And Then There Were Seven
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As the weeks went on, Mary Pat and Dan continued to focus on their two teens. But they didn't forget the younger ones. "Every time we'd go to the store, we'd say, 'Let's buy this for Jarid,' or we'd think of something for Jacob." Meanwhile, they were getting pressure from Jack and Jennifer. "We'll do better," they'd say. "We'll help you," they promised. They were desperate to stay together. But the state was intent on placing the three younger children in other homes—two together, one by himself. Nobody wanted three kids at once.

Daigle family
Jarid displays his pet turtle.

And then, in October 2007, everything changed. "I think it finally became clear that we were the best option," says Mary Pat. And so the state asked Mary Pat and Dan to take the kids. The prospect was daunting. The financial considerations alone kept them awake at night, and they spent weeks negotiating with the state, finally arriving at an agreement on adoption subsidies that might allow them to make ends meet. If they were going to take five troubled kids into their home, they couldn't be working nonstop just to put food on the table. "It was such a hard decision," admits Mary Pat, "but I couldn't live with the notion of breaking these guys up. I just couldn't do it."

On Jan. 1, 2008, Mary Pat and Dan announced their plan to proceed with the adoption. The kids were ecstatic. But the saga continued. First of all, there was the matter of how everyone was going to fit into their little Cape-style house. In February, thanks to volunteers from a Lutheran church, a huge renovation project got underway, transforming the basement into bedrooms for the oldest children. Mary Pat and Dan raided their retirement savings to cover the cost of materials.

Through the months of renovation chaos, Mary Pat and Dan juggled the lives of five foster kids (the youngest three moved into the house in March), shuffling them to sports events, arranging therapy sessions and orchestrating a series of surgeries, including two to correct years of dental neglect. There was also an emergency appendectomy and a tonsillectomy somewhere in the mix. The weeks rolled along, full of anticipation, and then, in October 2008, in the midst of a deepening recession and financial woes, the state backtracked on the agreed-upon subsidy.

Daigle family
BACKYARD DRIVER'S ED: Jennifer takes her younger brothers, Jarid, left, and Jeffery for a spin in a golf cart.

The adoption was looming. The kids were counting on it. "You don't tell them you're going to be a 'forever family'—and then change your mind," says Mary Pat. "There was a reason we never had five kids," she says. "We couldn't afford five kids. And now we had five children with lots of problems. Just taking care of them emotionally and physically was hard enough. The financial worry on top of it was just too much."

A fundraiser organized by their friends Chuck and Betsy Cowell Cressy '89, owners of Durham Marketplace in Durham, brought in $19,000, which the Daigles have stored away to draw on as sparingly as possible. The Cressys also provided a year's worth of free groceries. The Bagelry contributed a monthly bagel supply and Philbrick's Sports provided sports equipment for the boys. The community outreach helped Mary Pat and Dan move ahead, worried but determined.

Finally, on April 2, 2009, all the adoptions were complete. It was official. Their dream had become a reality: they were no longer a foster family—they were a "forever family." As they celebrated the moment together at a local restaurant, it was clear already how far they had come. Early on, whenever Mary Pat and Dan had tried to take the kids out to dinner as a group, it was a disaster. "There was inappropriate language and rough behavior. They didn't know how to conduct themselves. Sometimes we'd have to get up and leave," says Mary Pat. "Now we can go anywhere together."

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