As the girls sit nearby at a table, busy with the special, messy treat of colorful playdough, Kiely Hermeling, a middle school vocal music teacher, and her husband, Kevin, a high school math and finance teacher, shared the “rags to riches” tale of becoming parents of four little girls nearly overnight. Parenting, in itself, wasn’t a new experience for the couple—they had already been foster parents to eight children, including two groups of three very young children. But the couple had yet to meet the “one.” Literally, the one. They hoped to adopt a baby some day and had decided to take a single placement to get a feel for what it would be like to parent one child at a time.
Instead of one child, four little sisters, then ages 1, 2, 3 and 4 (the biggest gap is 13 months; the shortest, 10 months) wiggled and giggled their way into their hearts. They arrived one weekend in late June of 2010 and their adoption was finalized on November 19, 2011, on National Adoption Day. Kevin describes that first weekend: “Four girls? I had the attitude, okay, we’ll try this, but I don’t think it’s going to work. What do I know about little girls?”
“Like with all our foster kids, we jumped in with our whole hearts,” Kiely recalls. “We didn’t know if it was going to be 10 days or forever…but we were sure hoping.”
It has been a slow and steady process to develop the bond of trust after the abuse and neglect the girls had experienced, but with the support of their big close-knit family, loving friends and the caring staff at Child Saving Institute, Kiely says they’ve all come “miles and miles.”
“We didn’t get to turn the first child into a guinea pig and learn from it so we could use our experience on the next one. We went from zero to four overnight,” Kevin says. “And the successes and growth has been that much sweeter, because it came with its own set of challenges,” Kiely adds. “Plus they’re all so unique with their own personalities and different strengths. It’s so rewarding to watch that develop and see them heal and grow.”
Leading up to the big adoption day, the girls kept a “countdown calendar,” eagerly crossing off each day until they were a legal family. Then, this past summer, the family (and both grandmas) took a much-anticipated eight-day adoption celebration trip to Disney World. While there, each girl picked out her own special ball gown—which they gleefully showed off, complete with twirls.
“Everyone says the girls are so lucky, but we’re the ones who are blessed,” Kiely says softly. “You have to be patient. The bond, the trust, doesn’t happen overnight, but it does come, and the daily blessings of having children in your home are right there from the beginning.”
The Hermelings recently renewed their foster license and are open to more children. “We need to make sure the girls are healed before we adopt, but we will continue to foster,” Kiely says.
Are there little princes in their future? Kevin thinks so. “I’m thinking we need to adopt one to four boys…just to even it out a bit.”