The family giving sick babies a loving home for their last days

Cori and Mark Salchert with their children on the day Charlie's adoption became official.
Cori and Mark Salchert with their children on the day Charlie's adoption became official.  Photo: Supplied

They are sick and dying, but just like all babies they need to be loved - so Cori and Mark Salchert are determined to give their foster children all the care and cuddles they deserve.

The US couple are foster carers for what Cori calls "hospice babies", the infants who have a life-limiting diagnosis and whose parents have given up guardianship of them.

Cori became aware of the infants through her work as a registered nurse and a perinatal bereavement specialist of the Hope After Loss Organization.

Cori Salchert with her adopted son Charlie.
Cori Salchert with her adopted son Charlie.  Photo: Supplied

"There was no judgment on my part that the parents should just be able to deal with the circumstances," Cori, from Wisconsin, told Sheboygan Press. "But I thought, 'Wow, I would really like to take those kiddos and care for them.'"

When Cori was struck with an autoimmune disorder about five years ago she was left without a job and feeling hopeless.

"My prayer at that time was asking how God could possibly use this for good," Cori said.

It was then that Cori and Mark, who have eight children of their own, decided it was time to start fostering sick infants in need of a home.

The first baby they took home with them was Emmalynn in August 2012. The newborn did not have the left or right hemispheres of her brain, only the brain stem.

Emmalynn lived for just 50 days and passed away while being cuddled against her foster mother's chest as the pair sat alone in the family's kitchen one night.

"Emmalynn lived more in 50 days than most people do in a lifetime," Cori told Sheboygan Press.

The family's next foster child was Jayden. Despite his prognosis, the little boy overcame his medical challenges while the Salcherts were caring for him and he was eventually adopted by a cousin of his biological parents.

While missing Jayden and grieving for Emmalynn, Cori wondered if she could cope with fostering another sick child. Then she asked her children what they thought.

Everyone agreed the family should welcome another foster child into their home, and one of Cori's daughters said: "Mum, what if some kid really needs us and you're just sitting here with a broken heart?"

One week later the family was matched with baby Charlie - .a little boy who has hypoxic ischemic brain encephalopathy. 

The condition means Charlie is dependent on a tracheostomy, a ventilator and tube feeding. The baby boy's complex needs meant the family spent some time at hospital learning to care for him before taking him home on December 18. 

Cori admits she was initially overwhelmed by Charlie's medical needs and equipment, and, in particular, the fact the little boy would not be able to breathe if she made a wrong move.

"But God told me we're going to kick this fear in the butt. It's okay to be afraid, but never let fear cripple your life," Cori explained.

The family is honest about the reality of caring for terminally ill children, but is also determined to make a difference while they can.

"He will die, there's no changing that," Cori said. "But we can make a difference in how he lives, and the difference for Charlie is that he will be loved before he dies."

"These children need nurses, but the overarching thing is, they need mums.

"Too many people never do anything because they can't do everything and can't save everyone.

"For me, even though I can't help every child, I'm happy to make a difference in the lives of a few."