If you have ever visited Steve and Emily Kloter at Neighborhood Auto Care, you know that at first glance their front office looks like it could be a daycare. “We’ve had parts delivery guys come in the front door and they think they’re in the wrong place because of all the kid gear,” says Emily, Office Manager of the business. “I just laugh and say, ‘No, but we really are a family-friendly business!’”
How do Steve and Emily juggle running an automotive repair business while raising their own daughter and two foster children?
It isn’t easy.
While Steve is in the 3-bay garage in the back, fixing customers’ vehicles, Emily is upfront running the office and tending to their three little ones. The Kloter’s currently have two foster children – a 6-month-old baby and a 23-month-old toddler – and their own biological daughter,
As foster parents, the Kloter’s are responsible for providing a safe and loving home for children whose parents are not currently able to care for them appropriately, until they can be reunified safely with their biological parents, placed with suitable kin, or adopted into a forever home.
Their days are busy. Steve goes to the gym or for a run in the mornings to help keep his mental health in check while Emily gets the kids up and dressed and feeds them breakfast. Steve joins them back at home to help with load-up and they arrive at the shop by 8:15. Once at the shop, Steve gets the business opened up while Emily gets the kids engaged in activities and prints the repair orders for the day’s work. Throughout the day many people are coming and going from the business, including caseworkers, visitation supervisors, and a CASA or GAL here and there. The business is like their home away from home, so everything that needs to happen with the kids during the day happens from the “home base” of their business on Park Street. Occasionally, Emily will need to come in late or leave early to accommodate home visits, court hearings, doctor’s appointments, sick kiddos, or a trip to the gym. When she’s gone Steve takes over as both master technician and receptionist.
“One of the ways we keep our sanity is by drawing a pretty firm boundary between work and home life outside of work hours,” says Steve. “We have a business cell phone that gets turned off and stays at the shop when we head home for the evening. That helps us stay focused on the kids and each other outside of work hours. The same thing applies to the weekends. Weekends are family time and we try really hard to keep it that way.”
They also rely heavily on the support they receive from their church family at Front Range Christian Church and being part of CRAFF (Castle Rock Adoptive and Foster Families), a local support group for families who are currently fostering children, have completed adoptions, or are preparing for or discerning whether to foster or adopt. In fact, Neighborhood Auto Care houses the CRAFF Resource Closet, full of donated items available for use by any foster or adoptive family in the community. They have everything from car seats and strollers to clothes and diapers to pack n plays and cribs. Many times, foster parents will not know what age or gender child they could be called to take in, and some emergency placements can happen in a matter of hours. The CRAFF Resource Closet provides a source for last-minute needed items so foster families don’t have to rush out to Walmart to get items they may need.
Though life can be hectic at times, the Kloter’s wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have many people ask us, ‘How you do you do it? How do you not get attached to your foster kids? How do you run a business with three little ones?’” says Emily.
Steve responds, “I’ve been a gearhead since I started going to monster truck shows with my dad and working on my own car as a teenager. I love being a dad and I love running our shop. So it’s a win-win getting to see the kids during the day and have them be a part of our business.”
And how to they not get attached to their foster kids? Emily says, “You do. You get attached. You love them as if they were your own kids, even though they’re not. And if and when they leave, you’re devastated. But it’s worth it. For them to have had a secure and stable home with parents who loved them when they needed it most.’”
For more information about foster care and adoption or to schedule an appointment with Neighborhood Auto Care, call (303) 946-4090.