Lacey Dunkin had adopted the four sisters because there was just no way that she would allow them to be separated. So when the devastating day came when she was forced to give them all up, she was understandably heartbroken. Still, just as she was coming to terms with her grief, she received a phone call that left her shell-shocked.
Lacey Dunkin was 25 when she knew, deep down inside, that she needed to be a mom. But with the likelihood of starting a family the “traditional way” seemingly a long way off, she did something amazing: she decided to go it alone.
Dunkin told People magazine, “Marriage wasn’t anywhere on the horizon for me at that point, so I kind of looked at my life and decided that was OK and that I didn’t need marriage. But I knew if I wasn’t a mom, I would regret it my whole life.”
So in June 2011 Dunkin earned her certificate to become a fully fledged foster mother. With dreams of raising a boy, she waited patiently for a placement. Then, in September 2011, she received an exciting phone call that would turn her life upside down.
Her adoption agency urgently needed someone for an emergency foster placement – but there was a catch. Dunkin wouldn’t be taking on one child, or even two; she was being asked to open her home up to four sisters. However, before the social worker had even finished speaking, Dunkin had said yes.
Dunkin told People magazine, “I interrupted the social worker and said, ‘Yes!’ I can’t tell you why I felt so compelled to say yes, but I did. And I didn’t even consider not keeping them together. It was all or nothing to me.” So, within hours, she welcomed the girls into her home.
That night, Dunkin’s four-bedroom house was suddenly filled with confusion and nervous energy. Indeed, as she told Parents, “They were small and scared and brought in the middle of the night to this stranger’s house.” However, with Dunkin’s parents’ help, the kids soon settled.
In fact, the girls – five-year-old Sophia, two-year-old twins Natalie and Melanie, and one-year-old Kaylee – began to feel like part of the family. Dunkin’s mom, Jeri, explained to People, “It was just a natural fit from the start; they attached to Lacey so quickly.”
One morning, for example, Dunkin was readying Sophia for kindergarten when something touching happened. As she explained, “I was making her breakfast. She asked me if I had any daughters and if she could be my daughter. It broke my heart.” It was a bond that quickly strengthened throughout the day.
Dunkin continued, “[Sophia] asked what she could call me and I told her, ‘My name is Lacey, and you can call me whatever you want to call me.’ By the time I found her school and dropped her off, she was introducing me as her mom.”
Nine months later, however, Dunkin was heartbreakingly forced to give the girls up when their biological mother was once again given custody. The foster mother did, though, remain close to the girls. She told People, “Their birth family allowed us to come for visits and babysit the girls whenever possible. We really missed them.”
Dunkin remained pragmatic, though. As she told Parents, “I tried to keep the faith that they would end up where they were supposed to, and in my heart, that was here.” But one month later, she received a telephone call that would change her life forever.
That phone call came straight from the girls’ birth mother, and she had a massive request to make. It seemed that the mother truly wanted what was best for her girls, and so she asked Dunkin if she would be willing to take them on again – permanently. But there was another twist.
Unbeknown to Dunkin, when she had fostered the girls almost a year before, there was a fifth sister. In fact, Baby Lea had been born the day before her four sisters first went to live with Dunkin, but Lea went to stay with a couple who had experience in dealing with newborn babies.
Of course, what their biological mother was asking was huge. But, presumably, she had grown to trust Dunkin and saw for herself the bond that her daughters had with their onetime foster mother.
“I was shocked, because that must have been a hard decision to make,” Dunkin told People. “She had been considering it for a few weeks, but was worried that her family might judge her.” For Dunkin, though, the decision was an easy one, and she never hesitated.
Immediately, a year-long legal process began. So it wasn’t until July 2013 that the adoption was formalized. Dunkin recalled, “They asked me if I was sure they were staying. I reassured them, ‘You’re adopted, you’re home forever.’” However, there was one final twist to this amazing story…
During the adoption process, the girls’ birth mother learned that she was expecting a sixth child. So in September 2013 baby Cecily joined her five sisters in the Dunkin household. And, true to Dunkin’s word of not splitting the girls up, little Cecily has since been formally adopted.
As Dunkin told People, “This was my children’s sibling, so it wasn’t even a question for me to take her in, too.” And the single mom, now 32, couldn’t be happier. Every year, the family marks Cecily’s formal adoption as their “Honeyversary” – the “sweet” day of their family’s completion.
So now, Sophia, Natalie, Melanie, Kaylee, Lea and Cecily live with Dunkin – a stay-at-home mom – in Fresno, California. Dunkin said, “I have so much love for them. I wouldn’t trade the six of them for anything. I am so honored to be their mother.”