The First Family
Five adopted children, all siblings, sets a record in New Hampshire

"Our goal is to place siblings together whenever possible," says Eileen Mullen, chief of the bureau of community and family support at New Hampshire's Division of Health and Human Services. Mullen notes that while there have been nearly two dozen sibling adoptions in the past year in New Hampshire, the adoption of more than three is highly unusual. And Mary Pat Rowland '74 and Dan Daigle '74 are the first couple in New Hampshire to take on five.

Research shows how valuable maintaining sibling relationships can be—especially in the case of older children, according to Malcolm Smith, a professor in UNH's family studies department and a family education and family policy specialist with UNH's Cooperative Extension. "That's been clear in the literature for over 40 years, he says. "The other thing that's clear is that it's very hard to make adoptions of older children successful, but having a sibling group supporting you ups those odds."

During his career and through personal experience, Smith, a foster parent himself, has witnessed over and over again the challenges faced by children in both foster and adoptive families. The good news, says Smith, who has studied attachment theory, is that success is possible. "All of us long for a sense of belonging," he says. "And children can attach—and respond—to a new adult. What matters is that the adult can give love back."

It takes more than committed parents to make it work, though. "Mary Pat and Dan should be celebrated for the commitment they have made, but they can't do it alone," says Smith. "The community is going to be incredibly important. If a network of friends and neighbors, church and community groups rally around this family, it will have a direct impact on the likelihood of their success."


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