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After Anna Rose, mother of three and collector of stray animals, tentatively expresses interest in becoming a foster parent during a PTA tour of a children's home, the director, Miss Kenyon, arrives unannounced at the Rose household with a sullen teenager, Jane, who needs a place to stay for two weeks. Anna's good-natured husband George, called "Poppy" by the family, is reluctant to add to his motley household of kids and pets, which is swelling with the birth of a litter of kittens. However, recognizing what he calls "the gleam in Anna's eye," he does not interfere with her need to do good. Jane, an abused child with a history of suicide attempts, is at first distrusting and abrasive, but after Anna realizes that she is resentful of her dependence on others, who, in the past, have not wanted her, Anna finds her small paying jobs to help her feel self-reliant. During Jane's first baby-sitting job, which Anna arranged with their friends, the Foremans, Jane proves to be dependable and resourceful, and after two weeks, she is amiable, happy and loved by the Roses, who want her to stay permanently. Later, Anna arranges with Miss Kenyon for a young handicapped boy, Jimmy-John, to accompany them on vacation to the beach. Poppy, who had hoped to spend more adult time with Anna now that the children were settled, insists that his engineer's salary cannot afford another child, but relents after seeing the harsh conditions in which Jimmy-John lives. However, Jimmy-John, who compensates for his leg braces and difficulties in school with a mean-spirited reserve, hits the Roses' daughter Trot, destroys one of the boys' bicycles during a tantrum, and is caught peeking in the girls' window. Although Poppy solves the latter problem by explaining to the inquisitive boy how babies are born, the family is nearly convinced that Jimmy-John is more than they can handle. As Poppy prepares to take him back to Miss Kenyon, however, the children generously give him a reprieve. Back at home, Jimmy-John continues to throw tantrums when he is frustrated with his disabilities, until he is introduced to the Boy Scouts at a meeting held in the Rose home. Using the Boy Scout manual as a primer, he learns to read and is further challenged to earn merit badges, and as his self-confidence grows, he becomes more lovable. Later, at a PTA meeting, featured speaker Anna describes the "fun" of raising foster children, but during the question period, Poppy wonders aloud if her husband is neglected. She answers that her husband is respected and loved by every member of the family. Later, Jane's distress at being asked to the New Year's Eve prom by her beau, Ben, confuses Poppy and Rose, until the children explain that a formal evening gown is required for the occasion, which they cannot afford. As a Christmas gift, Anna alters her own evening dress for Jane, who is thrilled, until Teenie, the Roses' youngest, unflinchingly honest son announces that the dress "stinks." The children return their Christmas gifts to raise the money to buy Jane a new dress, but on the day of the prom, Jane is stood up by Ben, whose mother disapproves of her background. After sending Jane to the prom with their oldest son Tim, Poppy confronts Ben's parents at their home and persuades them to allow him to take Ben to the prom. There Poppy discovers that Jane is finding plenty of dance partners. Meanwhile, Jimmy-John undertakes a ten-mile hike required for a merit badge, which is made especially difficult by the cold weather and his leg braces, and he is late in returning. Poppy drives around until he finds Jimmy-John valiantly determined to succeed. When the annual Boy Scout Court of Honor is held, Jimmy-John is awarded the Boy Scout's highest honor, the Eagle badge. When asked to speak, Jimmy-John attributes his success to his luck in choosing his own parents. Later, the Foremans invite all five Rose children to spend the night at their house. After Poppy cheerfully bids each child a good night, he and Anna return home for a well-earned night to themselves.