When This Gay Couple Adopted Six Foster Siblings, The Emotional Moment Left The Courtroom In Tears

After almost five tired years of foster care, six young siblings await their fate in a family court room. The youngest is just seven, the oldest 14, and it’s fair to say all six have had a tough time. Indeed, the three brothers and three sisters were reportedly neglected and even abused by their original family. But also in court today are gay couple Steve and Rob Anderson-McLean. And all eight of them are about to learn something which will change their lives forever.

Now Rob and Steve have been an item for almost two decades. In 2006, they had a commitment ceremony, and once same-sex marriage became legal, they got married in 2013. And over the course of their relationship, they also brought up two kids, Steve’s sons Parker and Noah. But after those boys became adults, the pair realized they had more to give.

So the Anderson-McLeans decided to adopt. In 2019 Steve told broadcaster TODAY, “We always knew that we wanted to continue being parents. We always felt very strongly with the amount of kids in foster care that that was really the right avenue for us.” Starting out, the couple planned to adopt “probably two or three” children. But it wasn’t that straight forward.

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Yes, because for years the two men went through the process of being matched with children. But adoption can unfortunately take a very long time. In fact, all the way back in July 2011 Steve noted on a Facebook post, “Rob and I made our first four inquiries on four boys. It is heartbreaking to see so many kids out there in need of love!” With this in mind, their approach was about to change.

Indeed, Rob and Steve kept a new sense of empathy as they started looking at potentially adopting siblings. “The larger the sibling group the more likely it is that the kids are going to be separated,” Steve told TODAY. “And so then we started thinking like, well, maybe we can do four, maybe we can do five.”

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Tragically, kids in sibling groups sometimes do end up separated even when it’s far from the best thing for them. According to the organization Fostering Together, “Approximately two-thirds of children in foster care in the United States have a sibling in care. Many of these children will be separated from their siblings.” So why is this the case?

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Well, as Fostering Together went on to explain, “Since most foster homes are not licensed to care for multiple children of all ages, larger sibling groups often have to be placed into multiple homes.” And this can be a terrible blow to children in care – since their siblings might be close to them. As the organization’s website noted, “A sibling relationship may be the only secure and consistent attachment these children have been able to form.”

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Now in April 2013, the nonprofit group Children’s Rights denounced the practice of splitting up siblings. Yes, executive director Marcia Robinson Lowry said, “The sheer impact of severing sibling ties can devastate kids. It is unconscionable that systems are denying children the right to be with, or even know, their brothers and sisters.”

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To make matters worse, when Steve and Rob got married the laws on same-sex marriage and adoption varied by state. In some places, laws banned gay couples from adopting, or would only allow it where one partner was a biological parent. In others, full adoption rights were granted to gay couples. But, as we’ll see, it wouldn’t stay like this forever.

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That’s right, public opinion was starting to change – at around the time Steve and Rob were raising Steve’s children. In 2007, CNN and Opinion Research Corp. held a poll about whether Americans felt same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt. And 57 percent were in favor of it, while only 40 percent were not. Furthermore, a 2014 Gallup poll suggested an even stronger shift in favour of gay adpotion to 63 percent.

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Eventually the Supreme Court changed the laws on same-sex marriage and adoption. Yes, on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was made legal all across the country. Then, the year after that, Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption was reversed. And finally, come 2017, gay couples could adopt children no matter where they lived in America. With that in mind, let’s move on with our story.

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Although the Anderson-McLeans’ adoption journey was a hard one, so was the journey of six siblings with whom they crossed paths. To start with, the children were called Carlos, Guadalupe, Maria, Selena, Nasa and Max. And while the oldest ones in the group were teenagers, the younger ones were still under ten.

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Strikingly, the six had been in foster care for almost five years when Steve and Rob first found out about them. For their story featured on an Ohio state website. As Steve went on to explain to Good Morning America in 2019, “It was a bad background, a sad story – there was neglect and abuse.” Furthermore, he added, “It was in the fall of 2017 that parental rights were terminated.” As we’ll find out, the couple desperately wanted to help.

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Indeed, Rob told TODAY that keeping all six of the brothers and sisters together was a big priority. “We saw their picture and fell in love,” he explained. “So many sibling groups are broken up because people just want to adopt the younger children. Steve and I knew these guys needed to be together.”

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So Steve and Rob became determined to adopt the six kids, no matter what it took. By the beginning of 2018, they had begun contact with the children’s case worker. “We received very little information at first, and then as time goes on and they got to know us a little bit after they read our home study and our profiles, then they supplied us with a little more information,” Steve told Fox in 2019.

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However, it was fortunate that the six kids had been able to stay together for so long in foster care. Because they had actually stuck together for a massive total of 1,640 days. “In foster care, young kids are adopted very quickly. The kids that are nearing teenage years or are teenagers, unfortunately, they’re the harder kids to place,” Steve told Fox. “They had had some interest in just the younger two or three, but the case worker they had really wanted to try and keep them together.”

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So come June 2018, Steve and Rob were matched with the six youngsters. What’s more, they spent their first “date” together at a bowling alley. “We were nervous, just like the kids were,” Rob told Fox. And Steve added, “There’s always a little bit of an awkward start there because you’re thinking potentially these could be the children that are going to be in our lives forever.”

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As Steve went on to explain, “We hoped they liked us.” And it seemed they did. For the following month they started living together. To add to that, on July 23, Steve posted an update on his Facebook page about what was going on. “We want you to all know that we have been matched with an incredible sibling group of six kids!” he wrote.

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Excitedly, Steve continued, “Yes, six! The group consists of three boys and three girls and range in age six to 13! They are truly incredible kids and we can’t wait to introduce you all to them! Because of the privacy rules, we can’t post pictures of them, but after we finalize the adoption, we will post all kinds of pictures! Thank you all for your support and love through this journey!”

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Touchingly, friends and relatives of Steve and Rob were delighted to hear the news. Indeed, one wrote, “That is so wonderful! Those kids are going to have a wonderful life because of you two! I could hug you both! So blessed to know you and so proud to call you my friends.” And another said, “That’s wonderful news! I am so happy for you all! The process is long but totally worth it.”

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And that brings us to the focal point of our story almost a year later. So in May, 2019, in the courtroom of Judge Joseph K. Williams, Steve and Rob became the siblings’ legal parents. As you might have guessed, it was a sentimental occasion because, finally, the six children had parents again. But their overwhelming reaction wasn’t just happiness, as we’ll soon see.

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As Steve went on to explain to TODAY, “The kids felt this huge sense of relief. They had been let down by adults so many times in their life, and were nervous it wasn’t going to happen.” When speaking to Fox he said a similar thing – that there was a “very visual sigh of relief from everyone.” Considering what the children had been through, perhaps that wasn’t surprising.

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Looking back, the couple had put in a lot of effort to make a safe, friendly home for the six. For example, Steve previously worked as a wedding planner, but quit his job in order to become a stay-at-home dad. And the parents also decided to buy a large minivan so they could transport their new kids around. But let’s get back to their day in family court.

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So as the adoption became official, the new parents went out of their way to ensure the kids knew this. More importantly, they wanted them to feel part of a family again and let it sink in. Indeed, everyone got to wear a t-shirt saying “Anderson-McLean Established 2019.” And then, they all posed in front of a sign reading “After 1640 days in foster care, Anderson-McLean Family Adoption Day.”

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What’s more, Steve posted the update on Facebook, and once again people got to share their delight. Yes, one wrote, “I’ve been to two of these hearings and couldn’t help thinking what a great day the judge must be having to get to unite families in this way. Congratulations to each and every one of you!” As Rob explained to the media, the sigh of relief from the kids had been significant.

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Yes, speaking to Fox, Rob added why the six children had reacted to the judgement in such a way. “There’s a lot of insecurity for kids in their situation. They’re always worried that something is going to change,” he said. “Even though we tell them that we’re going to adopt them, and everyone’s telling them this, they’ve been let down so many times by other adults.”

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Indeed, Rob continued, “So that’s why it was such a relief to finally have the finalization because they know it’s permanent. They’re not foster kids anymore. They can take that title away from their name.” But it wasn’t just the children who had very high emotions on adoption day. Surprisingly, the adults did too. And apparently, there wasn’t a dry eye in court.

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That’s right, because Steve told Good Morning America, “The judge asked, ‘Do you understand at this point forward they are your children? They are just as much as your biological children.’ Obviously we knew that, but when I looked up and saw all those eyes (of the children), it was very emotional. We never imagined we’d be lucky enough or blessed enough to have six.”

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And despite fears that their same-sex relationship could have an impact on how others behaved towards the kids, those were unfounded. “We thought with Carlos being a teen, he might have a hard time,” Steve told TODAY. “But it has not bothered him one bit.” In fact, the bond between parents and children has continued to grow.

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In August 2019, the two dads told their story to TODAY. “What were those first conversations like that you had with the kids?” the interviewer asked. Steve explained that they had talked to the kids about their “life books,” scrapbooks that kids in foster care get to create. “They were very eager and very excited to show us their life books,” Steve said.

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Then, the interviewer asked the couple, “What’s going through your head when they’re showing you these books?” Steve answered, “You realize that they had a lot of life happen before we came into their lives. And I think we were very adamant about, you know, we want to protect them.”

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As Steve went on to explain, “Everything that’s happened in the past, we can’t change, unfortunately, but we can make sure that their future is a brighter and a happier one for them.” And that’s happening already. Additionally, Steve now has a tattoo on his leg of his entire family – his sons and the six children. As we’ll soon find out, there are some downsides to having a big family, though.

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You’ve guessed it, Steve and Rob admitted they hadn’t quite been prepared for the amount of extra household chores. Funnily enough, Steve was awestruck by “how much laundry six little people can produce.” But in between washing sessions there are plenty of fun trips out for the family. Indeed, they recently visited Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

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To add to that, the TODAY interviewer asked what it was like leaving court together as a family. “It was just a relief, we were all so happy that it was completed,” Steve said. And Rob added, “A lot of the kids, they would worry that anytime there was any kind of little bump in the road or something that happened, that we were going to change our mind and not want to adopt them.”

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As Steve went on to explain, “The little kids especially would ask, you know, are we here forever, are we going to have to go somewhere else.” But they dealt with that. “We just reinforced over and over and over again that you aren’t going anywhere, you know, we are a family,” Steve said. Then came a particularly poignant question for the two parents to answer.

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Yes, because the TODAY interviewer added, “Do you guys ever look at each other and think, ‘I can’t believe we’re really doing this?’” And Steve answered, “To us it’s just life now. Just having them here and seeing their eyes every morning and hearing them say, ‘good morning daddy.’” But their new normality didn’t mean the celebrations were over.

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That’s right, because the TODAY cameras got to see inside the big party Rob and Steve threw for the six children. And Rob gave a speech to all the invitees and the kids. “We can’t say enough about how lucky we are to have all of them with us, even though like any family there’s ups and downs,” he said.

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Now not long after the two men adopted the children, the media got wind of the story. And as you might expect these days, the story made its way around the world. But Steve had some thoughts on that, which he shared with TODAY. “We’ve heard a lot on social media that ‘You’re heroes’ or ‘You did this for them’ or ‘You blessed these kids,’ [but] really I think we’re the ones who feel blessed,” he said.

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And a glance at Steve’s Facebook will let any followers of the story know that things are still going well. For instance, in the middle of August Steve and Rob’s youngest child, Max, played his first competitive football game. Even though his team lost, Steve wrote, “He seemed to really understand the game better, so it was a growing/learning game! Proud of you Max!”

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In spite of all the past heartache, there’s clearly now hope and a brighter future ahead for the Anderson-McLean kids. For you see, in every interview the two dads have given about their new family, they sing the praises of the six children. “We’ve known them for less than a year,” Rob told Good Morning America, “but at the same time, it feels as if our emotional bonds were years in the making.”

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