APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — When children enter the foster care system, they lose everything, and it can be a traumatic experience. While it’s a priority to place siblings together, it doesn’t always happen, especially when there are six of them.
Dustin and Daniel Johnson went from a family of two to a family of eight, but not without challenges.
“We all just had been waiting for somebody to give us a home, so we could be together,” said 10-year-old Amiyah Johnson.
Amiyah and her five siblings were all separated and bouncing from home to home in the foster care system.
“We were going to go get adopted by one family, but there was abuse,” said Amiyah.
Dustin and Daniel Johnson knew they wanted a bigger family, so in 2021 they reached out to Eckerd Connects, which was the company that was providing foster care services at the time in Tampa Bay.
“Throughout that training, they emphasize how hard to place sibling groups it was and how important that bond is,” said Dustin.
The couple was then placed on a year long waitlist to get a home study completed, which was the next step of the process. Months later, the Heart Gallery, an agency that helps with the adoption process, called the Johnsons and gave them a grant to expedite the process.
“We knew they were coming in with trauma, and we know transitions are hard, and they haven’t been together,” said Dustin.
Dustin said it was a rocky path, but they wanted to adopt all six children, ages 3 to 11, and have them under their roof.
“There are additional hurtles everyone does prefer what’s quote on quote a traditional family of a mom and a dad figure,” said Dustin.
The state knows finding a home for six kids is a daunting task, and initially separated the kids.
“I hands-down want to thank the Bay Area Legal Services for fighting that these kids get to stay together and that’s ultimately what the kids wanted when everyone else was fighting against that,” said Dustin.
Attorneys at Bay Area Legal Services rejected what they were told.
“What if it doesn’t work there was a lot of what if’s,” said Jennifer Robinson, an attorney with Bay Area Legal Services. “What it doesn’t work, or taking a child away from what stable to put him with his siblings but what if it falls apart and we cause more trauma?”
All six kids moved in the Johnson home in 2022. On May 12, 2023, it was the start of their forever.
“We all feel really happy to be with each other since it’s been a long time,” said Amiyah.
“They have a life that they couldn’t dream of before now that they finally got their safe forever home,” Dustin said.
Next week, the family has been invited to the White House to meet President Joe Biden on behalf of Family Equality.