There are common questions Marana’s Galloway family is asked but the answer is often no.
“Are you Mormon?” “Are you running a day care?”
Those questions are apparently what one asks when they see two parents with nine children.
Kelli and Kevin live in Marana with all of their children, the oldest three being their biological children and the others, between the ages of 2 and 11, have been adopted through the foster system.
In addition to their six adopted children, Kelli and Kevin have fostered 14 other children who have gone on to live in their forever homes.
Maybe a more appropriate question to ask them would be “why?” but the answer to that is more difficult to explain.
After the couple had their first three children, Cody, 20, CJ, 17 and Cole, 15, Kelli began to want another child, and more specifically, a daughter. Around the same time, Kelli had met a family through her son’s gymnastics group.
The family had birth, adopted and foster children.
“I was just fascinated by them,” Kelli admitted. “They were beautiful, colorful and just the most interesting family that I had ever seen.”
Through getting to know this family and their children, Kevin and Kelli began to learn about the need that children have within both the foster care and adoption system in Tucson.
As a Christian, Kelli said it was at this point God spoke to her heart and they begun the process with Christian Family Care to become foster parents.
“We have always fostered with the idea that the children would be reunified with the families if they could,” Kelli said. “Our hope is that if they can’t, we would be their forever family so they aren’t being moved around a lot. And that has happened with us, obviously, a lot.”
For their daughter Michelle, 11, her mother gave her up knowing she couldn’t take care of her. She put her up for adoption, loving her, but knowing she couldn’t be the parent the she needed.
The couple remains in touch with the mother of their daughter Missey, 10. The mother struggles with being a mother, as all five of her children have been adopted.
Each child brings a different challenge and a different type of relationship and, in most cases, with the birth parents while fostering a child.
Sometimes these meetings can be a little tense and the parents can be frustrated or hurting on multiple levels, as the courts within the state have mandated their child be taken away and put into a foster home. Kelli does what she can to break down that barrier that is often put up by the birth parents.
“I’ve watched Kelli,” Kevin said. “She will go to meet them for the first time, and usually with foster care, you’re at the CPS office and you’re passing your child off to their parents and you try not to make eye contact. Kelli will walk right over and give them a hug. They don’t know what to think because they are very defensive because the state just took their children away.
“She just breaks down the barrier like that.”
The Galloway family will usually get a child to foster in an emergency situation sometimes in the middle of the night.
Kelli picked up their son Conor, now 5, around midnight at a nearby gas station. He was left at a crack house and police picked him up and spent the evening at the police department until CPS got ahold of the Galloway family.
“He was a mess. He smelled horrible, he hadn’t been cared for, and he was six weeks old. So his short life had not been,” Kelli paused. “He had been in all kinds of who knows what kind of circumstances.
“When children aren’t cared for and when they are neglected, they have this sadness. It’s crazy. And as we just love them and fatten them up and attend to their every needs, they just get beautiful and it’s just an amazing process to watch.”
For Kelli and Kevin, this process of their family growing little by little continued. Some children would come to them as their parents dealt with drug addiction. Some see their child getting taken away as a wakeup call and they turn their lives around so they can get their child back. While other parents continue down the road that got them into the situation where they lost their child.
Other children have come to them when they weren’t even looking to have a child come into their lives, like their son Caden who is approaching his fourth birthday.
The Galloway family have had him almost a year. He is also the only child they have adopted who wasn’t an infant.
Just shy of Caden’s third birthday, the adoption agency called and told them they didn’t have any beds, and he was the youngest of 13 other children who were staying the night in the orphanage.
In his almost three years of life, Caden had been in six different homes. His stop in the Galloway’s foster home was his last stop after being moved from home to home for failed background checks and other reasons.
There are a total of 20 children that have come through the Galloway family’s foster care. They adopted six and 14 others have moved on to their forever family, which isn’t always the easiest to let a child go.
“It’s really hard,” Kelli admitted. “You just pour so much into them and you love them so much. So it’s not an easy thing, but all of the best things in life are not easy.”
For families thinking about fostering a child, this is a common fear. They are afraid that they will cry and it will hurt when the child leaves and Kelli has the tears to prove that it will happen, but is assured the good outweighs the bad.
“You have to just rest assured that they are where they are supposed to be and you’ve made a difference,” Kelli said. “At that point it is not about you, it’s about the greater… everything. It’s about providing for a child who desperately needed help at that time and helping support a family in their reunification. It’s awesome when it happens.”
As children leave their home, others come in and in the case of their youngest child, Chase, now 2, his mother left him at the hospital.
Chase was born with hydrocephalus, which is when there is a build up fluid inside the skull, which leads to brain swelling. He spent the first two months of his life in the hospital. He came to the Galloway’s home after his mother left the hospital without him.
At the time, the doctors believed Chase was deaf and blind and didn’t think he would survive very much longer.
“He came to us just to be loved on,” Kelli said about the uncertain future of Chase, who can hear. Almost everything doctors said would happen to him didn’t happen as he continued to grow.
As for now, the family is growing within as Cody, CJ, Cole, Michelle, Missey, Maria, Conor, Caden and Chase age right before Kevin and Kelli’s eyes all under one roof in a five-bedroom house.
But Kelli and Kevin haven’t ruled out the option of adopting more in the future.
“I always say I am done,” Kevin said with a laugh.
“He was actually done after Cody was born,” Kelli said jokingly.
On a serious note, she said, “Every time we say, ‘look at our family right now,’ we think it is the most perfect family and it could never get better, somehow it does. Right now I feel our family is perfect. I could never say ‘we’re done’ because I just don’t know what God has planned for us and I would never want to not be open to it. Because it is all good. He has such good things planned for us.”