I love this recent article in the New Yorker Magazine on Sue and Hector Badeau, who are parents of 22 children, 20 of whom are adopted. I loved it for its honesty. I loved it for its complexities. I loved it because I’ve always been fascinated by large families, especially large families formed by adoption.
Like Sue Badeau, I read The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss when I was 12, and I credit that book for my plans to build my family by birth and adoption. Unlike Sue, I stopped at four. Sue and Hector did not stop until they reached 22, and even then they continued to foster and take in refugees.
Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker and adoption educator. She and her husband, Hector, are authors of the book Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. She was also a terrific guest on this week’s Creating a Family Radio show talking about Helping Kids Cope with Trauma.
I so appreciated the realistic picture of parenting that many children. The article did a great job of capturing the high and the lows, and there were plenty of both.
They adopted kids of all ages, races, varying degrees of disabilities, and a number of large sibling groups. They were accused by others, and a few of their children, of being addicted to adoption. And yet, they wondered what would happen to these kids if they didn’t take them in.
Sue was the bread winner as an adoption advocate and public speaker, and traveled for work and at times worked in another city. During these times, Hector was a single parent. They were honest about the conflict that brought to their marriage.
Parenting one to two kids who have experienced trauma is hard. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it would be to parent 22 kids, most of whom had been abused or neglected or had physical disabilities.
I’ve read a lot about mega-adoptive families, and what strikes me as unusual about this article is its honesty about the struggles the family and kids have had. There was also plenty of love, tender family moments, and triumphs, but they Badeaus didn’t shy away from the pain and heartbreak of parenting this many kids.
Two of their sons were/are in prison (one for assault and one for sexually assaulting his teenaged handicapped sister who was 12 years his junior). All of their daughters became pregnant as teens or early 20s without being married, and several of their sons have had children without marriage. None of the children have followed in their parents religious or adoption path. Three of the children with disabilities have died, although at least one outlived medical expectations.
All of these events broke Sue and Hector’s heart. Hector drowned his sorrow in booze, becoming an alcoholic. (He is now sober.)
Several of the children were quoted in the article talking about the heartwarming breakthroughs (one daughter who had been sexually abused finally being able to hug her dad after two years) and the downsides to being raised one amongst so many.
Neither the article nor the Badeaus white-washed the difficulties, but through it all I had the strong sense of their commitment to these children and to their family. I can’t recommend this article enough.
Sue continues her work as an adoption advocate and educator. She was on yesterday’s Creating a Family Radio Show talking about Helping Children Cope with Trauma. We were fortunate to have her share her extensive wisdom on how to work with children who have been abused and neglected. (I’ll be blogging more on this topic next week.)
Does anyone else share my fascination with really large families–especially adoptive family. I escaped the whole Duggar phenomena, but have read everything else available.
P.S. You can read more about the Badeau family at their website, and more about Sue’s work in adoption at her website.