Pam and Gary Willis from Menifee, California, decided to adopt seven orphan children from a foster care center whose parents tragically passed away in a fatal car accident.
It began in 2019 when Pam, 50, was scrolling on her Facebook and came across a post regarding seven siblings who were looking for a home after spending one year in a foster home.
The kids were between the ages of 1 and 12 and were devastated after their parents’ tragic death.
After reading their story, Pam couldn’t stop thinking about them and eventually talked to her husband, Gary, 53.
According to PEOPLE, “Gary was retiring from the post office after his first retirement as a Navy corpsman, and the couple was looking forward to winding down to their retirement years.”
The pair was already foster parents to five children whom they took under their care in 2013. When they learned about 12-year-old Adelino and his six younger siblings’ heartbreaking story, they were touched and wanted to care for them.
“I can’t explain it — I just knew I was supposed to be their mom,” she told TODAY Parents.
“I wasn’t sure if my husband, Gary, would agree with my idea of adopting the kids as we were looking forward to retiring from parenting.” She added. “But to my surprise, he was on board with me and wanted to do the same. I was so relieved. It was what God wanted us to do.”
The California native said they had to wait two months to bring them home because the processing took time. While they were visiting the kids and staying in touch with them, Pam and Gary learned that the kids went through a great deal of childhood trauma.
“[The kids] lived in homeless encampments and watched their late parents suffer from addiction,” she told TODAY.
Eventually, the seven children – Adelino 15, Ruby 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4, matched with the Willis couple and moved in with them.
“It was easy to connect with the little ones. They were just desperately craving permanency,” said Pam.
Speaking to People, the kids described what it was like growing up in a household with addictive parents.
“When we were with our biological parents, I was just living life day by day, trying to survive, trying to go to school but sometimes staying home to watch my sibling and make them food,” said Adelino. “I gave up on the thought of me having a future.”
Meanwhile, younger Ruby added,“There were a lot of times where I stayed at home instead of going to school because our parents ended up just disappearing.”
When the 13-year-old was asked how she felt after shifting to the Willis household, she said, “I get to be more of a kid than a parent.”
Pam and Gary told PEOPLE that they were delighted after adopting the kids, and their biological children were also very supportive.
“I think that they were taken aback a little with the permanency of it all and like, ‘Wow, mom and dad, you’re not 25 anymore,’” Pam said, laughing. “My oldest one, he was 30 at the time and he was future-minded, like, ‘Are you guys going to be okay with retirement and things like that, and financially?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, I think we’ll be okay.’”
The adoption was finalized in August 2020, and the family gained public attention after a video went viral on Instagram.
The foster mom, Pam, documents her family ventures and routine activities on her Instagram, where she has 118K followers. She goes by the username @second.chance.7.
After almost two years, the kids say they have almost moved past their trauma and are living normal lives.
“We’ve moved past that first year that was so incredibly trying for all of us,” Pam told PEOPLE. “The fact that we expected it and knew how to manage it didn’t make it any less difficult.”
What are your thoughts on Pam Willis’ story? Let us know in the comments.