Guardian Angels of NorthBay’s NICU

Corinne and Roger Vogel have embraced the needs of more than 120 medically fragile children over the years, and have established a fund through NorthBay Healthcare Foundation to assure that their legacy of caring continues.

With deft and practiced movements, Corinne Vogel, 72, of Fairfield scoops up a 3-month-old boy from his bassinette and cradles him in one arm, while answering the phone with her free hand.

It’s a social worker checking in. Corinne, a veteran foster mom, answers questions while grabbing a bottle from the refrigerator. She scoops up a handful of pretzels and places them on the table as she calmly sits down.

The Vogels share their story now in hopes that it will encourage others to become foster parents.

Her husband, Roger, also 72, joins her, cradling a 4-month-old girl who quietly watches the activity around her. Next to them is a tow-headed toddler in leg braces. Sitting in a high chair, he giggles as he picks up the pretzels one by one, clearly enjoying his treat.

They may look like seasoned grandparents enjoying a visit, but make no mistake, this couple has mastered all the parental chores and then some. They’ve served as foster parents to scores of medically fragile children in the past 40 years.

They’ve learned to deal not only with midnight feedings, tummy aches and active toddlers, but with respirators, drug withdrawals and countless therapy appointments around Northern California.

“I’ve been working with the Vogels for 28 years,” says Kathy Smith, supervisor of the Pediatric Program at NorthBay Healthcare. “They are a vital part of our care team. They may have a child for a few days, months or sometimes years, and they treat them as if they are their own. These children thrive under the love and care they give.”

Since 1973, the Vogels have provided a home and health care to more than 120 children. Of those, six children have never left their care, Roger explains, as they were adopted into the Vogel family. These special additions join their five biological children. In all, the Vogel children range in age from 22 to 45.

Fostering was not something they aspired to do as newlyweds, Corinne explains. When their first biological child was just over 2 years old, the notion came to them through a Bible passage. “We realized there are so many kids out there, and they need help. And, in the Bible it says to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless.”

They were living in Pennsylvania at the time, but became licensed in California when Roger’s job with Chevron brought them to Fairfield—and NorthBay—in 1985, the year after NorthBay opened its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Through the years we have developed good working relationships with pediatricians, the NICU nurses and pediatric respiratory and physical therapists at NorthBay,” Roger says.

“We take the children to the pediatricians or specialists they’re already seeing, because we believe in consistency,” Corinne says, even if it means making daily or weekly treks to pediatricians or specialists in Vaca-ville, Fairfield, Oakland, Sacramento or San Francisco.

“Our foster children may have been drug-exposed, have medical conditions a parent is not able to handle, have suffered neglect or abuse,” explains Corinne. “We’ve cared for children who have suffered burns, have fetal alcohol syndrome, spina bifida, cleft palates or have trouble swallowing.”

The Vogels are well respected within the system for what they do, says Kelly McMahon, speech language pathologist with NorthBay Healthcare. “Fostering these children is a demanding job, physically and emotionally, but Corinne and Roger do it with such grace that it looks easy.”

Kelly notes the Vogel home bustles with the constant flow of visitors—from social workers to therapists and early interventionists. “People are constantly in their space, but it doesn’t seem to faze them,” says Kelly. “They strive to give that individual child whatever he or she needs.”

The Vogels are humble, but proudly share success stories and special memories. “The first child we fostered came to us at 10 weeks old and had a heart condition,” recalls Roger. “She now is grown, has three kids of her own, and lives in Sacramento. She was also the first one we adopted.”

And then there is the young lady adopted at age 5. “She came to us as a failure to thrive at three months. She had been drug-exposed,” he adds. “She had such a tough start. But, two years ago she graduated from Fresno State University on a swimming scholarship. Now she is married and just had her own baby a few months ago.”

In 2010, the Vogels were honored with the “Outstanding Foster Parents” award by the American Society for Public Administration’s Section on Democracy and Social Justice. “The Vogels are an exceptional family,” said Supervisor John Vasquez at the time. “They demonstrate compassion, love, faith, and above all, the hope that these children need so they know there is a better day possible.”

The Vogels share their story now in hopes that it will encourage others to become foster parents. “There really is a shortage of people who can care for the medically fragile,” says Roger. “And, we established an annuity through NorthBay Healthcare Foundation so that the NICU will continue to receive funds into the future. We’d like others to consider something like that, too.”

“NorthBay has provided such valuable, essential services, we wanted to give back,” Corinne adds. “Setting up an annuity was a way for us to ensure that these essential services are there for others.”

They have no plans to retire as there are children who need them, admits Corinne. “It’s so rewarding to take these little guys with such problems, get the medical care they need, give them attention, and watch them blossom.”

A Gift Guaranteed for Life

Corinne and Roger Vogel have made the care of children a cornerstone of their legacy, by establishing a charitable gift annuity through NorthBay Healthcare Foundation. Charitable gift annuities provide purchasers with a fixed stream of income, a portion of which is tax-free and also generates a significant tax deduction.

Payments from a gift annuity are based on the age of the donors, and are guaranteed for life. After they no longer need the income, the Vogels have instructed that the remainder of the annuity be used by NorthBay Healthcare Foundation to create a permanent fund that will support the NorthBay Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

NorthBay Healthcare Foundation is the only Solano County-based nonprofit organization officially licensed by the state of California to offer charitable gift annuities. For more information, contact Brett Johnson, president of the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation at (707) 646-3130.

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