outstanding Child Foster Care award winners. The award is given by the Minnesota Social Service Association Region 4 Chapter, which includes Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, and Wilkin counties.
Ken and Toni said they were both surprised when they learned they were honored with the award, which recognizes foster care providers who exemplify outstanding care for children.
“Honored and surprised,” said Toni.
The Erlandsons were nominated for the award by a local foster care representative who wrote a nomination letter for the Region award on their behalf.
“I don’t know what she wrote but it must have been pretty nice,” said Toni.
What began in 2003 with the hopes of becoming foster parents to adopt an older child has turned into a lifetime commitment of helping children during some of the most uncertain times in their lives. Since that time, the Erlandsons have provided care for many children including sibling sets, and they have opened their home to children on short notice.
“The main thing was we wanted to adopt (through the Minnesota Waiting Children program) and to adopt you had to become a foster home,” said Ken.
While becoming foster parents has given them an opportunity to share their Christian beliefs and open up their home to children in need, there continues to be a need for foster parents in the area. Ken said there is a commercial that he remembers seeing that said a person doesn’t need to be a perfect parent to be a foster parent, they just need to have patience and willingness to open their home for those in need.
“I think that is pretty much right on. You have to care, you have to enjoy children and people. There is definitely a need, sadly in some cases,” he said.
As director at Lutheran Island Camp just outside of Henning, the Erlandson children have become staples at the Christian based island camp. Toni is a teacher at Henning School and said being foster parents have helped the family stay in touch with children. She said it has provided them a chance to learn from the children about what is going on with today’s youth.
“It’s probably made us better in our careers also as a camp director and a teacher,” she said.
Of course having the ability to be around children on a more consistent basis has also been a joy for the family.
“The kids,” said Toni of her favorite part of being a foster parent. “We have never met a kid we didn’t like.”
Over the years the Erlandsons have been foster parents to 34 children. Recently, one of their daughters and her husband have adopted one of the foster children who called the Erlandson household home, which means they can continue to be a part of their new grandchild’s life for a generation to come.
Anyone who would like to become a foster parent can do so by Otter Tail County Human Services at (218) 998-8150.