Imagine you’re packing for a vacation to sunny Florida. You’re dreaming of sandy beaches, waves crashing on the shore, the warm sun on your face…and time to relax and recharge! You’ve also been dreaming of growing your family through adoption, but your foster care license just got approved. There’s no way you’ll get a call for a placement that same week, right? (You can see where this story is going, right?) So, you pack your bags, set your “away message” on your work email, and…the phone rings.
High-school sweethearts Austin and Montana Glenn dreamed of starting a family. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to have children biologically, so the couple began the adoption process. “We explored all the avenues, and determined private adoption was the best path for us then.” It was a long two years of waiting before Austin and Montana were matched with and then able to adopt their “sweet angel baby,” Louna. After adopting Louna in March 2021, the Glenns realized: “We had so much love and opportunity to offer other kids who deserved a home, especially older youth. If we were going to grow our family, we knew it would be an adoption through foster care.”
So, about that phone call to the newly-licensed foster parents on their way to Florida…. Austin and Montana were originally considering up to two children of the same gender. But, their home configuration allowed them to take up to four children if the need arose. Sure enough, the need was there. Their licensing specialist at SAFY told the Glenns about a sibling group that was in immediate need of a pre-adoptive home – twin girls and a boy. This wasn’t quite what the Glenns were expecting, but after a brief but thorough discussion amongst themselves and with their LCPA, Austin and Montana agreed. Just 4 days later, the siblings moved across the state to Fort Wayne. “They walked onto our driveway with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen from children who are about to live with strangers,” Austin recalled. But what about Florida? The Glenns were able to get permission from the court to take the siblings along, so Austin packed 3 more bags and off they went on what turned out to be their first official family vacation!
The Glenns were considered a pre-adoptive home, but because of the urgent timing of the children’s placement, the process looked a little different. “We were notified two months after they moved in that we had to interview, along with other families, in order for the state to determine who would be the best match.” But in the two months the children had been in the Glenn home, the family had already taken their first vacation, the children saw the ocean for the first time, and they were all starting to get settled. “That moment was scary – devastating even – and made us realize how much we wanted them to stay forever.” After completing their interview, the state agreed that the family’s first and only foster placement should be permanent. On November 17, 2022, at Allen County’s annual adoption day, Cadence, Chloe and Noah became a part of the Glenn family forever.
Now this family of 6 looks back on the photos of their first vacation and can talk about how they were feeling at the beginning of their journey. Austin and Montana say they knew pretty early on that they wanted to adopt the “Big 3.” But did the siblings feel the same way about the Glenns? 14-year-old Cadence’s first impression: “My new parents had the coolest names, Austin & Montana, like cities and states!” Twin sister Chloe: “Dad looked like a superhero and mom looked so young and nice.” Their younger brother Noah was focused on the essentials: “I knew that this was going to be a safe place to live.”
The parents marvel at how this has all unfolded. They recall the children being excited – “there was so much excitement in such little bodies!” The kids seemed eager for an opportunity to start fresh.” But the Glenns also recall being aware of the potential difficulties. After all, before the “Big 3” moved to Fort Wayne, there had only been a 20-minute video call to see each other’s faces, and so the siblings could meet 2-year-old Louna. 20 minutes isn’t a lot of time to get to know anyone! Did the Glenns ever have doubts? Were they worried? These are natural questions to ask. After all, would any family be entirely confident that they’re prepared for 3 kids between the ages of 12 and 13 after meeting them for less than a half hour?!
Austin and Montana say the questions they most often get are about the “pros and cons” of adopting a sibling group. Keeping larger sibling groups together isn’t easy for child welfare systems. Many foster homes don’t have enough space to accommodate a sibling group, and sometimes there isn’t the interest or ability. But siblings who stay together experience less loneliness, fewer behavioral challenges, and have a better sense of stability and belonging. The Glenns say they had no intentions of splitting up the “Big 3” when they got that first call. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of ups and downs in day-to-day life. Austin shares that “in some ways, it helps that they can understand each other’s shared experiences. It can also sometimes be triggering to them to have that constant reminder of the past. It’s hard work to learn that the sibling isn’t the ‘evil’ factor in the trauma but also a victim who deserves grace.”
What about the “older kids are harder to raise” misconception that you so often hear about? Austin and Montana adopted an infant too, so they would know, right? Neither would say that older children are harder necessarily, but they acknowledge that sometimes it can feel a little scary. Rewarding, but also scary. “It’s just different,” they say, but they’re eager to educate other families and advocate for older kids who “deserve forever families too!” “We get to have deep, meaningful conversations with our kids daily. Also, the fact that there isn’t a nap time is a plus! If you’re afraid of missing out on “firsts” with older kids, don’t be. The ocean, a vacation, the zoo, Disney – those are all firsts we’ve gotten to experience with our kids. And there are so many more to come – the really big ones like driving and first dates!”
Two years in, we wanted to know what the “Big 3” thought of their family now. They’ve gotten used to having a toddler sister, even if it means there’s a lot of Elmo and Mickey Mouse around. Noah thinks not being the youngest anymore has its perks, but what he really likes is that he can “talk to dad about anything, and mom is always honest with us.” Chloe notes that one of her dad’s superhero-like traits is how much he interacts with them and how he’s always up for playing outside. Mom’s best trait is how understanding she is. Cadence, the oldest and fan of the super-cool names, sums it up best: “My favorite thing about dad is his big heart and it feels like I have been with mom my whole life.”