Ten years ago when Dana and Alan Steele of Chesapeake, Virginia, decided to pursue adoption, they never dreamed their family of five would grow to a family of 14. Today with a house full of kids, they couldn’t imagine life any other way.
Deciding to adopt
After all three of their biological children, Brendan, Kevin and Kara, reached their teen and early-adulthood years, Dana and Alan decided they wanted to add one more child to the family. They originally pursued private adoptions, but after several let downs felt adoption from foster care was the route to go.
“We were going to go through a birth mom placement, but quickly realized that it was too heartbreaking when we didn't get chosen,” the Steeles said.
They were living in San Diego, Calif., at the time and eventually connected with Angels Foster Family Network , which specializes in placing infants and toddlers into foster homes.
“We had our first placement within days. It was a baby girl named Aimee who was exposed to drugs in utero,” the Steeles said.
Within a year of adopting Aimee, the Steeles moved across the country to Virginia. They almost immediately signed up for Virginia’s required pre-service training to become licensed for foster care and adoption.
“We had a big house and thought why not. It just kind of snowballed from there,” they said.
Over the course of the next few years, the Steeles adopted eight more children ranging in ages from 22 to three months old. The first three of those adoptions were similar to Aimee’s in that the children, Jake, Tawnee and Taylor, were exposed to trauma either in utero or as a baby.
Adopting children with special needs
“As we started getting training and dealing with other babies and toddlers who had the same problems, we were sort of in that special needs niche. We realized that they’re just like any other kid,” the Steeles said.
When they first set out to pursue adoption, the term special needs had a different meaning to the Steeles. “We were thinking blind, in a wheelchair and can’t speak. Then we found out a lot of times it could just mean the child is older, has siblings or is a different race than you,” they said.
The next two children the Steeles adopted, Eden and Evangel, were adult sisters ages 18 and 20 at the time of their adoption. Soon to follow was 22-year-old Hanna who the Steeles met while on a mission trip in Ethiopia.
“A lot of kids that have, quote unquote, problems are because they don’t have anyone there for them or stability in their lives. We just think kids need permanency and it’s something we can do,” they said.
The Steeles have rounded out their family in the last year with the adoptions of Ana Karen, 17, of Mexico and Cassandre, 16, of Virginia who they found through AdoptUsKids’ partner site for Virginia Adoption Photolistings.
“While our family seems to be ever evolving, and we never know what God is going to do next, it’s always exciting and always a blessing for us.
“If you’re thinking about adopting, there’s so much you can do even though you don’t think you can. By making the difference in just one kid’s life, you make the difference in thousands of people’s lives,” the Steeles said.
AdoptUSKids is a service of the U.S. Children’s Bureau and has been in operation since 2002 by the Adoption Exchange Association under a cooperative agreement (grant #90CQ0003). The mission of AdoptUSKids is two-fold: to raise public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system; and to assist U.S. States, Territories, and Tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families and connect them with children.