by Katie Brabson
Ann Mckinney is the proud mother to fourteen amazing children. She and her husband, Dale, are an inspiration to be near and they are a family that I have been so privileged to work with through Madison Adoption Associates over the past four years. Dale and Ann have two “homegrown” children, Brogan and Patrick, both of whom are adults and beginning families of their own. They have adopted both domestically and internationally over the years and have welcomed Keagan, Brownyn, Tobin, Rory, MengYan, Daley, Brittany, Brianna, Brian, Wen, Wu, and Miles into their family. They have experienced domestic infant adoption, domestic special needs adoption, domestic older child adoption, and China special needs adoption. The Mckinneys have helped children heal from prenatal drug exposure, infant drug addiction from exposure, and severe abuse and neglect. They have experience with sickle cell disease, hydrocephaly, epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, limb and arm differences, Thalassemia, autism, PTSD, bi-polar, and more. To state that they are an experienced adoptive family feels like an understatement as best. Despite all that the McKinney’s have taken on, they remain defined not by any special needs or circumstances, but by the fact that they are above all things a wonderful, loving, supportive family!
Here is an interview with Ann, who can teach us all so very much. So, get your coffee mug ready, sit down for a little bit, and get to know this amazing woman with me!
Ann, did you and Dale always know that you wanted so many children? No! We laugh now, over our attitudes when we were first engaged! Dale has always wanted a very large family…..he wanted 8 children. And I did not want children at all! Our pastor asked us to please complete extra pre-marital counseling, because of this difference in our desires! For me (Ann), it was only after I truly surrendered my life and heart to Jesus Christ, and allowed Him to show me His desire for me, that I realized the blessing that children are. We prayed together that God would give us the courage to follow His path for us. The path has been a crazy, but wonderful one!!!
Tell us about your first adoption…. When we originally began looking into adoption, China had just closed adoptions to couples with biological children. So, we began to look at domestic adoption. The more we prayed about adopting, the more we felt that God did not want us to “compete” for a child. He wanted us to adopt a child who needed us as much as we needed him/her. We met with an adoption attorney who desperately needed families for minority or special needs children. Within a month of meeting with her, we were matched with a birth mom. Keagan’s birth was amazing! I was in the delivery room with his birthmother, I was the first one to hold him, and we were allowed to room-in with him until he was discharged. We built a strong relationship with his birthmother, and still consider her a close friend. It was a magical experience, and I knew we would do it again. I just didn’t know we would do it 13 more times!
What has been the process in which you and Dale have decided to adopt each time? Every one of our children came to us through a unique situation. Some we had months and months to plan for, some we had a week to plan for! Every time we are called about a child, or asked to consider a child, the first thing we do is pray for this child, asking God to show us His perfect will. A family meeting is also called, to discuss the possibility of another adoption. It is very important to us that all of our children are included in adoption decisions, as it will affect all of them. They are each allowed to share their opinion, both bad and good. And then we all pray that God will open the door wide for us, or he will close it. And that if the door closes, we have to let it close, and not try to break it down. We have had many doors close. Many heartbreaks. But we also have 14 blessings, where God opened that door, and gave us the courage to walk through!
What have been some struggles in the adoption process? Finances are always a struggle. Those numbers always look so huge, and my checkbook numbers always look so small! But I have to honestly say that even in completing 12 adoptions in 16 years, we have never had to get a loan, never fallen short. We have fund-raised our tails off….but God has always provided! Many times through friends and family, who are not necessarily called to adopt themselves, but want to help unite children with their forever families. Another huge struggle has been with the state of Illinois. Laws have changed now, but in the past, Illinois has had a very poor view of large families, especially those that are Christian and home educate their children. Our wonderful caseworker literally had to fight to get Illinois to approve us to adopt our twins, and it was brutal. There were many times we thought Illinois would close that door for us, but through prayer, persistence, and a wonderful caseworker at Madison Adoption Associates, they are our sons today! The state of Illinois was our mountain, and God chose to move it!
What are some challenges of raising a large family and how to you manage those challenges? Several years ago I found a wonderful book called “Managers of their Home.” It has changed the way our household is managed, and made things run so much smoother. I have also learned a lot through various Duggar family books. Through these resources, I have learned to manage our home, rather than take care of the household myself. Everyone in our family has chores, responsibilities and obligations. The older kids each have a “buddy” – a younger child to help with. This means they own the role of helper for that child when it is time to go somewhere – putting on shoes, coats, buckling into car seats, etc. I am also an absolute schedule freak, and a list-maker. I have to do these things to keep on track. We have discovered Cozi, a family calendar app, that has been extremely helpful with organization. This calendar will notify all family members of their appointments throughout the month, and will remind us all of things daily. Probably my biggest challenge is managing medical care. Many of my children have on-going medical needs, and doctor’s appointments are very frequent. I have tried my best to schedule all appointments on specific days of the week, and to have a friend or family member available to help with transportation or babysitting those who remain behind.
What has been the community response to your family? There are many people who just simply think we are crazy! Maybe we are! I am very thankful that my church family has not only welcomed us with open arms, but they have actually partnered with me to start an adoption ministry. By summer 2016, we will have welcomed our 70th child home in this ministry! This includes children adopted through foster care, domestic and international adoption. My van…..that always comes up! When we bought our van, we were disappointed to find that most 15 passenger vans only come in white. My sister-in-law had just opened a vinyl banner/sign company, and so I gave her some basic adoption/orphan information that was near to my heart and told her to go crazy! I also asked her to make a specific “person” for each family member, to add to the van. So, now my van is a driving adoption/orphan care bill board! It embarrasses the older teens, but I love the opportunity it gives Dale and I to share our hearts with those who ask about it.
What has God taught you about family? And what would you tell a young family considering adopting for the first time? God has shown us that family isn’t biological. Family is a group of people who love, encourage and uplift each other. God has shown us that everyone is valuable! We believe that God has given us a little glimpse of heaven, through the diversity of our family and also given us a glimpse of his heart! To that family who is adopting for the first time, I will tell you to hang on, because it is an awesome adventure! Seek friends who can mentor you, research adoption, read the Connected Child, develop a good relationship with your caseworker and agency. And don’t let fear or poor advice deter you from following the adoption path God has shown you.
Can you share about the journey to your son Miles? We heard about Miles almost 2 years ago. We began praying for him, advocating for him, and felt that all too familiar “tug.” We watched as two different families stepped forward, and then both backed out for various reasons. And all the while…..time was ticking, and Miles time was running out. He had to get home before his 14th birthday. For Miles, it was not just a matter of aging out, it was a death sentence, as he was so medically fragile. Getting him to the US was his only hope to live a full life. It was actually Dale who finally said to me, “You know we have to go get him, right?” The very next day we called Madison Adoption Associates and started the process! Miles’ adoption was much different than the others, basically because we were not necessarily seeking to add another child to our family at that point. But we knew we could give Miles all of the things he so desperately needed and we knew we could love him. We have always told our children, “If you see a problem, and you can offer the solution, you need to do it.” So adoption #12 began! Miles’ adoption was expedited because he was so sick, so things really moved quickly… About a month before we were due to travel, I have to admit, I started to get worried. I let the older child adoption “horror” stories get into my head. I started thinking about have SIX teenagers in my home. I worried about what we would do if he declined the adoption, or did not like us! So many things going through my head. I think I prayed more than ever that month! I think anxiety in adoption is very common, but I did my best to ask God to take that from me, and we moved forward. The moment we met Miles, every fear dissolved quickly. He is amazing!! His orphanage did a wonderful job in preparing him for adoption. He was excited! He is a cheerful, happy, very sweet, affectionate child, and we could not be happier. He has only been home a month, and it already feels like he has been with us forever. Absolutely NO regrets….this has been a very, very good thing!
As we take our last sips of coffee, Ann, is there anything else that you would like to add? Yes! Just do it! So many children are waiting! The joy a child can bring to your life is something you can find nowhere else. Having adopted four children over the age of 10, I have to say that older kids are dear to my heart! Please consider them! Especially the boys! No child should ever be without the love and support of a family. Just put your trust in God, and take that first (or second, third, etc.) step, and do it!
Do you have a question for Ann Mckinney, mother to FOURTEEN and orphan advocate? (By the way, she also manages her home, cheers wildly at the kids games, leads mission trips, has home educated, speaks and writes, and is currently taking classes! She is dynamic!) Let us know what other questions you may have for Ann. Although she is busy, her heart for encouraging adoption is strong and she wants to answer any questions that may support and help others choose to adopt, or adopt again!