The names of the young people and children in this story have been excluded in order to protect their identities.
Susan Fischer used to get in fights.
Small in stature as a kid, Fischer got picked on by bigger kids who saw her height as a weakness. By the time she was 9 years old, she’d developed a thick outer skin to fend off hurled fists and hateful insults in school hallways.
Defending herself was only part of it though — young people in middle school and high school can be crueler than many care to remember or imagine. She’d stick up for countless other kids being bullied too.
“I was always defending the underdog,” Fischer said. “I never started the fights, but if there was someone getting picked on just because they were different or made to feel bad because of who they were, I was right there to support them and stand up for them.”
Now 54 and a single mom living on a farm in Forsyth County, she’s still doing just that.
In her lifetime, Fischer has raised (or, is in the process of raising) 12 kids with varying types and degrees of special needs. In the middle of that, she also managed to find time to raise two children of her own.
Seven of the children have grown up and now live lives of their own.
Currently, five adopted children live with her on the sprawling farm home, which at any given time boasts 15 dogs, 20 cats, a donkey, two potbelly pigs, goats, chickens, ducks and a Guinea fowl. All of the critters have been rescued from tough circumstances.
Some of the animals get adopted out as part of the family’s pet rescue, while others tend to stick around a little longer, sometimes living out their lives on the Fischer Farm.
“A lot of animals live their whole lives with us because they’re not adoptable. We have some limping ducks and a grumpy pig and a donkey that’s not people-friendly,” Fischer said, taking members of the Forsyth County News on a tour of her property on a recent December afternoon. “And, that’s OK. My kids like to share the love they feel with these farm animals, because, just like the pets here, they’re getting a second chance at life.”
A second chance
In addition to the pet rescue, the Fischer Farm has a community garden at the top of the hill. They sell produce as well as eggs laid by the ducks and chickens. Money is in short supply for the family, but they supplement their income with the little bit made from the community garden and pet rescue, which Susan said are more like nonprofit organizations than businesses because most of the money comes from donations.
The remainder of Susan’s income comes from money she made after she sold a daycare center and private school she used to own. There’s also some adoption assistance from the government. She said the family scrapes by as best they can.
“Financially, we make it work, but if you actually knew how much money we brought in verses how many people there are here at this house, you’d go ‘oh no, we can’t live on that,’” she said. “Because, it’s all about being extremely frugal. We don’t go out to eat but once a month. We don’t go on vacation, because there’s no money to do that. We have only one car (a 12-passenger van). Nobody drives but me.”
The van comfortably seats her current number of adopted children.
As to why she’d want to be guardian of so many young people, Fischer said it’s part of God’s plan.
“I’ve known since I was 11 years old that I wanted 12 adopted kids and two birth kids,” Fischer said.
Currently, she has three high schoolers, a second grader and a preschool aged child at her home. Each child has a challenge to overcome.
“It ranges from autism to Asperger’s to a traumatic brain injury,” she said. “They all had fetal alcohol syndrome and one has cerebral palsy. They’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”
All of her children were homeschooled until several reached high school age. Three of her children attend a local high school in Forsyth County, one attends an elementary school and another is homeschooled because of his age.
All of her 12 children range in age from 33 to 3, and they come from a diverse background.
“It’s a cultural rainbow here,” she said. “I have black and white and biracial and Hispanic.”
They love their momma
People ask all the time how she does it.
“God and I do it together,” said Fischer, who has been divorced and single for about 20 years. “Everybody in this family has chores and jobs and everybody helps each other out, and you just do it as a family. If you’ve got three kids, you might as well have 12 because you only have two hands.”
If she doesn’t answer her phone, folks who know Fischer get the following message: “I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m either holding a kid or an animal.”
Ronny Roach of Cumming knows just how busy Fischer can get. He’s been doing handyman work for the family for about five years and gets a firsthand glimpse every few weeks of the entire operation.
“She does a good job of taking care of those kids,” Roach said. “She’s a hardworking woman, and she does more good in this world than almost anybody you can imagine.”
Added Roach: “Her biggest asset is her heart.”
Scott Frederick, who is the swim coach for three of Fischer’s children, said Fischer is “really good with those kids. She’s stern to them as needed, and she knows exactly what each kid needs. To her, it’s no big deal. You’d never know she’s got so many children, because she doesn’t complain or really talk that much about it.”
He went on to say that she is “so unassuming when you meet her … and, she’s just an amazing person.”
When praised for the good she does, Fischer is quick to dismiss it.
“I’m just doing what I need to do,” she said, but acknowledges that if it wasn’t for her the young people in her care might have tougher lives.
“These kids, there’s no telling where they would have been if they hadn’t been adopted and they’ve done exceptionally well … They’re very well-mannered and well-disciplined and they’re just great kids and they love their momma and they feel safe and loved here.”
She will defend them until the day she dies, Fischer said. Because, just like the young people in her care, Fischer was born with the desire to love and to be loved.
As she fought in her school days to protect herself and others from the bullies of an unfair world, Fischer stands up for these 12 with the heart and ferocity of a prizefighter.
“I’ll be there for them,” Fischer said. “Because it’s God’s plan for me.”