Many families who adopt a child into an existing family adopt one or two more if they have more room in their hearts and the means to care for them.
Few families can boast having six of their own biological children and 32 adopted children, but for the Briggs family, that’s their reality.
Of the 38, 13 have since moved out on their own, but still — caring for 25 kids at home is no small feat, especially when many of them have complex medical cases.
It all started when two teenagers met at a Christian summer camp. Jeane and Paul noticed each other right away.
“It was a week long … and at the very first day, first workshop, I noticed her,” Paul Briggs, now 64, told Inside Edition. “She noticed me, and we found reasons to talk and from that very first day, we’ve been together.”
Jeane had a heart for adoption, though, and wanted to make sure her future partner would be on board.
“I guess all my life, even as a child, I knew I would adopt and have a large family,” she told BBC in 2014. “Faith has been the biggest motivation… every child should have a loving family.”
“My first date with him was a babysitting job so I could tell if he would be good with kids,” she explained. “He was and the rest was history.”
“I never really thought we would do this many children,” she added, “but it just worked out because we’d hear of a child, pray about it and then felt like we should bring him home.”
Mary Kate, 32, lives down the block from her parents and 25 siblings and has followed in her parents’ footsteps. She has 11 children, both biological and adopted.
“I had always wanted more younger siblings, so I always enjoyed it,” she said. “Just like anything, it was an adjustment. The family dynamic was ever changing with each new child they brought home, but it was always amazing to see my new brother or sister know what it was like to be loved and cared for, as they became a part of the family.”
The Briggs have a difficult time resisting adopting children in need, especially when they know not many other people will want to adopt them. They pray over each new opportunity, and though prospective adoptions haven’t always been successful, many of them have.
The 32 adopted children are from all over the world, including Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, Ghana and Bulgaria. Many of them have health conditions that require much care.
“We’ve had heart surgeries, significant orthopedic surgeries where I did all the PT because there was no other resource here,” said Jeane, whose career began in nursing. “That’s probably why we have so many kids because an agency would send and say, ‘Well, this child has this tumor,’ and I’d look at it and say, ‘Mmm hmm, maybe send that to the cleft clinic at [the nearby hospital.]”
The family’s schedule is incredibly streamlined to allow for chores, doctor’s appointments and homeschooling, and everyone is expected to pull their weight.
“We do have a system in place to help us take the burden off of how we manage these kids,” Jeane said. “I’m probably very OCD and need to organize. And organization is good in a large family. The children, when they’ve come into the family, pick up on that. And they all know it’s necessary to be extremely organized or we’d have chaos.”
With all those children, there’s a lot of grocery trips and meals to be made — and according to the Biggs, it adds up to a week $1,100 food bill — but they make it work without any government assistance. Paul’s IT job has helped fund many of the adoptions, and the family also receives an adoption tax credit every year.
Many of the older children know that if it weren’t for the Briggs, they could still be suffering or even dead back in their home countries.
“When you have a family, it’s different,” 29-year-old Joseph, originally from Ukraine, said. “You know you have somebody who loves you, cares for you, makes sure you are safe, you’re not hungry. In the orphanage, it was opposite. You were on your own a lot of times.”
“For many of our children, we’ve given them the opportunity to live,” Jeane said. “They would have died.”
“Even people will say, ‘Well, how do you love that many kids? How can you have enough time?’ Well, whatever we can give is way better than they ever would have had,” the mother said. “So we base on that premise. But we also see their lives changed. We’re feeding them. They didn’t all have good nutrition. We’re getting medicine for them. They didn’t get any kind of medical care.
“And we love them. And they know we love them. I have no doubt even the ones who struggle know we love them.”
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