Opting to adopt: Military family shares story of adoption

  • Published
  • By Holly L. Birchfield
When Master Sgt. Herman McDaniel and his wife, Cathy, discovered they couldn't have biological children of their own, they thought their life-long dream of starting a family was lost.

But, when Sergeant McDaniel, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron's Training Flight, spotted a billboard along Russell Parkway advertising the Department of Family and Children Services' Foster-to- Adopt program, it gave the McDaniel couple an alternative route to parenthood.

The couple, who have been at Robins since 1995, began the adoption process in late 2002 by enrolling in a five-month course through the local DFACS office that would prepare the newly adoptive parents for their journey ahead.

In July 2003, the McDaniels welcomed four-week-old Colby into their home and hearts.

The couple had been married for 19 years when their bundle of joy entered their world.

Sergeant McDaniel was on a temporary duty assignment in Texas when he heard the good news. The proud papa passed out cigars to celebrate a son he wouldn't see until five days later.

The McDaniels, both Georgia natives, said DFACS representatives told them that getting an infant was a rare occurrence - one that they called 'a blessing.'

Twenty-one months later, the couple received a second adopted son, Dakota, Colby's biological brother.

Sergeant McDaniel said in their family's eyes, the boys weren't adopted - they are their very own.

"Nobody in the family treats them as adoptive children," he said. "They're just part of our family."

Mrs. McDaniel, a composition writer at L-3 Communications' TCS Inc. in Warner Robins, said with the excitement of their adopted sons' arrival came new challenges and adjustments. And Sergeant McDaniel said gone are the days of long fishing and hunting trips.

"I'm pretty much outgoing, so I like to hunt and fish a lot," he said. "That's cut back a little bit. I've cut back on some collectibles, but I don't have a problem with that. I enjoy spending my money on them."

And the 43-year-old father of two soon learned that there was a lot of shopping to do.

"When we got the boys, we didn't really have anything," he said. "We had a couple of bottles. You don't realize what it's like to have an instant child in your home. So when you get him there and you get him from DFACS, all he's got are the clothes on his back and maybe a bottle or a toy they give him."

Mrs. McDaniel made numerous trips to the store with her mother to buy whatever the boys needed.

The McDaniels' parents helped with the initial care of the boys and friends hosted baby showers to help the family get what was needed for the children.

Sergeant McDaniel said his squadron leadership has been very supportive as the couple continues the process of finalizing their sons' adoptions.

"My squadron was awesome," he said. "They gave me a couple of weeks off. They understood the situation with the boys whenever we had visitations (with the biological parents) and they allowed me to go."

Maj. Paul Kanning, 653rd CLSS commander, said taking care of Airmen's families is just as important as taking care of the Airmen themselves.

"Being a member of the Air Force is not an individual activity," he said. "It's a family activity. Happiness at the work center and when you're deployed really starts at home. So, we have to focus on what are the family requirements in each individual case, what's going on in the family home."

Although a DFACS adoptionis a long process with lots ups and downs, Sergeant McDaniel said the reward of having two sons has made it worthwhile.

"Just knowing we would get a child someday and it would fulfill our life-long dream (has kept us going)," he said. "When we got Colby, we were hoping we'd get another brother or sister for him, but we didn't know if we would or not. Then, when we got a biological brother, it was just God's answer for us."

The couple is in the process of finalizing their adoptions of Colby, now 3, and Dakota, now 19 months old. They said when the adoptions are made final, the family plans to have a large cookout to celebrate.

Sergeant McDaniel said he encourages people who are in the midst of adoption to be patient.

"There are challenges, ups and downs dealing with courts and with DFACS and the biological parents," he said. "But, through God's will, He'll answer your prayers and that's what happened with us."