Adopting or fostering a child is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. Taking on the responsibility of being a child’s caregiver is an enormous investment of time, money and energy. Now imagine there are six siblings all in need of a new home, and imagine that the family who ends up welcoming them is already fairly large on its own.
Such was the case for the Sanders family. Already a family of seven, they decided to open their hearts and their homes to six more children — first as fosters, and eventually, as their own.
Here’s their incredible story.
A Family Of 7
Christina and Christopher Sanders already had five biological children when they decided to become foster parents. Knowing that many children are separated from their siblings in foster care and shuffled from one home to the next, the Sanders family set out to do whatever they could to provide a stable environment for existing families.
They Didn’t Want To Break Up A Family
“We just made an agreement,” Christina said during the adoption proceedings. “Whoever we get, we will keep ’em… not send them to different houses.” Little did they know then what that would come to look like in reality.
Welcoming 4 Brothers
When the Ohio couple received their first placement, their promise was put to the test. Four brothers came into their home together. Soon, the boys were expressing their desire to live with their two sisters.
Why Keeping Family Together Matters
It’s no surprise that the loss of home, parents and routine can be devastating for kids in foster care. Similarly, research shows that siblings who are placed in separate homes fare worse emotionally and have a harder adjustment period than children who are kept together. While not all foster families are able to accommodate siblings, it’s something the Sanders vowed to do from the beginning.
A Snapshot Of Adoption In The U.S.
More than 100,000 children are adopted in the U.S. each year. The breakdown of the type of adoption, according to 2010 data, is as such: 59 percent from the foster/adoption system; 26 percent are from other countries; and 15 percent are babies given up for adoption at birth.
Remembering Their Commitment
There was only one thing to do: The Sanders opened their already teeming home to welcome the girls, as well. They remembered the commitment they had made when they decided to become foster parents in the first place. According to the Sanders’ maternal grandmother, the fact that their oldest biological son moved out to go to college ended up giving the family the space they needed to welcome the two girls.
2 Years In Foster Care
After two years in placement, it became clear that all of the children belonged in the Sanders family. On Thursday, April 27, 2017, Christina and Christopher Sanders legally adopted the six siblings.
6 New Children To Love
Now, along with their biological kids Christopher, Cameron, Caden, Chaz and Caitlyn, Christina and Christopher Sanders are Mom and Dad to Coby, Christian, Caleb, Carson, Caylee and Chloe, who ranged from ages 16 to 9 at the time of their adoption.
‘Everything Is Wonderful’
Several of the kids spoke at the adoption hearing.
“I’m happy that I’m here because everything is wonderful. This is just what I wanted,” announced then-12-year-old Caylee, who wore a matching outfit with her same-aged “new” sister.
‘We Were Having A Rough Life’
“I would not know where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for the Sanders,” revealed Caleb, who was 13 at the time. “We (were) having a rough life, before.” The judge asked him if he felt he was in a safe place now, and he simply nodded yes with a smile.
An Emotional Day
There was hardly a dry eye in the courtroom when 14-year-old Christian thanked his new parents for changing his life. No doubt the years before had been challenging for these young kids, and we hope there will only be good things in those ahead for the Sanders family.
Trends In Foster Care And Adoption
There are about 270,000 children who enter foster care each year in the United States — a number that held fairly steady over the last measured decade (2008-2017), according to the Administration for Children & Families, which oversees foster care and adoptions on a federal level. In 2017, 123,000 children were waiting for adoption and 59,400 were adopted through the ACF system — with the Sanders kids accounting for six of these.
mother holding a child’s hand, close-up hands, nature in background.
How Do The Sanders Do It?
Although this certainly seems like a happy ending for all involved, the family is not without struggles: Their six-bedroom home is a bit crowded for the family of 13, and no doubt everyone requires some extra patience. We imagine the family leans heavily on bix box stores for food and other supplies. Can you imagine cooking dinner for 13 every night?
In Need Of A Van
The family was on the lookout for a vehicle large enough to transport all of the children. A GoFundMe account was set up to help the Sanders family purchase a passenger van so that they could all travel together. The requested amount? $70,000.
Outpouring Of Support
The Sanders’ adoption story quickly spread around the country, and many took to the GoFundMe page to share well wishes with the family — even if donations were not possible.
“I am unable to donate at this time I just wanted to say Thank you for being so generous and kind to these kiddos. They are lucky as well as your family is to have each other. Bless you,” one user, Cojo Wishom, wrote.
“I think Chris and Christina Sanders are amazing! Selfless and their story has truely [sic] touched my heart! Most kods [sic] get lost in the system! However, this strong family unit fought to stay together! God Bless your family!!!!” Marjorie Woolbright wrote.
People Donated What They Could
Every donation helps when it comes to fundraising, and generous people from around the country showed up to donate money to the Sanders. Whether $10 or hundreds, it is clear that the Sanders’ story touched many people’s hearts.
One donor wrote: “Tears.. as a kid out of the system I would beg to be in your family , thank you so much truly truly truly truly truly you are amazing.”
“I’ve heard of many wonderful stories, your story is one of the best,” wrote another donor. “You are wonderful parents and great examples of what we should all strive to be. Thank you for your kindness.”
Reaching Their Goal
Christina Sanders’ mother launched the GoFundMe page on her daughter and son-in-law’s behalf. She set a requested amount of $70,000 in order to help the family purchase a van that could fit the whole family.
“The family would greatly benefit from a 15 passenger van so that the whole family can travel together instead of taking two vehicles,” she wrote. “Any support for this family would be greatly appreciated!”
With the community’s help, the Sanders received nearly $72,000 to help make their van a reality.
‘Our Family Is Overwhelmed’
The Sanders family shared an update and a sweet family picture on GoFundMe after meeting their fundraising goal:
“Our family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support shown to us through your generous donations whatever the amount. The comments we read were so encouraging and uplifting; it brought us to tears. Words cannot express the appreciation and gratitude we feel inside. We sincerely thank each and every one of you for your support.
It encourages our hearts that there are so many caring people in the world. Thanks again for helping us with the van. All additional donations will go toward an addition to our home to have enough space for a dining table that will seat the entire family.
Many more thanks to everyone for your generosity and support. May God Bless You All!!!!”
One Big, Happy Family Of 13
Learn more about this inspiring family on WCPO Cincinnati, and watch the coverage of their special adoption day below: