The Middendorfs – (from left) Breydin, Maureen, Nowah, Joel and Jey – are now officially family as Joel and Maureen adopted the three biological brothers out of foster care last July.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
The Middendorfs – (from left) Breydin, Maureen, Nowah, Joel and Jey – are now officially family as Joel and Maureen adopted the three biological brothers out of foster care last July. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    VERNDALE, Minn. – Life in the Middendorf home is chaotic and loud but full of love.
    Joel and Maureen Middendorf welcomed three boys, Breydin, 9, Jey, 8, and Nowah, 6, to be their sons July 23.
    “We’ve always wanted kids,” Maureen said.



    Joel agreed.
    “That’s been the plan all along, to eventually be parents,” he said.
    The Middendorfs milk 130 certified organic cows on their dairy farm near Verndale.
    The couple married in 2007 and were excited to build a family together but were unable to do so on their own. Maureen has Turner Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, a symptom of which is infertility.
    Because the couple wanted a large family, they considered in vitro fertilization and also adoption, but due to the detriments of each, they decided neither were right for them.
    “Joel and I decided to look at foster care,” Maureen said. “We decided it was the best option for us. We can do foster care and adopt the kids right out of the foster system.”
    Joel agreed.
    “There’s plenty of kids who need a good home,” he said.
    In February 2019, Joel and Maureen began the paperwork and classes to be licensed as foster parents. A few months later, they got their license and boys in the same day.
    “(Breydin, Jey and Nowah) were our very first foster kids,” Maureen said. “Our licensure called us and said, ‘Great news; you are licensed and we also have a placement for you.’”
    The biological brothers first joined the Middendorfs in June 2019 as a foster placement. In a whirlwind year, the Middendorfs went from foster family to permanent family of five.
    Since the goal all along was to adopt through foster care, the Middendorfs prepared for that.
    “Foster parenting takes a lot of planning,” Maureen said. “You really run the show and need to have paperwork to back up your plan.”
    From handling various situations, to past experiences, to having different cultures influenced at home, fostering requires a thoroughly documented plan.  
    “They ask tons of ‘what if’ questions and really make you think,” Joel said.
    The Middendorfs work with a private licensing agency in Brainerd, and their case worker works in every county in Minnesota.
    “As long as there are no parental rights, we are open and licensed to accept children from every county in Minnesota,” Maureen said.
    Fostering on a dairy farm looks a little different than a typical foster home, as well. While the boys are still young, they are becoming incrementally more involved on the farm.
    “(Breydin) will help push up feed or scrape the barn after milking,” Joel said. “But, we are still working with all three boys on responsibility in small things.”
    Maureen agreed and said Nowah will likely be involved in the future, too.
    “Nowah is our animal lover,” she said. “He has a special connection with (the house pets) and loves the cows.”
    Before joining the Middendorfs, Breydin, Jey and Nowah had never been on a dairy farm.
    “We are still working on the fact that animals are a responsibility,” Joel said. “When we got the boys, they didn’t even know how to make a bed. It was never something expected of them, so we are working those types of things now and will work our way up to bigger chores and responsibilities.”
    Maureen agreed.
    “Safety is also an issue,” she said. “We need to make sure they can stay safe. Because they didn’t grow up around (the farm), it’s all new to them.”
    Another aspect to foster care is the trauma the children have tolerated.
    “Foster kids have trauma; I think that’s well known,” Maureen said.
    It requires a lot of patience and willingness to utilize resources to help kids and parents cope.
    “At one point, we had each of the boys in three different types of therapy,” Maureen said.
    Utilizing talk therapy initially helped Breydin, Jey and Nowah open up to Joel and Maureen, and from there, they were led to occupational therapy and speech therapy.
    “The most rewarding part of foster care is seeing the progress the kids make,” Maureen said. “If you talk to people who met the boys or got to know them when we first got them, they are totally blown away. It’s like they’re different kids.”
    The boys, like many foster children, have sensory perspective issues.
    “The dean of students at school said, ‘(Nowah)’s the nicest kid that hits people,’” Joel said.
    The sensory perspective confusion comes from not understanding that a hit is not the same as a gentle tap on the arm when it comes to getting someone’s attention. The various therapies help train the senses to understand what is appropriate.
    Another resource the Middendorfs noted is their school.
    “Verndale schools have been so great,” Joel said. “The special education teachers and classroom teachers are so willing to work with us and are so understanding about these boys and their unique background.”
    Verndale’s elementary school has been able to remain open this fall, which is a benefit for the Middendorfs.
    “I know a lot of kids need interaction, but these boys especially do better when they’re in school and can interact with others,” Maureen said.
    Going forward with adoption was part of the plan from the beginning, but once there was a court date, the boys were as excited, if not more, to officially become a family.
    “I think Breydin was the most excited of all of us,” Maureen said. “He really craves a sense of belonging as the oldest.”
    Joel and Maureen’s parents were able to join the family in the courtroom, where the judge joined in over the TV.
    “Everything was closed from (COVID-19), so we just kind of went home afterward,” Maureen said.
    The following Saturday, family and close friends gathered at Middendorfs’ farm to celebrate the adoption, making up for the lack of celebration on the day of.
    Once the brothers were adopted, they were able to be baptized in the Middendorfs’ church, Immanuel Lutheran in Wadena.
    “We had the baptism for all three of them Sept. 12 in a private ceremony,” Maureen said.
    Their families gathered again to celebrate another milestone for Breydin, Jey and Nowah.
    The Middendorfs are licensed foster parents and are open to future placements.
    “Our goal is six kids,” Maureen said. “(Joel’s) always wanted a big family. If that doesn’t happen and that’s not what we’re supposed to do, then that’s OK too.”
    Every family’s journey is different, but Joel and Maureen are proud to finally be parents.