The House that Rainbow Brite Built
Lisa and Jamie Bowen of Humboldt, S.D., have nine children (and three grandchildren). Four are their biological children, ages 23, 20, 14 and 13. The Bowens also have four adopted children and are the guardians of another child; two are 17 and the others are 10, nine and eight.
The Bowens stumbled into foster care and adoption. But then they embraced it with everything they had. “My friend and her husband were foster parents,” Lisa says. “They’d had a little girl for about two years when my friend got in a car accident and died. And her husband just couldn’t raise her by himself. We all had to say goodbye to the little girl. I thought, ‘If we were licensed, we could have taken her'.”
Lisa and Jamie started foster parent training soon after. “We were dumb, two naïve farm kids,” says Lisa. “We thought they’d call us once a year to watch a kid for a few days.” The Bowens didn’t know foster parents were in such high demand. “And we didn’t think those things happened here in Humboldt and Hartford and Sioux Falls,” she says.
“Adoption was never our goal. But we said, ‘What if they’d ever call us for a baby?’ I could never take a baby knowing I’d have to say goodbye,” says Lisa. “Lots of people want babies, so I knew they’d never call us. But then they did—they called us four days before Jace was born, because nobody wanted to take him. And from there, everything spiraled out of control. He’s going on 10 this year, and we brought him home when he was a day old.”
One thing led to another—or more accurately, one family member to another. They ended up adopting Jace, his half-sister, his cousin and his aunt, who was still a minor. Most recently, the Bowens adopted Miles, who may or may not be related to some of the others.
The result is a big, warm, busy multiracial family with children of all shades and backgrounds. “We call it the house that Rainbow Brite built. And everybody is welcome,” Lisa says.
Miles from Home
When Miles was born, he tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. “He came to CHS residential care at three years, nine months old; he was one of our youngest children ever,” says Scott Egan,
“Miles had a rough beginning. His bio parents had a long history of meth addiction, other drugs, incarcerations and legal issues,” Scott says. “He was in and out of a few foster homes. He became aggressive towards siblings and had little motivation to make positive changes. Former foster parents said that he ate meals with his hands and needed to be taught how to use silverware.”
But Miles was able to gradually grow with the structure provided on the CHS campus. “He was here for four years and two months. With his hard work, a few bumps, and the great care he was given, he was able to work his way to being successful in a family,” says Scott.
Jamie and Lisa found Miles through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program of the Dave Thomas Foundation. CHS operates this program in South Dakota; its purpose is to find adoptive families for children who some say are “unadoptable.”
“The Bowens were an instant hit with Miles and the staff at CHS,” Scott says. “They had a big extended family, lived out in the country with pets, room for him to roam, and older siblings to assist him. You couldn’t have drawn up
a better family on paper if you tried. The connection and vibe about the family was so incredible.”
When he went to live with the Bowens at age seven, Miles wanted to change his name. “He’s a lover of all things superhero, and it didn’t click right away when he came back and said, ‘I want to be Miles.’ Well, it’s because Miles Morales is the new Spiderman,” says Lisa.
Miles then met Lisa’s father-in-law, who had stage four cancer and six months later passed away. “Miles had never had grandparents, so it was difficult to lose one so soon. He then chose my father-in-law’s middle name and became Miles Leroy. He put a lot of thought into that—it was a big deal.”
“And then, of course, his initials are MLB for Major League Baseball. There’s a thought process behind everything he chose. He’s just an amazing little kid,” she says.
Overnight, Miles became a brother, a cousin and an uncle.Lisa has seven brothers and sisters, most of whom have children and live within 10 minutes from Lisa’s parents’ house. Her family alone has 100-plus adults and children.
“He thinks he’s just king of the world when he goes to my brother’s house,” Lisa says. “They will go out on the four-wheeler, stuff our kids were used to doing. Miles said, ‘This is just awesome that this guy wants to spend time
with me and take me fishing and there’s all these other safe places I get to go'!”
Adoption has helped the Bowens learn and grow. “It has taught our family about diversity,” Lisa says. “Our kids don’t see color, and I wish more people could be that way. Because I see the struggles our kids of color have.”
Lisa shares that it has also affected their extended family. “It opened up their hearts and their minds, because we grew up pretty rural. But they’ve embraced it. They just immediately love them. They know what these kids have been through. So not just us—but everyone around us, our friends, our neighbors—they don’t look at them any differently, and they shouldn’t be looked any differently. They don’t treat Miles like the kid who has been abused. They treat him like the kid who needs love. It’s brought our family closer.”
A word to those considering foster care or adoption
Having more and more children doesn’t seem to sap the strength from Lisa and Jamie; on the contrary, it seems to energize them.
“It’s so rewarding to watch them grow and watch them change and watch them learn how to love,” Lisa says. “It’s just so hard to explain what it can be like and what it can do, what it can put inside you and the drive it gives you.”
And it’s equally rewarding for CHS staff. “To see a child you’ve worked with end up in such a perfect setting, thriving, being loved, and have the potential to be the best person he can be is so gratifying,” says Scott.
Recently Lisa and Jamie were at Children’s Home Society. “My husband saw a little guy, and he said, ‘Oh my goodness, we could get 10 more!’ I said, ‘I know! They just want people to love.’”
“And they turn around and they love us. They want normalcy, they want routine, they want a ‘Good night, I love you.’ That’s all they want. They don’t want fancy things. They don’t want a mansion. We don’t do expensive vacations. Well, we can’t get everybody in the car,” she laughs.
Big family dinners happen several times a week at the Bowens’ home. “Round circle dinner is what we call it,” says Lisa. “That’s what they want. That’s what they need. They just need love and family.”
“We treat them like they are children. Foster kids or adopted. It doesn’t matter. They’re our kids,” Lisa says.
Posted on November 17, 2022
To learn more about Therapeutic Foster Care or Adoption, please contact Chelsie at 605.343.2811 or firstname.lastname@example.org