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fostering a future

  • Blood is thicker than liquor

    Blood is thicker than liquor

    Nora and Randy Boesem have adopted 12 children suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Since 2001, the Boesems have taken in over 100 foster children.

    Eight of the children are members of the Lakota Native American tribe. Their biological mothers suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the streets of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

    Meet the Boesem family (left to right):
    Rachel (15), Jeremy (10), Mark (4), Frannie (12), Nora, Dontae (14), Randy, Kayleigh (10), A.J. (10), Michelle (15) and Arianna (5) in the middle.

    Not pictured: Vincent (24), the late baby Justice and the late Donovan.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Arianna suffers from FASD because her mother, who also had FASD, drank alcohol and did methamphetamine while she was pregnant with her. Born 13 weeks prematurely, Arianna had her first heart surgery at seven days old. Since then, she's had eight more surgeries and 22 hospitalizations.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora points Arianna toward the backyard at her grandmother's home in Rapid City, South Dakota.

    By the time Arianna was three, her total medical costs reached $3 million. "Honestly, Bill Gates probably couldn't afford Ari without help. She's expensive. She'd break him eventually," Nora said.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora holds her daughter Arianna close while feeding her son A.J. through a feeding tube. Three of the children, including Ari, must eat via a tube that transports nutrients directly into their bodies. Because of developmental problems stemming from FASD, certain digestive organs must be bypassed for the children to consume food.

    During this daily ritual, Nora's children surround her while she feeds, changes and dresses them.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora gives Arianna a bath after diaper changes early on a Sunday morning before church. Nora goes through about 12,775 diapers a year. Constantly caring for her children is a responsibility that both exhausts and rewards Nora.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora shops for groceries with her children Kayleigh, Dontae, Frannie and Arianna (left to right) at a Wal-Mart in Spearfish, South Dakota, on Oct. 16 2016. Nora must travel at least 45 minutes to reach a store that has the quantities of items she needs. Every two weeks, she spends nearly $1,200 at the store- and even more when she needs to buy diapers.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora's daughter Rachel applies eyeshadow to her little sister Arianna's face before church at their home in Newell, South Dakota, on Oct. 16, 2016. Rachel and Michelle, the oldest daughters, play important roles as big sisters and helpers to Nora when she needs help looking after the younger children.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Arianna and her sister Frannie play on a trampoline under the vigilant watch of their mother, Nora, at their grandmother's home in Rapid City, South Dakota.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora, Kayleigh and Arianna attend the 10:30 am service at Newell Evangelical Church.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Arianna hides her face from the tigers at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo on June 9, 2016.

    Nora and Ari were in Omaha for a conference regarding the four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, where Natives can obtain alcohol that is otherwise banned on the reservation.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Arianna stares in awe at a gorilla at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo on June 9, 2016. "Don't look at him! He's sad," she explained to Nora.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora and Arianna enjoy a train ride through Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo on June 9, 2016. Nora makes it a priority to provide her children with enjoyable experiences despite their medical problems that sometimes restrain them from activities other kids can do with ease.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora and Arianna hold hands on the train ride through Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo on June 9, 2016
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Nora kisses Arianna outside of her mother's home in Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 26, 2016.
  • fostering a future - Calla Kessler Photo
    Arianna gazes out the window of Nora's mother's home in Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 26, 2016.

    "We've lost two children...I can't lose another one. Realistically, we will bury more kids and I can say that. But then my brain goes, I can't do that," Nora said.