While the prospect of an empty nest is bittersweet, most parents look forward to some uninterrupted couple time when their kids finally fly the coop. But for one California husband and wife, rather than a cozy retirement, they found themselves feathering their nest all over again—with seven adopted kids.
The odyssey began back in January 2019, as Pam Willis was scanning Facebook. She says a post titled ‘Seven Siblings in Need of Forever Home’ “hit her like a ton of bricks.”
The story revealed that after the children’s mother and father perished in a car accident a year earlier, the siblings had been placed in foster care. “In that instant, their sweet smiling faces jumped off of the screen and into my heart,” she posted to Instagram.
Pam tagged her husband Gary on the post. By day’s end it was decided—they wanted to adopt them all.
“We knew deep inside that this mission was being placed before us,” Pam wrote. “If not us, then who? Who would keep them all together? Who would have the space for them? Who would have the time, and the love, and the patience for their trauma? The answer was clear…
“We would. Why else did we have a six-bedroom house that was about to have its last child’s bedroom vacated? Why else would our nest that had raised our first five babies be empty just in time? It was only to make room for our new babies.”
Two months after making initial contact with the foster care agency, Adelino, 15, Ruby, 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4 were placed with Pam and Gary.
With fears were founded on past experience, feeling truly safe did not come easily to the eldest children. Even prior to losing their parents, their lives had been far from ideal: Their mother and father were sometimes indigent and also struggled with substance abuse. As a result, they were sometimes unable to provide a stable environment for their kids.
“I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life,” Pam Willis told TODAY. “One night, my then-7-year-old came into our room. I asked her, ‘Did you have a bad dream?’ And she replied, ‘No, I just wanted to make sure that you were still here.’”
The Willises knew it would take time and patience for them to earn the children’s trust but they were willing to do whatever it took. Last August, Pam and Gary made the adoption official.
The virtual ceremony was attended by the couple’s biological children, Matthew, Andrew, Alexa, Sophia, and Sam—whose ages range from 20 to 32. “It was awesome,” Pam told TODAY. “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.”
Though a second family hadn’t been in their plans, the outcome of the story came as no surprise to the Willises. “They were ours from the minute we saw their faces on the news story,” Pam posted on Instagram.
“If you ask my friends, one moment we were reposting their heart-wrenching news story and calling attention to their plight, the next minute we were meeting them, falling in love, and starting the adoption process… WE are their forever home, and this is our second chance with SEVEN! ❤️”