Life moves fast in the Tadler household. Molly, the third grader, does homework before softball practice and eagerly anticipates her weekend guitar and horseback riding lessons. Sister Corrina, age 4, can't wait to start her own riding and music lessons as soon as she is old enough. For now, she is busy with preschool and T-ball and her favorite cartoon character, Peppa Pig. Little Alice - called Ally - recently turned 2. She has plenty of energy to keep up with her sisters and take care of her menagerie of stuffed animals, most of them bunnies named "Bunny."
"I love being the father of three girls," says John Tadler, a Lieutenant for the Allegheny County Police Department. "I can't imagine life any other way."
John and Mary Tadler were in their 40s when they married, and after their daughter Molly was born in September 2009, they were unable to have another biological child. Motivated by the feeling that their family wasn't complete, the couple began thinking about adoption, which ultimately led them to Family Support Services (formerly Project STAR) at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.
"I've been exposed to many types of difficult domestic situations through my work, so I know there are plenty of children right here in our communities who need safe and nurturing homes," John describes. "While international adoptions are the right choice for some families, Mary and I believed we should adopt locally."
For more than three decades, Family Support Services has advocated for the right of all children (especially those with physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities) to grow up with a loving, permanent family. Licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as a private adoption, foster care children and youth social service agency, Family Support Services is an affiliate member of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) and maintains contracts with local, statewide and out-of-state counties in the areas of family placement, preservation/reunification and enrichment. Family Support Services has served more than 13,000 children and families in the past five years.
"When I started looking for more information about adoption, Project STAR was very responsive," says Mary. "They answered all of my questions and were very flexible in accommodating our needs and desires. They provided so many resources to help us make the best decisions to grow our family."
The Tadlers became a Family Support Services resource family when Molly was 3. Resource families are qualified through a 24-hour parent certification process that provides education on the realities parents will encounter and skills they will need once they agree to take a child into their home to provide life-changing love and care. Resource families receive training, support and advocacy to be part of a child's life through foster care; medical foster care; respite care; and emergency shelter care.
"One of the greatest benefits we received through Project STAR was the opportunity to provide respite care for three different families," Mary explains. "This process of opening our home to a child in need, even for just a short time, affirmed for us that adoption was the right decision for us."
Corrina came to the Tadlers at six weeks old because of a failure to thrive. Her biological sister, Ally, joined the Tadler family at three weeks old. The two girls also have five other half-brothers and -sisters, all removed from an environment of abuse and neglect.
"When we decided to adopt, we didn't initially realize that we were going to gain such a large extended family," laughs Mary. "These seven siblings have been adopted by four families, and we are connected forever by this common bond. The children know who their biological brothers and sisters are, and adoptive siblings like Molly call them cousins. The other parents are known to all the kids as aunts and uncles, and we adults have functioned often as a support group in facing the challenges that come with open adoption."
"It's a lot of work - being a parent of three - but I wouldn't change any of it," says Mary, as she goes in search of Ally's warren of rabbits to prepare for the bedtime routine.
"Once, when we provided respite care, a child who had been through significant trauma at the hands of adults told me that she could trust me," ends John. "I can't put into words what that meant to me. Corrina and Ally were infants when they became part of our family, so they'll never know a day without love. Every child deserves that."
At The Children's Institute, our Family Support Services team is committed to connecting amazing families with amazing kids, establishing permanency in the lives of the children we serve. Learn more about our foster care placement services today.