Editor's Note: Window on the Clearwater has joined the Wednesday's Child network to help spread the word about children that are waiting for families to give them the loving care that they need. This Wednesday we will profile a 'Wednesday's Family'. For more information about Wednesday's Child and how you can be involved check the web site at: http://www.idahowednesdayschild.org/.
The McDaniels are not your typical family. Most people would consider a family with 24 children (21 of them adopted) extraordinary, if not peculiar. But being different from other families isn't something that's ever bothered parents Tim and Shelly. In fact, they see themselves as a very normal family--just bigger. When Shelly is asked obvious questions by curious or even skeptical people, such as "How do you feed all those kids?" she promptly replies, "Just the same as anyone else. We just cook 50 hamburgers instead of four and use bigger bowls for the other dishes."
Coming together through adoption, being large in number, and being multi-cultural are just a few of the circumstances that make this family unique. They work together, play together, eat together, pray together, laugh together and yes, argue together. In the end, it is the caring relationship and cohesiveness of these mostly unrelated people that defines them as a family.
After parenting three biological children, Tim and Shelly chose adoption as a way to grow their family. They wanted to adopt children who were in the foster care system waiting for a family of their own.
"We wanted kids that were already here in this country to have a family," said Shelly. "Someone to share their joys and sorrows with, someone to bring their kids home to and come home to on holidays or when they needed help."
They never imagined when they started out that they would adopt so many. In several instances, one member of a scattered sibling group joined their family, then later asked for other siblings to "come for a visit." This led to guest sibs asking if they could stay, too. As they added children to their family, their confidence and skill level grew, as well as their joy of watching children thrive in their home.
When she speaks about the benefits of having a large family, Shelly is effusive. "Life is so much more fun! You never lack for a friend! Sometimes it's easier to blend in and adjust when you aren't the only one that has been in that situation before. There's always someone to talk to about your past."
The road to adopting so many children is rough, and it's seldom ever a paved highway. In fact, it is barely a path in most states, where such large families are seen as glorified group homes.
"You have to be assertive and persistent," said Shelly. "You can't stand on the sidelines. As our family grew, convincing workers we were still normal and could handle our family at the size it was proved frustrating." Tim also had some advise for families who are considering adopting children from foster care. "Never give up! Learn about kids and why they are in foster care and some of the challenges they bring, so you are prepared to help them." Shelly adds, "Never give up on them. Letting them know that you will always be there, no matter what, is the best message kids can get."
One of the McDaniel children gave her parents sage advise when they were thinking about adopting again. She said, "Mom, just tell them like you told me, 'once you're here, you ain't never goin' back." This is a powerful message to children whose past experiences with adults gathered a different message: that he or she was lacking in some way; that adults give up as soon as the going gets rough; and that everyone eventually leaves. The McDaniel family has a motto: never give up on each other. It's what they live by. It's what keeps this family unit solid and moving forward.
Having a large family means that kids always have someone to back them. According to the children, no one messes with a McDaniel kid or they get more than they bargained for. Shelly calls this "safety in numbers." If one of the younger kids is being bullied at school, there's a safety committee at the ready. Shelly said this is great for kids who have been on their own or felt alone for so long.
|Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544