It’s not every day that a couple nearly doubles their family size in a matter of minutes. But on April 27, Christopher and Christina Sanders did just that. Seated in a Cincinnati courtroom, they were declared by Judge Ralph Winkler to be the “forever parents” of six siblings. And while taking on six siblings is pretty incredible all on its own, here’s what makes the Sanders’ story even more amazing: They also have five biological children; which means that their family total is now 13.
In 2014, Christopher and Christina were already parents to Christopher Jr., Caden, Caitlyn, Chaz, and Cameron when they accepted their first foster placement, welcoming Coby, Caleb, Carson, and Christian into their home. Then in October 2016, after Christopher Jr. went off to college, the boys’ biological sisters, Caylee and Chloe, moved into the Sanders’ home, too. And the rest is history.
In the United States, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care, ranging from newborns to 21-year-olds. Many in care are sibling groups, children of color, and children with medical needs. Children usually come into foster care due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect. And just like the six children adopted by Christina and Christopher, siblings often wish to be placed in a home together, since further separation can be traumatic; but sadly, that isn’t always the case.
The goal of foster care is to reunite children with their biological families, but if this isn’t possible, the goal changes from reunification to adoption. Of the 400,000 foster children, over 130,000 of these children are legally free for adoption. Sadly, each year about 20,000 children age out of the foster care system without a forever family, potentially subjecting them to young adult realities such as homelessness, unemployment, and lack of educational opportunities. Young adults are left to navigate harsh possibilities without the support, guidance, and love of a family.
But thankfully, the six new members of the Sanders family will not become a part of that statistic.
“The children are doing well academically, socially, and mentally,” Christina tells Babble. “They have friends and all the children are involved in extracurricular activities in their school. Our goal has been to do what we can with what we had, and what we have is a home and a lot of love.”
As for the adjustment to having a family of 13, Christina says they’re making it work: “Although it was difficult at times and still is, all of our lives have been blessed by each other,” she tells Babble.
Adopting a child from the foster care system requires the hopeful parent to complete a home-study, which involves an application process, background checks, a home inspection, getting fingerprinted, and being interviewed by a social worker. Hopeful parents must also attend specialized trainings to prepare them for the adoption and subsequent parenting journey. Typically, foster care adoption is free of cost to the family.
Thankfully, there are parents like Christopher and Christina who saw a need and took the necessary steps to open their home and their hearts to children who needed stability, safety, and security.
“We have always loved children and believe all children deserve to be loved,” the couple shares.
I’m not sure any sentiment perfectly encompasses the spirit of foster parents better than that.