SPRING HILL, Tenn. — A family in Spring Hill, Tennessee, adopted a set of four siblings in 2021, making them a family of 12 in time for the holidays.
"When they're in foster care, it's a roller coaster ride. It's a roller coaster ride, so you don't know what the result is. And I love my children. I love my children. And I'm happy that it's permanent," said Lisa Parra.
After fostering them for nearly three years, she and her husband Diego adopted four children ages 17, 14, 12, and 6.
"When they when they first came to live with us, they were temporary," explained Lisa Parra. "We had made an obligation for another sibling group, so they were going to be with us for three weeks. And that other sibling group, fortunately, unfortunately, went to their grandma, and so we got to keep the set of 4 we have now, you know, permanently, and we're thrilled."
The Parras already had six children of their own, most already living outside their house.
They explained once the four foster children moved in temporarily during the fostering period, they knew they wanted to adopt them and expand their family.
"They're part of our family. And I think people expressed to us what a big deal that was or what a sacrifice that was, and we didn't look at it like that," recalled Lisa Parra. "It was a smooth transition."
Thanks to open adoption, the Parras helped their four adopted children keep in contact with the healthy members of their biological family and traveled to the children's home state in December for a Christmas party.
"We want the best for them. And then the holiday season brings kind of all of that out when we can incorporate their bios with us and have one big family, you know?" said Lisa Parra. "That's what it is because everybody loves them. Everybody loves them. And they want the best for them... It's a good feeling when everybody comes together."
In 2021 in Tennessee, more than 1,600 children in foster care joined families forever through adoptions or subsidized permanent guardianship finalizations.
"Over the past year, we have given even more children the hope they deserve," said Jennifer Nichols, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Children's Services. "I’m so happy for these children and proud of the work the DCS family does every day. Even in the pandemic, our staff has continued to work tirelessly with families and the courts to make these adoptions possible. And we intend to keep building on these heartwarming successes.”
Tennessee's number of adoptions and subsidized permanent guardianship finalizations increased 8% between 2017 and 2021.
As of December 16, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services said about 400 children in the state's guardianship are still looking for a home to call their own, with a majority being teenagers.
The Parras became foster parents in 2018.
"A lot of people are I think are in fear of, ‘Oh, I can't get attached, I can't get attached and then give them back.' Do you know? What would happen if I got attached, and I would have to give them back," said Lisa Parra. "That's the whole part of the process. It is. You take on the burden of their sadness, the things they go through, and they're supposed to get attached. They're—you're supposed to get attached. They're supposed to show that loving attachment and is difficult. It is not for the weak-hearted it is difficult, but it is so fulfilling."
One of their new daughters, Kristina is grateful the Perras became attached and helped keep her and her siblings together.
"[Separation] was fear because I remember them [DCS] telling us that they've called a lot of homes and they can't get us together. And they'll try one more place, and if they didn't want to take us all, then we would be split apart," said Kristina Parra. "It was scary because you've lived your whole life with them, and then you would have been split apart."
"Don't be afraid to open up your heart. We found the perfect fit, and they are our perfect fit for our family and, yeah, we love them with all our hearts," said Lisa Parra.
Her new daughter Kristina said she will always be grateful the Parras welcomed her siblings with open arms.
"They just like did the right thing," stated Kristina Parra. "They wanted us. They made us feel loved even when we came here not knowing us. They didn't know our story, but they still felt for us and just loved us even when they didn't even know us."
For those interested in learning more about the adoption process, click here.
Claire Kopsky at WTVF first reported this story.