Sometimes the Kelley home is a bit like organized chaos, which is to be expected with five kids on different schedules. But it's also the happy chaos of a busy family.
Ken and Anna Kelley have been married for 19 years, with two sons from Anna's first marriage, Jeremy, 28, and Jacob, 25. They decided to start fostering children when the boys were in high school.
When Anna was a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer, she had experience visiting foster families, which sparked the Kelleys' interest in fostering.
"The intention was just to foster and to do it because we were going to be empty nesters and because we really enjoyed doing it. We didn't expect to keep adopting," Anna said.
Ken said they love being foster parents because he and Anna are kids at heart and just enjoy interacting with the kids. Anna added, "I'm always thinking about the next kid I can help."
It was through Anna's work with CASA that the Kelleys first considered adopting. Anna was the CASA for a young girl, and with two boys at home, the Kelleys wanted a daughter. They said that if she ever came up for adoption, they would like to adopt her.
After a short waiting period, they were able to adopt her, and their oldest daughter, Justice, joined the family. She is now 20 and the proud mother of the Kelleys' first grandchild, Landry.
After adopting Justice, the Kelleys continued to foster children and would often foster sibling groups. Ken and Anna chose to do so because they both came from families with strong sibling relationships. "The longest relationship you have with anybody is your sibling relationship," Anna said.
Brother and sister, Joshua and Jenna, were placed in the Kelleys' home when they were just 1 and 3 years old, respectively. Joshua was labeled as failure to thrive, and the Kelleys were informed that Jenna was autistic.
Anna worked with the children, using trust-based relational intervention (TBRI) methods, which emphasize connection and is trauma-informed care designed to meet the needs of vulnerable children. Both children responded really well, Jenna especially so. A psychologist later removed her autism diagnosis, and she's now a thriving A/B student who is very interactive with people. And both chldren have found their place in the family.
Bella joined the family next - at just 4 days old and weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces. Born addicted to drugs, baby Bella spent seven weeks detoxing. Anna held her constantly, giving her skin-to-skin contact. And though she still has a few problems with her ears, Bella is now a bouncing 5-year-old. As Ken said, she's the princess of the family, with a close connection to her 20-year-old sister.
The two newest members of the family, Ethan and Timothy, 16 and 13, respectively, came to stay with the Kelleys two years ago. They had been in multiple places before, and the Kelley home became the place they've stayed the longest. And just this past August, they joined the Kelleys as part of their forever family. When Anna shared with Bella that the boys would be adopted, Bella said, "I don't want them to be adopted. I just want them to be my brothers." For her, they had always been her brothers.
That's what Ken and Anna hoped to create: a loving family for these children who needed a home, like they had growing up.
"We were blessed with a really great situation, with parents that really cared about us, and we just wanted to share that, a normal lifestyle, with some kids that had never had it before. We had a different connection with them, and we wanted to be their forever family," Ken said.
Anna said that adoption has to be something that you feel led to do, and it helps to keep an open mind. She also shared that all her kids have some connection to their birth families.
"I'm a big believer in keeping a connection with the birth family if you can; I think it's really important," Anna said. "If the kids are safe, it doesn't hurt to know where they're from."
The Kelleys are trying to raise well-rounded kids, so as Anna said, "I'll be running around like a crazy person." With five children, schedules can get hectic.
And each of the kids has their own interests. Bella participates in gymnastics, with the dream of being an Olympic gymnast. Jenna plays tennis while Josh plays golf and baseball. Both Ethan and Timothy run track, and Timothy participates in choir while Ethan is an understudy for the role of Corny Collins in Hairspray.
So the days and nights are filled with various activities, with Wednesday nights usually reserved for church and Friday nights for high school football games.
And while they're all spinning in various directions, they enjoy spending time together - swimming in their pool when it's warm enough, grillling out or watching a movie. And birthdays are a big deal in the Kelley family. They always plan time for a big family get-together, and the birthday boy or girl gets to choose what they do - usually a big dinner. (For Ethan's recent birthday, the family headed to Spaghetti Warehouse.)
They might have come from different places and backgrounds, but they've come together to make up the fabric of a family, like a beautiful quilt.
"Now they're just a Kelley," said Anna.
National Adoption Day is November 19 this year. This day is a collective, national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. Learn more at www.NationalAdoptionDay.org.