It was a bright, sunshiny day on Wednesday, July 17, when Glenn Koster appeared, walking along U.S. Highway 2. Along the way, Koster stops to tell all those who will listen his story of a nine million step journey across the United States to raise awareness of adoption and foster care.
“I have had some ask me why I am walking for foster care and adoption,” Glenn said. “I’m a double product of the system. I was abandoned in 1962, adopted, pulled from that home 13 months later, went back through the system (and experienced the passing of a foster father while living in the home), and re-adopted when I was 10. When my foster father passed away just after Thanksgiving in 1964, it took nearly three weeks to find a new home for me, so I was there through the funeral and a difficult Christmas. Things have not changed much in the last 50 years (and in many ways has actually gone backwards).”
This cross-country marathon is actually the third such effort Glenn has made. His first try came in 2014 when he walked from Oklahoma to Nebraska, just to see if he could do it. He walked 187 miles in 10 days, which set up his second walk in 2016. This time, he hiked from Missouri to Colorado to raise money for central Kansas child-oriented charities. Hailing from Hutchinson, Kan., he and Charlcie made that state the target for their fund raising and contributed around $10,000 to the cause.
Now, he is on his way to completing a journey from south Florida to Washington State. He began the trip on Feb. 1, 2018, but ran into RV problems in Chadron, Neb., when the brakes failed. In addition, Glenn thought he might be experiencing a recurrence of Grave’s Disease, which he thought was in remission. His concern arose over his losing 10 pounds in seven days, so he had Charlcie call her father who contacted his doctor. He told them it might be Grave’s, but it might also simply be fatigue and advised them rest and see if things got better.
They did, and Glenn resumed his walk on May 18, 2019.
“I have chosen the path that I have intentionally,” Glenn said. “If you notice, it is not a diagonal route. Foster and adopted children often have a very difficult path through life. So, I have chosen the most difficult route across the country and then made it tougher by taking a stair-step approach to show solidarity and support for the journey they have through life.”
Most of his work involves face-to-face, one-on-one encounters with people, churches and organizations, which give him the opportunity to talk with them about adoption and foster care. “We talk to churches,” he said, “46 so far, and I speak to people on the road - I talked with eight yesterday; it happens a lot, and I spoke to 11 groups that were not churches about adoption so people don’t think they’re alone.”
The trip is as much spiritual for Glenn and Charlcie as it is practical. “We have what we call ‘good moments,’” Glenn said. “We stopped in Silas, Ala., and planned to go to church on Sunday. That morning we were going past a church, and I knew we should stop there.” Glenn was allowed to speak to the Sunday School kids, and when the Pastor heard him speak, he asked him to speak to the entire congregation at their service.
“The Pastor said, ‘There’s not a qualified foster home in the county, and here you are on Sunday morning.’”
And when they got to Cut Bank, they encountered a group from Canvas Church, which just happens to be very active in adoption and foster care, having a picnic in the city park.
“People always ask me how they can get involved,” he said. “Be a respite parent. In most families, when a couple needs some time away or to attend a special event, they can have family members watch the kids. Not so in a foster family. Only trained and approved respite parents can step in. Become one.
“Be an Emergency Parent. Nearly every night will find children somewhere sleeping in the offices of social workers across the country because there is no home to place a child in emergency situations. Step up. Be trained. Be available on short notice for a short time.
“Be a mentor. Whether it is through Big Brothers-Big Sisters, a local school, or even a community mentoring program, be willing to teach and listen to foster kids as they develop life skills and react to what is happening in their upside-down world.”
Finally, he said, “Donate. The reality is that nearly 80 percent of kids enter the foster system with just the clothes on their back. Connect with one of the myriad groups that provide backpacks, duffle bags, or emergency care kits and work to provide them. If you cannot help build the kits together, donate so that those who can do so will be able to easily do so. Time. Talents. Money. They all help.”