IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Couple adopts 7 siblings in foster care after parents die in car crash

“I can’t explain it — I just knew I was supposed to be their mom.”
/ Source: TODAY

Pam Willis was scrolling through her Facebook feed in 2019 when she landed on a news story about seven siblings in need of a permanent home.

The children, who ranged in age from 1 to 12, had been in foster care for more than a year after losing both parents in a horrific rollover car crash.

Pam couldn’t stop staring at their faces.

“I can’t explain it — I just knew I was supposed to be their mom,” Pam, 50, told TODAY Parents.

Pam tagged her husband, Gary Willis, 53, so he would see the article. The couple, who share five adult children and live in Menifee, California, had been fostering kids for years, but they had never discussed adoption.

“I thought Gary was going to tell me I was wacko — we were getting ready to retire,” Pam admitted. But to Pam's relief, Gary felt the same exact way she did.

“It was what God wanted us to do,” Pam said.

That night, they called the number listed at the bottom of the story.

“We were told they’d already received thousands of calls,” Pam recalled.

But two months later, Pam and Gary were matched with Adelino, 15, Ruby, 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4.

The children, as Pam learned during the screening process, had experienced a great deal of trauma. Their late parents struggled with addiction and the family often lived in homeless encampments. Food was scarce.

“It was easy to connect with the little ones. They were just desperately craving permanency,” Pam revealed. The older two were a little trickier.

“I think they didn’t quite trust that we were real. Like maybe we were going to go away,” Pam said. “I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life. Ruby didn't know how to be a kid. She had to be a mother figure at a very young age."

For the first six months, the kids struggled with sleep. There were frequent nightmares.

“One night, my then-7-year-old came into our room,” Pam recalled. “I asked her, ‘Did you have a bad dream?’ And she replied, ‘No, I just wanted to make sure that you were still here.’”

Pam isn’t going anywhere. Last August, she and Gary adopted Aleecia and her six brothers and sisters. The emotional ceremony was attended virtually by Pam and Gary’s biological children, Matthew, 32, Andrew, 30, Alexa, 27, Sophia, 23, and Sam, 20.

“It was awesome,” Pam said. “We brought a big TV screen out to the park so everybody could watch and cheer and be safe during COVID. There was so much love.”

The Willis’ story recently caught the eye of actor Kristen Bell after Pam shared an Instagram video called “Our life in 15 seconds!” Bell was so touched by the footage that she posted it on her Instagram story.

The clip starts with Pam and Gary first meeting as teens in 1988 and ends with the adoption.

“They’ve given us a second chance at parenting, we’ve given them a second Mom and Dad,” Pam wrote. “They are our Second Chance 7.”

Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.