WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Richard and Debbie Burch can tell you exactly where they met.
"We met at the Holiday Inn in Charleston," Richard said.
"At W.T. Apples," she added.
"I cooked," Richard said. "Debbie waited tables."
The pair have been married for 29 years. Part of the secret to their long marriage, they say, is they both believe strongly in family. They love being parents.
Debbie, 50, is a registered nurse. Richard, 51, dabbles in real estate and rental properties -- he fixes up old houses and turns them into rental units.
But those are just day jobs for their regular occupations as foster parents.
Sitting at their dining room table while their two boys, Matthew, 9, and Peyton, 4, watch cartoons in the next room, the Burches talk about the 13 foster children who have stayed with them.
"Some of the older kids, we still see them," Richard said proudly. "They're not just kids we kept; they're our kids. We're part of their lives. They're part of ours."
Their first foster child, a teen named C.J., recently got married.
"To a very nice girl," Richard added.
The Burches began taking foster children into their home about seven years ago, though it was something they had considered for a while.
Richard grew up in New York. His family moved to Kanawha County when he was a teenager, then to South Carolina after he and Debbie married. The couple followed.
While Richard worked in food management and Debbie started nursing jobs, they began a family. They had a boy, Richard, and a girl, Rachel.
The idea of becoming a foster family, they say, came from Debbie's job. Working as a home health nurse, one of her clients was an elderly couple.
"They had like 20 foster kids," Debbie said.
It seemed like something the Burches could do, as a family.
Richard said they found a neighborhood child in tough circumstances and took him in -- unofficially.
"We'd get permission to take him with us on vacation, things like that," he said. "That's pretty much how it all got started."
But their involvement with fostering children in South Carolina didn't go much beyond that.
Richard said, "I'd say that's where we got indoctrinated, but it was almost a decade before we got back into it."
Return and tragedy
The Burches didn't stay in South Carolina. Following the death of Richard's father, his family began to set out on their own. In 1999, the couple brought their kids back to West Virginia to be close to Debbie's family.
What was a happy return turned tragic a year later when 13-year-old Richard died suddenly while at school.
Twelve years later, they still feel his loss. Their son's death isn't something they feel comfortable casually discussing in their dining room.
"He had a heart condition," Richard said. "The story was in the newspaper."
And that's all they want to say about it, except that the loss of their son eventually spurred them to consider opening their home to other children.
Learning to parent again
"Even when we decided that was what we wanted to do," Debbie said, "it took a while."
Richard laughed and listed what he could remember off the top of his head. "Background checks, classes, home inspections and visits."