Leawood — For Jack and Carol Daniel, eight wasn’t enough. After raising eight adoptive children and seeing seven of them leave the nest, the Leawood couple will be adopting five more.
The Daniels, both pediatricians at Children’s Mercy Hospital, have adopted eight children since 1975. And even though both parents are 62 years old, they wanted to start over with another house full of children.
“They need a home, and it’s the right thing to do,” Jack said. “We’ve got the resources and experience to do it.”
The couple have served as foster parents for five years, and have been honored as foster parents of the year for northeast Kansas.
“They love kids and they have huge hearts,” said Linda O’Neal, a manager for Youthville, a child welfare agency that is giving the award.
The Daniels are examples of what all state foster-care systems need: more caring couples who are willing to open their homes and hearts to abandoned and abused children.
“The No. 1 way kids get adopted is by their foster families,” said Bruce Linhos, director of the Children’s Alliance, a Kansas association of child welfare agencies.
At any given time, he said, Kansas has about 5,000 children in foster care. Missouri officials say that state has about 9,000 in foster care.
Nationwide, experts say, there is especially a shortage of foster parents who can or will take in large groups of siblings or teenage children.
In the Daniels’ case, two years ago the state took over care of five neglected siblings, now ages 2 to 11. They went into foster care with the Daniels then, and now the adoption process is almost finished.
Only one of their original eight children is still at home, and that 13-year-old girl now has plenty of company.
At their house this week, Sophia, 2, sped around the living room with toys while other children played a car race game on Internet television. Sophia waved and clamored to be picked up.
“She runs this household with an iron fist,” Carol said.
They got Sophia months after she was born, and she did not suffer neglect like the others, Carol said.
Jack said the other children were soaking up knowledge and life like sponges.
“It’s fun to watch them improve every year,” he said.
On one wall are large pictures of the eight other children with their parents on a family vacation trip that put them in rafts and whitewater.
The family and its newest members travel often to see adult children and relatives, Carol said. A 33-year-old son has taken in foster children that he intends to adopt, Jack said.
Since the Daniels started taking in foster children, they also took in six others that went to other homes. Experts say that one reason more foster families are always needed is that couples like the Daniels eventually adopt and stop taking foster children.
At the same time, O’Neal said, people like them become the best recruitment tools by their example and by spreading word of good experiences with foster care.
“They’re the best advertisements we have,” she said.