South Hadley couple Foster Parents of Year

  • TJ Litovich, 7, plays with bubbles in the backyard with his family Friday afternoon in South Hadley. His parents, Marianna Litovich and Kelley Fike, have been named Foster Parents of the Year by the state Department of Children and Families. DAN LITTLE

  • Marianna Litovich, left, makes frosting for brownies with her children TJ, 7, Shawn, 5, and Luca, 3, Friday afternoon at their home in South Hadley. DAN LITTLE

  • Parents Marianna Litovich, left, and Kelley Fike stand for a portrait with their children TJ Litovich, 7, center, Shawn Litovich, 5, and Luca Litovich, 5, while holding their current short-term foster care infant. DAN LITTLE

  • Marianna Litovich, right, watches her sons TJ Litovich, 7, center, and Luca Litovich, 3, play in their backyard sandbox Friday afternoon in South Hadley. —DAN LITTLE

  • Marianna Litovich, right, helps tie the shoes of her son TJ Litovich, 7, before play time in the backyard Friday afternoon in South Hadley. —DAN LITTLE

  • Kelley Fike, left, plays with her son TJ Litovich, 7, in their backyard Friday afternoon in South Hadley. —DAN LITTLE

  • TJ Litovich, 7, plays with bubbles in the backyard with his family Friday afternoon in South Hadley. —DAN LITTLE

  • TJ Litovich, 7, left, and his brother Shawn Litovich, 5, play with bubbles in the backyard Friday afternoon in South Hadley. —DAN LITTLE

Published: 6/24/2016 10:07:07 PM

SOUTH HADLEY – The idea of children growing up without families is something that keeps Marianna Litovich up at night. She and her partner, Kelley Fike, are working to change that reality for young people in the state’s foster-care system.

Their efforts gained the attention of the state Department of Children and Families, which named the South Hadley couple Foster Parents of the Year.

During a June 5 ceremony in Framingham, DCF Commissioner Linda Spears, Lauren Baker, wife of the governor, and state Rep. James J. O’Day, D-West Boylston, commended the couple for their advocacy work. The title is awarded annually to foster parents in each of five geographic regions in the state.

For Litovich and Fike, family is not defined by biological relation. They adopted their first son TJ, now 7, from the foster-care system in 2012. TJ’s brother Shawn, now 5, joined their family by adoption from the system in 2015. Their 3-year-old son Luca was born into the family.

Litovich said she and Fike felt compelled by the plight of children in the foster care system and she always intended to adopt.“These kids are in our backyards and they need families,” she said. In addition to parenting their three boys, the couple has provided respite and short-term foster care for two infants.

“There are so many kids in need out there,” Fike agreed. “If we can promote a little happiness and provide a little stability in their lives, that’s the least we can do.”

Department of Children and Families data as of June 2 show that roughly 738 children age 17 and younger are living in DCF foster homes in the western Massachusetts region. “If these kids aren't adopted, and many are not, it means that they grow up without someone in their corner,” Litovich said.

“I couldn't not do something about that,” she added.

But the recognition the couple seeks is not for themselves. Instead, they are rallying to build community support for young children as they transition to permanent families.

“Litovitch and Fike are a stellar example of parents committed to making the lives of children better in a system faced with many challenges,” said Noryn Resnick, founder of HelpOurKids, a nonprofit that aims to improve the lives of children in western Massachusetts foster care. Resnick said the system is overburdened and while the  state provides the basics to assist foster parents, there are limited funds for additional support. HelpOurKids is working on that front, said Resnick. She and Litovitch have collaborated to better meet the needs of children in the system, including communicating the need for more families.

Resnick said some babies are bouncing around every 24 hours. Her organization tries to provide support that can enable families to take a child into their home, such as requests for “cribs, sports registration and music lessons.”

She referred to Litovitch and Fike as “unsung heroes in their tireless work providing stability and support” for children in and outside of their home.

But for Litovitch, the choice was an obvious one. “There’s nobody else to do it,” she said.  “And now having been a foster parent, adoptive parent, and a parent by birth, I have been fortunate to experience the unique joys that each experience brings.

“I just wish we could take them all,” she added, agreeing with Resnick on the significant need for available foster homes in the Pioneer Valley. 

People interested in learning more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent may call 1-800-KIDS-508 or visit Mass.Gov’s DCF section. To learn about ways to support  children in care, visit

Sarah Crosby can be reached at

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