The Hayes family, top to bottom, Jake, 39, Angie, 36, and Indianna, 13, with Finneas, 10, and Attikus, 8, not pictured, is adopting five siblings who will arrive from Washington state in two weeks. - Jamie Lusch

More love to give

Love doesn't divide, it multiplies. That's the motto Medford mom Angie Renick-Hayes was raised on. It's a philosophy she and her family choose to live by. And it's about to be put to the test.

Renick-Hayes, 36, and her husband, Jake Hayes, 39, are in the process of adopting a family of five siblings who will arrive from Washington state in two short weeks — and she is betting 10 people's world will expand exponentially, along with their hearts.

"We're good at family," said Renick-Hayes, aiming a confident smile at her contractor husband. "Jake and I both come from really big families."

Photos of the happy couple and their three biological kids, Indianna, 13, Finneas, 10, and Attikus, 8, adorn the walls of their modest, four-bedroom, southwest Medford home. Scattered among the artful images are empty photo frames soon to be filled with the faces of the five siblings, four girls and one boy, who range in age from 17 months to 11 years old.

A self-described stay-at-home mom who works part-time as a doula (birthing coach) at Trillium Waterbirth Center and a nutrition and life skills educator at Central Medford High School, Renick-Hayes said the path to finding these Washington siblings was both winding and inevitable.

The decision to adopt came after considerable soul-searching about what she and her family could do to better the world.

"It's one of those things where you do what you can in your corner of the world," Renick-Hayes said, adding she was inspired by the words of Mother Teresa.

"She said, 'If you want to make the world a better place, go home and love your family,' " Renick-Hayes said.

Once the decision to adopt was made, the couple began searching in Ethiopia. But the country's borders quickly closed just two weeks after their search began, Renick-Hayes said. That's when she learned more than a million children are waiting for permanent homes in the United States, she added.

"We didn't know," she said.

About 8,000 foster children are in the Oregon child welfare system, and about 200 of those kids are waiting for adoptive homes, said Doug Mares, Department of Human Services district manager for Jackson and Josephine counties.

"There are between 10 and 15 kids available on any given day who are eligible and available for adoption in Jackson and Josephine counties," said Mares.

The Hayeses connected with local child welfare officials and began the certification process to become foster parents. They also put in their applications to become adoptive parents, said Renick-Hayes.

"I bow down to foster parents. They are truly amazing," she said. "But we knew we wanted to bring kids into our home and provide permanency."

Leslie LaNier, certification supervisor for Jackson County child welfare, said Renick-Hayes and Hayes were subjected to "a rigorous examination process," which included probing questions from social workers, frequent home visits, numerous reference requirements, and local and FBI criminal history checks.

"You are literally letting (social workers) see your family for all its good and bad," she said.

Once passed, and because they were willing to adopt multiple children, the Hayeses were selected as possible adoptive parents for several different combinations of Oregon kids, including a family of seven siblings. But they didn't find a perfect fit until their social worker forwarded their home study onto another social worker in Washington, Renick-Hayes said.

A single visit was all it took to be hooked, she said.

"We knew instantly. These are our kids," Renick-Hayes said. "We went into this thinking, 'Maybe we'll save someone's life.' But truly these children have saved our lives. They have totally changed how we move through the world."

The parental rights of the adoptive siblings' birth parents have been legally terminated by the courts system. Two older siblings have been adopted by their biological family members, Renick-Hayes said. She has promised all seven siblings that she will encourage and facilitate contact between them.

"That is a top priority," Renick-Hayes said, adding theirs will be an "open communication" adoption with twice-annual visitation and cards and letters, she said.

None of the adoptive children's names or pictures can be used in this story because the adoption is not yet final. But the fact that these siblings will not be split up will help protect lifelong connections, LaNier said, adding studies show sibling bonds are key and often the most long-lived of any relationship.

"There's a huge, huge benefit to the children to have their family system intact," she said. "It takes a really special person to open their hearts to one child. But it's really amazing to find a couple who are willing to take a whole group of siblings."

Carob, the family's big, mop-topped pooch, wandered around the living room seeking pets and belly scratches as the couple's biological kids discussed their hopes, desires and concerns about upcoming changes. All the biological kids will be sharing their bedrooms with their new adoptive siblings.

"There are times when I think, 'Oh my gosh, this is really, really crazy,' " said Finneas. "But then I think that it's going to be really, really fun."

Attikus admits he, too, is "nervous and excited at the same time."

Indianna is glad to be adding sisters to the mix, especially one close in age.

"My hope is that we all get in a rhythm and it just flows," she said.

Renick-Hayes said the older siblings in the adoptive group have done a wonderful job "taking care of the littles" and setting a tone for welcoming love into their lives.

"My hope is we all stay really open and not have too many expectations," said Renick-Hayes. "If we can just meet people where they are, hold onto that and believe in the best ... ."

Jake Hayes met his wife when they were both teens. They describe their lives together as an ongoing adventure. Hayes said he welcomes that. But as the family breadwinner, Hayes admitted he was initially skeptical when his wife broached the adoption issue.

"At first I was like, 'No way!' " he said, with a teasing grin. "But we couldn't not do it, especially after meeting the kids."

The family recently spent time with the Washington children in a beach house in Puget Sound. The interaction between them was at first tentative, sometimes tumultuous and intensely heart-tugging. As the five siblings' arrival date approaches, Hayes said he is getting increasingly excited about the changes to come for all.

"We can provide a house and love," said Hayes.

"And deep connection," Renick-Hayes added.

Big families run in their families, Hayes said. Renick-Hayes' grandmother had nine children. Hayes' had 13. One of six siblings himself, Hayes knows being part of a large brood is sometimes "sticky, messy and annoying," he said.

"I sometimes wished I was an only child," Hayes said, smiling at his kids' shocked reaction.

But it is worth it, Hayes quickly added.

"At the end of the day, it's always about family," he said.

Hayes' parents had a few hard-and-fast rules to help them all remain connected. Ones he still finds important.

"We always ate dinner together as a family. No matter what," Hayes said. "There was spilled water, spilled juice, spilled milk. My mom was up and down so much cleaning stuff up I don't think she ever had a hot meal. It was chaotic. But I accepted it as normal."

The kids' artwork adorns the family's dining room wall. A new larger dining room table is under construction, said Renick-Hayes. The couple auctioned off the last table and several others to help fund a three-week humanitarian visit to Zambia, Africa, from which Hayes and Indianna just returned.

Looking around their well-loved home, Renick-Hayes laughed when recounting that a friend said they would need everything from beds to "plates that bounce" to accommodate their burgeoning family.

There are more supplies coming from their church, Ashland First Congregational United Church of Christ, at 717 Siskiyou Blvd. The church is holding a shower and celebration of the adoption from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, to help out with a wish list that includes everything from bunk beds to baby monitors to bath towels and beanbag chairs, Renick-Hayes said.

"Our next goal is to get back onto land," she said. "We want to find a home with acreage and a shop. We want to create a wonderful home where Jake can work in his shop and be there with us as we grow in love each day. But right now we are comfy, cozy and thankful for what we have."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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