Empty Nesters Take in 7 Orphaned Siblings: ‘I knew I was supposed to be their mom’
The California couple had been planning to retire soon, but after learning that a car tragedy had left seven children orphaned, they changed their minds and were happy to put their retirement on hold so that they could take care of the kids.
The following is an account of their lives that is both fascinating and uplifting.
The Couple’s Preparation
A couple in Menifee, California, was getting ready for retirement in 2019. They were Pam Willis, age 49, and Gary Willis, age 52, of whom the latter was a U.S. Navy veteran. Many of the couple’s life’s most significant moments had already happened.
They raised five children: Matthew, Andrew, Alexa, Sophia, and Sam, and their home had six bedrooms. Everyone was an adult now and had their own place. So when Pam and Gary finally found themselves without responsibilities, they set their sights on retirement.
A Facebook Post That Altered The Couple’s Lives
A single post on Facebook would alter the course of the couple’s lives, but they had no idea at first. When Pam was on Facebook in 2019, she saw a post about children in foster care. Seven siblings were looking for a permanent family.
The young people’s faces captivated Pam’s attention. She told The Sun, “When I saw the news about the kids, it made me so sad.” She remarked that when she saw their picture, she knew they needed a “forever home.”
You’ll see in a minute the heartwarming tale.
Pam Felt A Sense Of Connection
The untimely death of the children’s parents was the result of an automobile accident in May 2018. In order for the children to be eligible for the foster care system, they needed to be treated in a hospital first because they were also injured in the accident.
Pam read the Facebook post that the children were looking for a forever home and were available for adoption. She stated this to TODAY’s Parents, “I can’t explain it. I just knew I was supposed to be their mom.”
The couple didn’t plan to adopt during their retirement, but Pam was now rethinking. She was saddened when she learned that the kids had been in foster care for a year.
Pam included a tag for her hubby in the message so he would see it and get the idea. Initially, she thought her husband, Gary, would think she was crazy since they were getting ready to retire. What’s more, it could be a great gamble to make a decision like that so quickly.
So what did Gary make of it all?
Gary’s Interest In Having More Kids
She wasn’t sure if Gary would support her impulsive decision to adopt. That day Gary’s arrival at home caught her off guard. But after hearing Pam’s story, he looked at her and replied, “Yeah, we should adopt those kids.”
Even after hearing their stories, Gary had no reservations about adopting these kids. To which Pam added. “He kind of blew my mind when he said that because I thought I was going to have to put up some convincing.”
Discover the Willis family’s battle for the seven kids.
No Second Thoughts
There was no hesitation on the part of Pam and Gary to commence the adoption procedure. Pam reminisced. “It was one of those moments where we were both really feeling that that was what we were being called to do,” Pam declared.
They both dreaded an empty house since their kids had their own lives now. Pam added that she didn’t want to have so many empty rooms with no one to live in them.
A problem occurred along the way, though.
The Desire To Adopt The Kids
Pam and Gary decided to adopt that night, so they called the number listed in the post. It seemed that they were not alone in this. In fact, they were told the number from the post had already received thousands of calls inquiring about adoption.
Although they considered giving up, the couple was determined to keep trying. Pam contacted the adoption service weekly to indicate how much she wanted to help. The pair also had previous foster-child experiences.
Pam and Gary were well-prepared to welcome many children at once.
They Had Been Foster Parents Before
Pam and Gary were already experienced as foster parents. The pair could afford to take in a couple more children at once, thanks to the size of their home. Their biological kids also got to know their foster kids.
In most cases, their foster children end up being adopted by a member of their family or close personal friend. However, these seven youngsters had no one to turn to for help. They had no choice but to rely on adoption, and Pam and Gary are more than willing to welcome them into their home.
First Meeting With The Kids
Pam and Gary were able to meet the children at the adoption agency after waiting a few weeks for approval. Their ages ranged from fifteen to four–Adelino was 15, Ruby was 13, Aleecia was nine, Anthony was eight, Aubriella was seven, Leo was five, and Xander was four.
“From the moment we first met them, it was instant love,” according to Pam. She also added that when she looked at Gary, they both could see they were great kids and knew they were doing the right thing. They had made the correct decision to adopt.
Thank Heavens They Earned It!
Following two months of interviews and background checks, Pam and Gary were awarded permission to adopt the children. At long last, they would be able to be with the children. Pam asserted, “From the day we met them, they were ours.” It was to be a forever commitment in their eyes.
In addition to the vehicle accident, the children experienced other traumatic events. Therefore, the couple was aware that there was a long road ahead for them.
Next up: A look at the kids’ tough time adjusting to their new surroundings.
Their Challenging Life Before Adoption
It turns out that the kids had had to deal with more than just the trauma of the vehicle crash. Their parents were both addicts and poor. They had been homeless and had trouble finding food for their family prior to the disaster.
“We were just kind of open to whatever, knowing that these kids had been through extra trauma,” Pam mentioned. “They were actually in the accident with their parents, so they all had been injured. They all had been through hospitalizations… we knew they had been through a lot.”
The Period Of Adjustment
There were varying degrees of adjustment for each child after moving in with the Willis’. Xander, Leo, Aubriella, Anthony, and Aleecia, the youngest children, soon adjusted to their new surroundings. For the most part, the kids were really approachable. “It was easy to connect with the little ones. They were just desperately craving permanency,” Pam explained.
Adelino and Ruby, the teens, had a more difficult time. Pam implied to TODAY that it seemed they weren’t confident their new home was legitimate and feared it might all go away.
Teenagers With Parent-Like Behavior
Ruby and Adelino, the oldest of seven, became parental figures to their siblings. Parentification is when a child adopts parental responsibilities. Growing up in such conditions is difficult. Being raised in such an environment is challenging.
For older kids, “I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life,” Pam commented. “Ruby didn’t know how to be a kid. She had to be a mother figure at a very young age.”
See how well the kids adjust to the new family.
Experiencing Nightmares In The Beginning
The first half year was a difficult one for the youngsters as they tried to settle in. They had trouble falling asleep and getting comfortable. Aleecia got up in the middle of the night, as Pam recounted on TODAY Parents.
She said her then-seven-year-old daughter came into the bedroom one night, and Pam asked if she had had a bad dream. To which the child replied, “No, I just wanted to make sure that you were still here.” They appeared to be in disbelief that they had finally found a place to call home.
Happy And Content Kids
Although it took time for the adopted kids to feel comfortable, they are now content. They currently refer to Pam and Gary as “mom” and “dad,” and their parents consider them “a joy” to be with.
“I have noticed how incredibly happy they are, and that makes me so happy, too, because that’s all we ask for,” Pam added. She told the story of the oldest of the seven, Adelino, who recently said to her, “thank you for giving us this life.” For Pam, there is no other feeling like that.
Shortly: The Willis family’s positive impact.
The Affection Between Older and Younger Siblings
According to their parents, Pam and Gary’s older siblings hit it off with their offspring right away. The older kids were used to having a bigger family because they had fostered so many younger kids. Together, they even toured the Disneyland Resort.
“My older kids were very welcoming and treated the younger ones like their own,” Pam retorted. “It is pretty full-on looking after seven children, so my older two daughters do help out whenever I need a hand,” the mother said.
Documenting Their Moments On Instagram
The Willis’ gradually started using Instagram to record their daily activities. Pam shared their family’s adoption story, which included seven children. “‘We knew deep inside that this mission was being placed before us,” she noted, then posed the question, if not them, then who?
“Who would keep them all together? Who would have the space for them? Who would have time, love, and patience for their trauma? The answer was clear… we would.” Their narrative sparked a movement of people who were impressed by their commitment.
Actress Kristen Bell’s discovery of the family’s Instagram account helped boost its visibility. A video clip entitled “Our life in 15 seconds!” caught her eye. It all started when Pam and Gary were teenagers and finished with their adoption.
Their followers exploded after Kristen Bell shared the video; they have more than 100,000 followers, and the number is still increasing. In addition, Pam occasionally provides material on fostering and adopting to her followers who express an interest in the subject matter.
However, the family was set to deal with yet another obstacle….
Thankfully, these challenging times did not continue indefinitely. The children ultimately became aware of the fact that Pam and Gary would never leave them. They were able to have a good time together, and by the year 2020, when the adoption procedure was finally finalized, all of the children had a sense that they belonged.
The adoption was approved in June 2020. Pam and Gary wanted to host a party for their seven adopted children, and they expected all five of their biological children to be there.
The Odds On The Celebration
As much as the Willis parents would have preferred to have all of their kids together, the widespread COVID-19 made that impossible. The adults were grounded after the adoption was finalized. Two of them were out-of-staters, and one of them was a new parent.
However, Gary and Pam desperately tried. Pam commented on Instagram, “It was SO important to me to make this day special, and SO important to me that all 12 of my children be together for the occasion.”
Will they be reunited? Please read on to discover.
Celebrating The Adoption Date
Pam and Gary delayed the celebration of their adoption by a year, waiting for the adoption’s first anniversary rather than the day it was finalized in court. By August, travel restrictions had been eased to the point that the biological children could go.
The adoption was formalized in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Diego, in which the whole Willis family gathered. However, they had additional plans to invite all of their loved ones to the party.
The Willis clan held a Livestream to share the joyous occasion with their loved ones. After touring the courthouse, they had lunch and played in a nearby park.
Pam said to TODAY Parents, “It was awesome,” “We brought a big TV screen out to the park so everybody could watch and cheer and be safe during COVID. There was so much love.” The party was not what they had imagined, but it was happy all the same because of all the love there.
New Found Happiness
The Willis family has already inspired millions of people around the world, but their tale is far from over, thanks to Instagram. It would appear that the seven kids and their parents have discovered a new source of joy in their relationships with one another.
Pam has great aspirations that telling their experience will inspire others to adopt or foster children. She says to her followers that just allowing people to open their hearts and minds to the thought of helping those in need is enough.