Valerie Crabbe already had three children when she married a man who also happened to have three kids, instantly creating a large, bustling household. But the Pennsylvania couple didn’t stop there.
Over the years, Crabbe and her husband, Larry Harris, have opened their home to many foster children and adopted two of them, both girls who are now thriving. And Crabbe has started the Being Beautiful Foundation to help foster children and promote adoption.
Today, the blended family of 10, with members who are black, Hispanic and white, draw lots of attention when they’re out and about.
“The heads turn,” Crabbe said in a TODAY segment Thursday. “And stares. But also a lot of smiles.”
With Mother’s Day approaching, Crabbe gets the highest marks as a mom as she seeks to inspire others to help children in need.
“She’s Super Mom,” Harris says. “That’s my description of her.”
“She’s everything that you want in a mom,” says Aaron, one of her sons.
Larry and Valerie’s path to adoption began within a year of their wedding, when Crabbe said she had always wanted to adopt a little girl. With her husband’s blessing, she responded to an ad about troubled foster children, and soon, she was reading a report about a girl named Angela, who had been shuttled through 10 foster families.
The details in the thick report spoke to Crabbe’s heart. “I read it and I fell in love with her,” Crabbe says.
“I felt like she was talking to me through the words on the paper,” Crabbe says. “I felt like she was calling for me.”
Crabbe was devastated when, at the last minute, the agency placed Angela in another foster family. Crabbe’s mother told her not to worry.
“‘You are going to get this little girl,’” Crabbe recalls her mother saying. “‘Mark my words.’”
Two hours later, Crabbe’s mother died. That evening, Crabbe got a life-changing phone call offering to place Angela with her. “And I said, ‘Wow, she knew,’” she said.
Angie was happy with her new home. “They just seemed like they actually loved me,” she said. “I could trust them.”
Like so many children do, Angie wanted a baby sibling, and Audelia joined the large family. The couple later adopted both girls.
Things weren’t always easy, as Angie pushed everyone’s buttons. “She would go into a temper tantrum to a point where she's tearing up her room,” Crabbe said.
“And I said, ‘Why are you doing that?’” Crabbe said. “And she was just screaming. ‘You're gonna get rid of me. You're gonna get rid of me.’”
Angela told Crabbe she was weird when the mother joined the chaos and helped her tear up the room. “And I said, 'But I love you.’"
“‘You're gonna get rid of me now?’" Crabbe said her daughter asked. “I said, ‘Nope. You're not going anywhere.’”
“And I think after that moment, she realized I was in it for the long haul,” Crabbe said.
Audelia knew the home was right for her because, she said, “I felt loved.”
By opening their home to so many children, Harris said he has learned that “more is better.”
“When these guys are grown and gone, there’ll probably be a whole new crew coming in,” he said.
More than 513,000 American children are in foster care, according to the Being Beautiful Foundation website. The foundation seeks to “educate and promote awareness for other families to ‘get involved’ by opening their homes to children who are less fortunate by providing a safe, stable and nurturing environment for them to grow, learn and develop.”
Crabbe’s story will be told as part of the Oxygen network’s documentary, “The Untold Stories of Motherhood.”