HEBRON – Scott and Amy Ness thought they would start with foster care.
But the Wicomico County couple — who have three biological children — ended up adopting 10 children from two different sibling groups — and all in the past five years.
“We decided to put our money where our mouth was,” Scott Ness, 43, said.
The Nesses were recognized on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning as Angels in Adoption for their commitment to child welfare. They joined a group of 140 Angels from across the country who were nominated by members of Congress to receive the recognition.
“This wonderful family from the Eastern Shore of Maryland” didn’t want to split up the sibling groups, so they adopted all of the siblings, said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who nominated the Nesses.
Two other Marylanders — Andrea Faris Roberts of Gaithersburg and Wanda Manson of Oxen Hill — were nominated but were not present at Wednesday’s ceremony.
Roberts was nominated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and Manson was nominated by Rep. Donna F. Edwards, D-Fort Washington.
Two years ago, while the Nesses were in the process of adopting twin boys, Bradley and Chad, now 4, they learned that the boys had five other siblings up for adoption, so they took them, too. When an eighth sibling was born and put up for adoption, they brought her home as well, the Nesses said.
The Nesses also privately adopted two other girls — half sisters Destiny, 5, and Tatiana, 3 — at birth. Their mother hadn’t wanted to abort them, so she contacted the Nesses instead.
Exceptions to the adoption policy had to be made so that the Nesses could adopt so many children, the couple said. Because eight of the children were from one sibling group, the children were allowed to stay together.
The Angels in Adoption program is now in its 12th year. Organized by the nonprofit Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, it works with the 180-member Congressional Coalition on Adoption to “eliminate the barriers” to adoption, said Kathleen Strottman, the institute’s executive director.
“We believe children should be raised under the nurturing care of a family,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., co-chairman of the Congressional coalition.
“Statistically speaking, it is possible for each and every child to have a safe and permanent family to call their own,” said Strottman in a press release.
“Because of Angels celebrated by this program,” she added, “we are much closer to achieving that goal.”
In Maryland, 457 children were eligible for adoption as of August, and about 8,000 children are in foster care, according to the state’s Department of Human Resources.
In the Nesses’ 3,500-square-foot Hebron farmhouse, space is tight with 13 children between the ages of 2 and 14, but organization, a good sense of humor and a strong religious faith help them along.
The family’s church, the Uprising Church at St. Paul’s in Hebron — a Christian church with about 800 members, has been very supportive of the Nesses’ large family, Scott Ness said.
One of the church’s members even pitched in to buy Scott Ness a new work truck so that the family could afford to privately adopt Tatiana.
Private adoption costs are expensive, said Strottman, although “most foster adoption costs are waived.” Tax credits are also available to adoptive parents.
But for all the “many challenges” that come with having a large family, “we enjoy it,” Amy Ness, 35, said.
“We love to laugh and love to just have a good time…. Every child deserves a family.”