OLATHE, Kan. – Thousands of adoption inquiries rolled in from as far away as Ireland and New Zealand after a simple plea from five Kansas siblings: They wanted to be adopted together.
The flood of offers followed a story in the Kansas City Star about the three boys and two girls, who became known as the "Fab Five." The newspaper story drew nearly 7 million online readers, and an unprecedented number of adoption inquiries crashed the state-contracted Adopt Kansas Kids website a day after the story ran.
But it turns out that a local couple had narrowly beat the flood of interest. And on Wednesday, the couple formally became parents.
A judge officially approved Jeff and Toni Whaley's request to adopt the five children, who range in age from 3 to 12, during a ceremony in Johnson County courtroom.
"We feel blessed," Jeff Whaley said. Added 9-year-old Layla, the chattiest of the siblings: "It was really, really important that we stay together."
The Whaleys live in Douglas County, west of Kansas City, and had seen a state-produced video about the children. They applied to adopt the children, who had been living in separate foster homes, just days before the original newspaper story ran last year, the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday.
The couple had no children but had served as foster parents for the past several years. They were originally thinking of adopting up to three youngsters — but they fell in love with the Fab Five.
The state strictly guarded information about the children's background and whereabouts. But the Whaleys had been quietly fostering all five children since August. The children have been eating from the family garden, taking hay rides and gotten to know their grandfather's pet chicken.
"They're all such nice kids," their grandfather said. "I just love them to pieces."
State officials said interest in the siblings helped draw families to other children in need of permanent homes. The Whaleys hope their story promotes the benefits of adoption.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com