And Then There Were Seven
Five siblings in search of a home find their way to a second chance.

Also read: The First Family
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Daigle family
Dan Daigle '74 and Mary Pat Rowland '74 outside their home in Rollinsford, N.H.

On a rainy afternoon in late April, Mary Pat Rowland '74 is pulling a tray of pumpkin muffins out of the oven when Jack, 17, and Jacob, 13, come bursting through the door, followed a few minutes later by their younger brothers, Jeffery, 10, and Jarid, 8. The kitchen is suddenly a jumble of backpacks and unlaced sneakers, hockey jerseys and low-slung pants. Muffins are disappearing. A dog is being fed. The phone is ringing. School paperwork is being sorted on the counter. Jarid runs upstairs to visit his pet turtles, then returns to curl up on the couch with Sally, the English setter. Jacob cranks up the music in his room. Dan Daigle '74, Mary Pat's husband, double-checks the schedule—almost every day of the week he drives someone to basketball or hockey or baseball practice. Keeping it all straight can be a challenge. And then there's sister Jennifer, 14. She'll need to be picked up soon from her after-school job. It's just another afternoon at the Daigle-Rowland household—chaotic but happy—where life can seem, at moments like this, completely normal. But, in fact, until recently this new family—the only one in the state of New Hampshire with an adopted set of five siblings—did not even exist.

Not so long ago, Mary Pat and Dan were busy with their jobs—he as a teacher in the Somersworth, N.H., school system near Rollinsford, where they live, she as the managing editor of the local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Their two biological daughters, Emily and Ellie, 27 and 23 respectively, were both college graduates and working as registered nurses. "For years, we had been busy with their school activities and our jobs," says Mary Pat. "We didn't have time for anything else. I didn't even volunteer." She certainly never envisioned herself as a foster parent—never mind an adoptive one. "We didn't really have time to pay attention to anybody else and their problems," she says. Then, all of a sudden, the girls were gone. Mary Pat glances at Dan, who is sitting on the couch. They both voice the same idea at the same time. "We thought, 'Is this it? Is there anything else?'"

Plus, they couldn't stand the silence. "The house was way too quiet," says Dan. And so, in 2006, he decided to take a foster parenting course. During his 35 years of teaching physical education, Dan had been an informal mentor to troubled kids. He knew the territory, and he had a natural ability to connect. "After the class was over, we never heard anything, and we sort of forgot about it," says Dan, who was partially retired from teaching by then and focusing on his real estate business. But in November, a social worker called.

"I know you only wanted one child," she said, "but would you consider two?" Reluctant at first, Mary Pat and Dan finally agreed to a meeting. "We just ate a meal together at a Friendly's restaurant," says Mary Pat, "but I felt like I'd been hit by lightning. I loved them immediately." Dan wasn't so sure. The kids were older—Jack was 15 and Jennifer was 12. And they were hard to read. Jack talked a lot. Jennifer barely made eye contact. The two of them had been removed several times from their family home due to abuse and neglect. Each time, as they grew older, it became harder to place them in foster care. Nobody wants older kids. Mary Pat and Dan knew what these kids were facing. They agreed to another meeting.

Daigle family
AT HOME: The five youngest members of the Daigle-Rowland family pause during a game of catch outside their home in Rollinsford, N.H. From left are Mary Pat Rowland '74, Jennifer, Jarid, Dan Daigle '74, Jeffery, Jacob and Jack.

A few weeks later, right around Christmas, Jack and Jennifer came to Mary Pat and Dan's house for supper and a movie. They ate pizza. They met the dogs. The tree was sparkling with ornaments. "When we invited them for an overnight, they were trying to be on their best behavior," says Mary Pat. "You could tell they were just dying to be here." By January 2007, Jack and Jennifer had moved in, and Mary Pat and Dan had become foster parents to two teenagers.

It was not an easy time. Just weeks after Jack and Jennifer arrived, Mary Pat and Dan had to get them out of school to tell them their father had died. Cause of death: alcoholism. He was 37. "They knew he had severe addiction problems," says Mary Pat, "and he hadn't lived with the family full time in years, but there was still a strong emotional bond." And then there were the three other kids. Turns out, Jack and Jennifer were the oldest of five. The younger ones were living at the St. Charles Children's Home in nearby Rochester, waiting to see if they could someday be reunited with their mother, who was in jail for drug possession.

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