Love of parenting makes Barto couple ideal caregivers

By Cheryl Petersen
Helen Steiner Rice (1900-1981) penned:
“A Mother’s love is something
that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away . . .”
“Ever since I was real young, I’ve known I wanted to adopt and help children,” said Gina Barto of Fleischmanns. “I love children and want to be a part of making their lives better.” Gina’s motherly passion extends to three children with her husband, Renard Barto, six adopted children, and currently three foster children.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t specifically know about abused children,” recalled Barto. “But, I knew some children needed a better life. I knew enough to learn as I went along, and I knew that real success is changing a life.”
The motherhood of people like Gina Barto is ameliorating what has grown into an epidemic in the United States—child abuse, which occurs at every socioeconomic level, within all religions, at all levels of education, and across ethnic and cultural levels.
“Renard and I got married in 1985,” said Gina. They then had three daughters. “We remodeled our house, enlarging it, and I remember feeling very blessed and prayed for the Lord to fill the house.” “And he hasn’t stopped,” Barto added.
When the Barto children were old enough, the family sat down and discussed at length the option of becoming a foster family. “We knew it would be a team effort,” said Gina. Since then, the three daughters have grown and also have been certified as foster mothers themselves.

Learning experience
“I don’t think I knew exactly what I was getting into, but no one can entirely be prepared for mothering or parenting,” she aid. “You just hold the high goal of good mothering before you and work hard to reach it.”
“Children bring life,” said Barto. “It’s a privilege to have the children in our home. I can’t imagine not having them.” Challenges come up, but “I find that we all become stronger individuals when we overcome challenges.”
The Barto home is licensed as a foster/adopt home that also provides respite care. “The first objective when it comes to foster children is to re-unite the children with their parents,” said Barto. “The parents are given a considerable amount of time to better their behavior or situation, but sometimes enough improvement doesn’t come, and in order to provide the children with a secure home environment, they are adopted by licensed parents.”
“It was a natural progression to adopt Tylor, Joseph, Skylar, Candice, Denise, and Anna,” said Barto. The children attend the Catskill Mountain Christian Academy in Margaretville, a school where Gina worked for 20 years. “But, a few years ago, I changed my job and now I work for the family security business, based in Fleischmanns,” she said.
“The family is quite the spectacle when we travel,” said Barto. “We all travel together. Renard leads the line of children with me at the end. We walk in the line formation through the airport. Each of us hands our passport to the officials.” The family recently returned from a cruise through the Bahamas.
With a mother’s sparkling eyes, Gina said, “All six children are in Karate lessons. It’s the cutest thing ever.” Renard and the older children help with chauffeuring.
Gina Barto mothers within a structured home life. “Every day, at 5 p.m., we sit down for dinner,” she said. “It’s a routine that works. I find recipes made in crock pots go over the best. The children have good eating habits, they even love salad.”
Gina’s mothering reaches to deep levels when occasions call for it. “Mothers can come across children with issues such as attachment disorders,” she explained. “I’ve learned not to respond to the temporary action, but to have faith that I can see a deeper answer.”

Keep it consistent
“Consistency is the best medicine for children,” said Barto. “Parents can have the courage and wisdom to advocate for a child. We can make permanent decisions in a temporary situation. The decision is to be there for the child and encourage them.”
Gina encourages the children to read and have self-discipline. “Fortunately, all the children like to read,” she said. “We also purchase little gifts at the store to place in a basket. When the children reach a goal, they can pick a gift. But, the best gift, an ongoing gift, is me being able to be their mother.”