Westmont Magazine An Extended Family
Dan and Judi Van Elderen believe passionately in two things: promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion and recruiting Christians to serve as foster families.
“In the 1980s, when abortion was so much in the news, we decided to support women who were making good choices about adoption,” Judi explains. “At the time, we had three young children, but we decided we would also begin taking in foster babies.”
As they were being qualified and trained as a foster family, Judi discovered she was pregnant with her fourth child. “We decided to proceed anyway,” she says. “At first, we cared for infants who needed a place to stay before they were adopted.”
In the past 13 years, Dan and Judi have opened their home to 36 foster children. Some stay a few weeks, others for several years. Two have become permanent members of the family; the Van Elderens adopted C.J., 10, and Steven, 7, at the request of their birth parents.
Today they care mostly for children harmed by abuse, drugs, or neglect. “It has been a learning and growing experience,” Judi notes. “We have seen another side of life, and it has stretched our faith.
“Most of the parents we meet didn’t have good parenting themselves, so we have some opportunities to be role models. We don’t expect to change lives, but we do show them another way. In the end, we don’t have much control, and we don’t know how it will all turn out, but we have to let go in faith.”
“Most stories have happy endings,” Dan observes. “But some children go back into unhealthy situations.”
“We just remember that God has his hand in all of it,” Judi adds. “It keeps us going. Sometimes it seems too hard, but it’s worse to think of kids not having a place to go.”
Judi serves on the board of Help One Child, which recruits Christian foster families and provides support for them. “We speak out for change for children,” she explains.
Dan and Judi said a different kind of difficult good-bye when their daughter Audrey enrolled at Westmont. While Dan went to Calvin College in Michigan, his sisters, Dorothy Trebes ’75 and Darlene James ’80, graduated from Westmont. “Audrey liked the spiritual intimacy she discovered on campus and has appreciated the many opportunities for spiritual growth,” Dan says. She graduated in May and is now an assistant youth pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto. Her brother Cory just finished his first year at Westmont, and her sister Bonnie is thinking about coming after she graduates from high school.
“It has been great to see that our kids are growing in the Lord at the same time they are getting a good education,” Judi says.
“It’s been an answer to prayer.”
Last summer, the Van Elderens hosted a send-off and opened their home to new Westmont students from the Bay Area. “We enjoyed meeting other parents, many of whom we saw again at Parents Weekend,” Judi notes.
Trained as an electrical engineer, Dan went to work for a start-up company in San Jose 27 years ago. Their famous, pioneering product was the first coin-operated video game, Pong. Today he is the president and COO of that same company, Atari Games.
“I have one of the few careers where the kids actually want to go to work with you,” Dan laughs. “They also want to have their parties at your office!” Fortunately, the family has their own video game arcade at home.
Judi’s work has been her children, and she encourages other Christians to consider becoming foster parents. “You don’t have to be an exceptional family, just an open one,” she notes. “And you discover that the more you give, the more you get.”