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The Thunder of Little Feet in Burbank : Couple Have Been Foster Parents to 96 Babies in 16 Years

August 05, 1985|MIKE EBERTS | Eberts, a graduate student at USC, is a Times intern

When a truck delivers 130 diapers to Pete and Patti Bova's Burbank town house this week, the Bova's all-time diaper total will reach 108,160--give or take a hundred hampers full.

The Bovas like babies, which is good, since their household has literally been crawling with them for the last 16 years.

As temporary foster parents, the Bovas have been blessed with the pitter-patter of 96 pairs of little feet--in addition to their own two children.

Temporary foster parents generally take care of children for a few days to several months, according to Kim Leonetti of Holy Family Services, a state-licensed counseling and adoption agency. They receive children if the birth mother is not sure she wants to put her child up for adoption, if the child has been released by its mother but the courts are looking for the natural father, or if a party set to adopt a baby backs out at the last minute, often because the baby has been born with a disability, Leonetti said.

A Heart of Gold

"Everybody asks me 'How did you get into this?' " said Patti Bova, 47.

After quitting her job to stay with her own then-small children, Patti Bova found she "kind of liked staying home."

One day in 1969, she saw a classified advertisement asking for temporary foster homes. Pete Bova, also 47, and who like his wife appears to have a heart of gold and nerves of steel, immediately liked the idea.

"How can you not want to take care of a newborn baby?" Patti asked. A big part of her job, she said, is to provide the bonding that the baby's natural mother could not give.

"Newborn babies need a feeling of love and security," Pete said as 21-month-old Andrew lifted a pipe out Pete's pocket.

The Bovas are uniquely well-equipped to meet a baby's needs. "We have tons of baby clothes," Pete said. "We have boxes full, drawers full, closets full," agreed Patti who has "always loved children."

Hip-Deep in Babies

She got into the baby-sitting business in Pennsylvania when she was 10. "And that was when 10 year olds were 10 year olds," said Patti who was brought up by her grandparents and an aunt.

Pete's parents divorced when he was 7. His mother worked a 3-to-11 shift at a rubber factory in Providence, R. I., he explained. "My sister and I more or less raised ourselves."

The Bovas were foster parents for the Los Angeles County Department of Adoptions several years before the county "loaned" the Bovas to Holy Family Services, which has kept them hip-deep in babies ever since.

"We had a couple of Christmases without foster children," Patti Bova said. "It almost killed us."

But taking care "some newborns can be real hard," Patti said. "You sometimes get a baby that screams 24 hours a day."

Another drawback to becoming a temporary foster parent is "You become a homebody," said Pete. "You can't go out to dinner on the spur of the moment. You have to plan it a week or two ahead of time."

Biggest Problem

The Bovas try to take their babies on outings with them. But later this year, they are planning to visit Hawaii--alone.

But the biggest problem, say the Bovas, is giving the babies up. "No matter how difficult, each child is special," Patti Bova said. "When one leaves, a little bit of your heart goes along with it."

She said giving up a baby was even more difficult a decade ago when adoption agencies didn't give foster parents any information about where the baby was going or who the adoptive parents would be.

Now the Bovas even get to meet some of the birth mothers. This trend toward openness, she said, gives all parties involved "some peace of mind."

When babies leave the Bovas, they are out of sight but not out of mind. On the walls along the Bovas' staircase are baby pictures--about 84 of them at last count. Another dozen or so are still in search of wall space.

The Bova Baby Brigade currently numbers two: Andrew, 22 months, and David, 6 months. David was born premature and is still small for his age. Andrew has seizures and is slow to speak. Patti Bova fears something may be wrong with his hearing.

"He can stay here as long as he needs," said Patti. "He can go to college from here."

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