In 2019, Pam Willis was scrolling through Facebook when she was met with a news story about seven siblings in need of a permanent home.
The children, who ranged in age from 1 to 12, had been in foster care for over a year after losing both parents in a tragic car crash.
Pam couldn’t stop staring at their faces. “I can’t explain it — I just knew I was supposed to be their mom,” Pam, 50, revealed to TODAY Parents.
Pam immediately tagged her husband, Gary Willis, 53, so he would see the article. The two share five adult children and live in Menifee, California. And while they had been fostering kids for years, they had never discussed adoption.
“I thought Gary was going to tell me I was wacko — we were getting ready to retire,” Pam admitted. But to Pam’s relief, Gary felt the same exact way she did. “It was what God wanted us to do,” Pam said.
That night, they called the number listed at the bottom of the story. “We were told they’d already received thousands of calls,” Pam recalled. But two months later, Pam and Gary were matched with Adelino, 15, Ruby, 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4.
As Pam learned through the screening process, the children had gone through an enormous amount of trauma. The children’s late parents battled addiction and the family often lived in homeless encampments with little to no food.
“It was easy to connect with the little ones. They were just desperately craving permanency,” Pam revealed. The older two were a little trickier.”
“I think they didn’t quite trust that we were real. Like maybe we were going to go away,” Pam said. “I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life. Ruby didn’t know how to be a kid. She had to be a mother figure at a very young age.”
For the first six months, the kids had trouble sleeping due to night terrors.
“One night, my then-7-year-old came into our room,” Pam recalled. “I asked her, ‘Did you have a bad dream?’ And she replied, ‘No, I just wanted to make sure that you were still here.’”
Last August, both she and Gary adopted Aleecia and her six brothers and sisters. The emotional ceremony was attended virtually by Pam and Gary’s biological children, Matthew, 32, Andrew, 30, Alexa, 27, Sophia, 23, and Sam, 20.
“It was awesome,” Pam said. “We brought a big TV screen out to the park so everybody could watch and cheer and be safe during COVID. There was so much love.”
The story recently caught the attention of Kristen Bell after Pam shared a clip to Instagram titled: “Our life in 15 seconds!” and Bell shared it to her Instagram story.
The clip begins with Pam and Gary first meeting as teens in 1988 and ends with the adoption.
“They’ve given us a second chance at parenting, we’ve given them a second Mom and Dad,” Pam wrote. “They are our Second Chance 7.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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