This story was originally published by reporter Brittany Falkers at KGW 8 News in Oregon in May 2020 and updated in February 2021.
The family calls it “controlled chaos.”
“We have eight children; four boys and four girls,” dad, Mark, said.
However, this big, happy family was not quite complete until Wednesday, last week.
“I’ve always wanted to adopt. That was something that was always a plan of mine,” mom, Celeste, said.
Mark, a sheriff’s deputy, and Celeste, a stay-at-home mom, always knew their family wouldn’t stop growing with their five biological children.
“She talked about it [adopting] when we first got engaged, and then I guess it was four years ago, she said, ‘Well, it’s time to adopt now,’” Mark said.
Anyone who has gone through the adoption process knows that it is a long road. When the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and A Family for Every Child connected them with three siblings — more than halfway across the nation in Missouri — they knew they found that missing piece.
“I never was okay with one [child] because I always felt like it was important that if we have five biological kids that one kid isn’t out there on their own and have nothing in common with anyone else and feel alone,” Celeste said.
After years of searching, hoping and working with the systems, seven-year-old Jermesha, six-year-old Floyd, and five-year-old Jermain came to Oregon in March 2019
Then, on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, the trio officially became members of the family. The virtual adoption happened over the phone.
The official adoption was more about crossing T’s and dotting the I’s. They say Jermesha, Floyd and Jermain were theirs long before.
“They had a hunger for a family and our kids had a hunger to add siblings,” Mark said. “And so, it was just a bond from the very beginning.”
There were a lot of ups and downs during the three-year adoption process, but Celeste is a woman of faith and says these kids were meant to be part of her family.
“Being on the timetable of when the lord wants it to happen — it’s going to happen,” Celeste said.
For Mark, that confirmation didn’t come until their first visit after they met the kids and were getting ready to leave.
“We went to leave and Jermain, the youngest of our three youngest children, he has these big puppy dog eyes, and he just looked at us as we were leaving,” Mark said. “He was trying to say, ‘I want to go with you,’ and it just broke my heart. I didn’t know how I could ever let myself, look at myself in the mirror again knowing that that kid was pleading with me from his soul to my soul. So, that was the first thing that I knew that I needed to be a father to these kids.”
This rugged sheriff’s deputy melted. He had met the children he never knew he was missing.
It’s been a long road to get here for Celeste and Mark and even more so for their three adopted children.
Jermesha, Floyd and Jermain were separated in foster homes, suffered malnourishment and abuse.
“They’ve been through so much and I don’t know what we can provide them other than love and a stable home,” Mark said.
That is the reality for many children across the country right now.
“They have multiple wounds of trauma, not only from the abuse itself, but potentially from multiple moves, from just the trauma of being separated from family,” said Rita Soronen, President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Soronen says kids in foster care are facing even more anxiety and isolation during this pandemic.
Children and teens in foster care often have a higher rate of acute health conditions than the general population and group homes put them at higher risk of exposure.
The global health crisis has also put a delay on many adoptions.
“Not every court is able to or wants to pivot to technology in order to finalize adoptions. So, we’re encouraging through our programs, to utilize the platforms we have. To utilize Zoom, to utilize Microsoft Teams, whatever they have because once we’ve gotten to that adoption finalization all of the work is done,” Soronen said.
That’s why social workers and recruiters like Edna are working overtime.
“Even during this pandemic — we had something glorious that happened during a pandemic,” said Edna.
Edna is a recruiter with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Edna oversaw Jermesha, Floyd and Jermain’s adoption process and helped bring them to Oregon to live with the family in 2019.
She says when she met Celeste and Mark, she knew she found the perfect match.
“Celeste is that once in a lifetime person you’re going to meet in this world. It’s her energy, it’s the way she talks, it’s her compassion, it’s how she says she can meet these kids needs,” Edna said.
Things haven’t always been easy and taking life one day at a time is just part of adoption.
These kids have been through trauma, but with the proper resources and a whole lot of love they are thriving.
The kids are getting to try new things like fishing and wrestling — all surrounded by support.
They hope their happy ending will inspire others.
“People say this to me all the time, ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing.’ And I tell them, that’s not true. Yes, you can. If we can do it with what we have and our resources, you can do it too,” Mark said.
More than 120,000 children are waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States. Download our free step-by-step guide to learn more about foster care adoption and get started on your journey.