November 10, 2017

‘It’s all through God’: Milan couple with grown children find blessing in adopting young siblings

Dave, left, Mason, Holly, Haylee, Riley and Kirk Siegel, all members of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County, pose for the camera in their Milan home. Dave, 48, and Holly, 43, adopted half-siblings Mason, 5, and Riley, 8. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Dave, left, Mason, Holly, Haylee, Riley and Kirk Siegel, all members of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County, pose for the camera in their Milan home. Dave, 48, and Holly, 43, adopted half-siblings Mason, 5, and Riley, 8. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series on adoption as a pro-life option. November is National Adoption Awareness Month.)

By Natalie Hoefer

MILAN—At 45 and 40, Dave and Holly Siegel were almost there. With the youngest of their two children being a senior in high school, they were almost empty nesters.

Then the couple of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County met 2-year-old Mason in November 2014, and their lives changed forever.

It started simply enough when the Siegels gave Dave’s brother Bill, then 50, a weekend break from fostering the little boy.

By June of 2016, they were the proud adoptive parents of not just Mason, but also his 6-year-old half-sister Riley.

“Some days I look at [Dave] and say, ‘What were we thinking? We could be lying here, sleeping in, we were almost empty nesters, we could be traveling,’ ” Holly, now 43, says with a laugh.

“But at the end of the day, that stuff doesn’t matter. I think the most important thing is we met [Mason], we fell in love, and it’s all through God. We know his hand was through all of this.”

It’s a story of love shared through adoption, and faith shared through love—a faith that didn’t exist for the Siegels until 2000.

‘I’d been praying about more kids’

It all started with the couple’s desire to seek a faith community when their first two children, Kirk and Haylee, were around ages 7 and 3.

“We needed them to be in a church,” says Holly. “We weren’t doing them any justice by not raising our family in a church.”

This decision came in part through something Dave noticed as a youth baseball coach.

“We saw a lot of broken homes in the community,” Dave, 48, recalls. “We had 13 boys on the baseball team, and nine of them were from divorced families. We saw that it was getting worse, so we knew we had to do something different to swim against the current.

“We weren’t looking for the Catholic Church,” he adds.

But they had friends going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Nicholas Parish who invited them to come to some sessions in 1999. In 2000, the four family members were received into the full communion of the Church.

“Before, we were just living in the world and not thinking about the Lord,” Dave says. “Now he is number one in our thoughts and our decisions.”

And so it was that God came to their minds in November of 2014 as they cared for Mason for two weekends in a row to help his brother, Bill.

‘Seems like it was meant to be’

Bill Siegel and his wife Kim, who live in Cincinnati, already had seven children—two biological, four adopted through foster care and one adopted through a private agency.

They were contacted by a relative whose niece had struggles with drugs and alcohol. The niece’s five children were being removed from the home, and Bill and Kim offered to take the two youngest children, one of whom was Mason.

“My wife was considering taking Mason and his brother Troy permanently,” Bill says. “I talked about my age. I said I [was] getting up there. I didn’t know if I wanted to start over. Our youngest was 12 at the time.

“We agreed to take them until [the birth mother] could get things in line and get the kids back, or the kids went for adoption.”

It was at a family gathering that Dave and Holly agreed to help him by taking Mason for a weekend. And then another weekend.

The Monday after the second weekend, Dave recalls, “Holly and I were driving to work together in Cincinnati, and Mason was in the back seat. I started asking, ‘What do you think is going on here? Why is he here?’

“I’d been praying about more kids for years. So when I asked [Holly] what’s going on, she looks at me and says, ‘You should know—you’ve been praying about this for a long time.’ ”

The prayers go back at least to 2010, when the couple completed classes to become foster parents. But just after becoming certified to foster, Holly started having medical issues, so the couple did not pursue any foster opportunities.

But completing the classes laid the groundwork for the Siegels to be eligible to take Mason temporarily—and then to foster and adopt him as their own son.

“I thought it was amazing,” says Bill of Dave and Holly adopting Mason. “I’m glad he stepped up. Dave’s baby was graduating from high school, and here he was looking at taking on a 2-year-old.

“He’d talked to me about adoption several times in the past. They met Mason and it was like an instant fit. It seems like it was meant to be from the beginning.”

‘We saw them connect’

About six months after taking Mason into their home, the Siegels attended a birthday party for Bill. Mason’s half-sister Riley, then age 6, was in a foster home and also happened to be at the party.

“When we saw them connect at that party, they ran through 70 people to meet each other,” Dave remembers of the two children, who have the same birth mother. “It was unbelievable. They hugged. She sat down, and he sat on her lap facing her, and they played like that for a half hour. I looked at [Holly] and said, ‘Those two are supposed to be together.’ ”

But as long as there is hope for reunification with a parent, a child will not be eligible for adoption. In the case of Riley’s birth mother, she would have had to have changed her lifestyle for a certain amount of time before being able to resume her role as Riley’s mother.

Riley’s foster mother came to the Siegels after six months. The birth mother had still not managed to make the changes in her life necessary for her to be reunited with Riley. Her parental rights were being terminated, so Riley was up for adoption, and the foster parents were not ready to adopt her.

By October 2015, the Siegels were fostering both children, and on June 29, 2016, they were officially the parents of Riley and Mason.

‘The need is so great’

The birth mother’s addiction that led to both children being placed in foster care and ultimately adopted is a growing trend in Indiana as the opioid crisis continues.

According to statistics provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid crisis has led to Indiana being ranked second in the nation in terms of an increase in the number of children placed in foster care from 2013-15. In 2013, the state’s foster care population was nearly 12,400. In 2015, it had risen to more than 17,000—an increase of 27 percent.

And a number of those children were born addicted to drugs. Among that number is Mason, who was born heroin‑dependent.

“As we go forward, it’s like peeling an onion,” Dave says of raising Mason. “People need to hear about this. Twenty percent of preemie babies are born heroin‑addicted. Twenty percent. And that’s on the rise.”

The figures he cites are supported by recent findings from a task force and pilot program enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in 2014. Focusing on four hospitals, the program found that one in five infants born to at-risk mothers had opioids in their system at birth.

“There are so many children—the need for foster parents is so great,” says Holly. “Every day I was getting e-mails, even after I said we can’t take any more children, asking if we could take more.”

Recalling a girl the couple fostered for a few months—a situation called an emergency placement—Holly notes that adults can “go into this knowing you’re just doing it to help these children—you don’t have to adopt.”

For those who do wish to adopt through the foster care system, there is help to do so.

“I don’t think people realize—and we didn’t realize, either—how much help you can get through the state for the adoption,” says Dave. “They pay for the lawyer. They pay for the fees. The private adoptions are a lot more expensive. [The financial help] made it comfortable for us.”

‘The greatest blessing’

As for 5-year-old Mason and the circumstances in which he was born, all seems well, says Holly.

“So far he’s perfect,” she notes. “He has sensory processing [issues], but if you look at it at the end of the day, everyone has something. He gets help for those issues. The teacher says he’s right where he needs to be with studies and socially.

“He wants to be just like Daddy, always. Sometimes he’ll wear a tie to church because he wants to be just like Daddy. So before I bought him any ties, he wore Dave’s ties that hung all the way to the ground the entire Mass,” Holly shares, admitting the get-up garnered some funny looks and grins.

The children were both baptized during this year’s Easter Vigil Mass, and Riley, 8, also received the sacraments of first Communion and confirmation. She is now in the third grade at St. Louis School in Batesville.

“The community, our church, everyone has embraced the kids,” says Dave, who serves as a leader for a tri-parish youth group and is involved in a Bible study at St. Nicholas.

“Everyone” includes Kirk, 25, and Haylee, 21.

“I’ve always wanted a little sibling,” says Haylee, a junior at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus who is studying elementary education with a focus in special education.

She recalls “hearing Dad say a prayer of protection for us in the car in the morning [when she and Kirk were younger], and he would always add, ‘And the children you’ve intended for our home.’

“It’s just a miracle that they’re here. They’ve been through so much, I just can’t imagine what they’ve been through. I just try to love them and let God work through me when I’m around them.”

Kirk, who will graduate in May from Cincinnati State College with a major in computer administration and networking, says he “couldn’t imagine [Mason and Riley] not being in our lives. Sometimes if they go visit relatives, it’s quiet, which is kind of nice, but the house feels empty.”

Both Kirk and Haylee say the experience and their parents’ example have made an impression on them.

“For me, yeah, it’s made me open to fostering or adopting in the future, if that’s what God has planned for me,” says Haylee, who is discerning the possibility of a call to religious life.

Kirk, too, says he hopes to be a father someday.

“But seeing how my parents have changed the lives of kids that would have had terrible lives if they weren’t adopted, because they’d just be moved from home to home, I would definitely want to be a part of someone else’s life like that,” he says.

“If there is anything we would want to tell people [about adopting], it’s to stay open,” says Dave. “We were praying for so long. If people stay open and let the Lord work, the blessings are awesome.

“The greatest blessing is, we have two more children in our home.” †

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