SONORA, Calif. - Two former special education teachers who share their home with nine disabled children, young and old, are struggling to keep the family together following a series of financial setbacks.
"We adopted all of them knowing they were disabled," Carole Kohler-Crowe said. "And we meant for this to be their life home."
Carole and her spouse Cheryl Kohler-Crowe moved to Sonora from the Bay Area in 2001. With a substantial nest egg, they were able to add six bedrooms to a three-bedroom house on three acres and make the entire home accessible.
Their adopted children range in age from 2 to 49 with a wide range of disabilities - some the result of almost unimaginable abuse.
Some family members require around-the-clock care and supervision, and the couple pays for nursing staff and aides to help with some of the more strenuous chores.
They said the monthly PG&E bill alone runs about $3,000.
Government adoption assistance provided as much as $5,000 per month for the most profoundly disabled children, but as each child reaches adulthood, monthly aid drops to as little as $600. Only two of the nine adoptees are still under 18.
The couple, both in their late 60s, planned to offset the reduction through real estate investments and took out life insurance to allow their children to stay together after the women are gone.
But Cheryl Kohler-Crowe said their investments went sour during the recession and the couple has tapped their life savings.
"I would bet we can make a couple more house payments and then I think we're done," she said.
Friends have launched a fundraising campaign to try to keep the family together. The alternative is for the family to be split up and sent to various group and nursing homes, which Carole Kohler-Crowe said would be a tragedy.
"I don't think any child should be without a home and a family," she said.
You can help by donating to the Kohler-Crowe Family at www.kcrelief.com