BY MARY KAY SWEIKAR
Gloria Hoskins claims she never gets tired of taking care of children. This single mother has walked the talk by adopting five of the 25 children she has fostered during the years, in addition to raising two children of her own.
Today, at 56, Gloria still has three of her adopted children living at home: Malcom, 11; Teddy, 9; and Larhon, 5, all of whom attend Cannon Grade School. In addition,
she has 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter who also spend a lot of time with her.
“Years ago, when my two biological children, Ericka and Brandon, were growing up, I always had a houseful of kids with me — whether they were friends or relatives,” Gloria said. “People often figured that all those kids were mine,” she said, laughing.
Gloria also had done a lot of babysitting for family and friends in high school, and she just seemed to have a knack for taking care of little people.
So with the encouragement of those who knew her well, Gloria completed foster parent training through Catholic Charities, even though her youngest child, Brandon, was only 10 years old at the time.
“All my foster children bonded well with my own children and the nieces and nephews,” she said.
She usually took in two or three children at one time, because Catholic Charities tried to keep brothers and sisters together when placing them in foster homes.
Gloria even fostered a deaf boy for some time.
“I never did learn sign language, but I could always communicate with him and I knew what he wanted,” she said. She also took in a young mother and her special needs baby for several months.
“Sometimes I had as many as eight kids living in the house at once,” she said.
Gloria recalled how her three adopted children came to her.
“I had just gone back to working third shift at the Danville Correctional Center after being laid off for seven months,” she said. “Catholic Charities called and asked me to take in two brothers, one 2 years old and the other 7 days old. It was hard to say no, and my whole family rallied around to help me,” she said. “They love children almost as much as I do.”
After waiting four years, Gloria was able to legally adopt the two brothers. Then about five years ago, she received a call from the agency asking her to drive to Champaign and take in a 2-day-old baby, who was the biological brother of the two boys she had already adopted. Once again, Gloria didn’t have the heart to turn them down.
“I wanted the three brothers to be able to grow up together,” she said.
“After I finally adopted Larhon, I decided not to renew my license as a foster parent,” Gloria said. “I felt I had done my part, and I wanted time to enjoy my own grandchildren and children.”
Gloria always wanted to have a lot of her own children, but she ended up having just the two, who are nine years apart in age. “My whole family always had the attitude that the more kids in the house the merrier,” Gloria said.
Gloria credits her grown daughter and son, her daughter-in law, and her 80-year-old mother for helping her with the children through the years.
“All those kids can be quite a handful,” she said.
Gloria loves to make big meals every day for anybody who comes by the house and smells the good home cooking. On any given night she might have 25 guests for dinner. Some of her specialties are African baked chicken, boiled greens, macaroni and cheese, and turkey dressing.
“Usually when I do dressing I make 10 pans of it,” she said. Her grandchildren are known to say, “If Grandma cooks it, then it’s good.”
Gloria goes to the grocery store every day.
“I never take a grocery list,” she said. “I plan all my meals in my head, and I know exactly what I have to pick up at the store.”
Her grown son, Brandon, is a sports fanatic and has involved her three boys in basketball, baseball, and football — right along with her grandchildren.
Her three adopted sons and her grandchildren also sing in the Apostolic New Birth Church choir, and her grandson Nathanael Hoskins plays the drums at the church services.
Discipline at home
All of the children in the Hoskins family are accustomed to daily chores. They fold clothes, wash dishes and take out the trash.
“When they grow up I want them to know how to do everything around the house,” Gloria said.
One thing she won’t tolerate in her children is lying. “If I ever catch them lying, their privileges are taken away immediately,” she said. She makes them do their homework right after their snack when they get home from school, and they don’t watch a lot of TV.
They do, however, participate in a lot of recreational activities, including swimming at the Danville YMCA, skating at Illini Skateland, and bumper cars at the David S. Palmer Arena.
“My reward is watching my children grow up into responsible adults,” Gloria said. “We didn’t have much in our home as children, but we were always happy. I had a lot of loving when I was growing up, and I want the same for my children. Everybody is helping me make it work.”
Gloria has to live with diabetes, which is sometimes challenging for her. “I just have to work around my health issues,” she said.
Even though she was born in Mississippi, Gloria calls Danville home because she moved here at 2 years old.
“Danville has been good to me over the years,” she said. “I believe that a town is as good as you make it.”
Gloria has worked as the Danville Correctional Center’s food service supervisor for 17 years, where she oversees residents in cooking their own meals. She enjoys her job.
“It’s a good job, and that’s how I’m able to help support all these children,” she said.
Before she worked at the Correctional Center, Gloria was a caregiver for the homebound elderly and also worked at Vermilion Manor Nursing Home. She also ran a day care service in her home for about 10 years.
Everybody tells her she should retire at age 60.
“I just might do that,” she said. “It would give me more time with my boys. I might also start up flower arranging again or go back to the piano,” she added, “or sing in the church choir, or teach Sunday school again.
“I have been blessed with a wonderful family,” Gloria said, “and I’m thankful for that.”