Bob Coe likes to say that he fell into adoption through the backdoor.
It was 1975, and Bob was a recent college graduate returning to his home town. Looking for a way to connect with his community, he decided to volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
Bob worked with a few boys before meeting one teen whose home life was difficult. Bob got to know the boy’s mother, and she asked if Bob would consider having the boy move in with him.
At the time, Bob was dating a social worker. She gave Bob a valuable piece of advice: Get licensed!
Bob was approved to become a foster parent to the boy, who lived with him until he left for college. Facing the prospect of life without a child, Bob decided to pursue adoption from foster care.
“I liked being a parent—and I wanted to do it again. But that was decades ago. And as a single young man, getting an agency to take me seriously was like breaking into the bank. I had to work hard to get anybody’s attention,” Bob says.
His hard work paid off. Bob got their attention, and over the last 40 years, he has adopted five more children, who now range in age from 22 to 50.
“Each child made me a better parent”
Four of the six children who joined Bob’s family had spent time in foster care. A fifth son came to live with him after his single mother died.
Some of the children came to Bob with greater needs or having experienced greater trauma. Bob adopted one 15-year-old who had lived in 14 foster homes and two mental health facilities. Raising him reinforced something that Bob had initially learned in training: the importance of supporting children as they work through developmental issues.
“When a 15-year-old is acting like a 6-year-old, there’s a reason for it. You need to be patient as they go back through it.”
From another boy, he learned about grief. When he was 16 years old, the second son Bob adopted was killed in a bicycle accident.
“I never grieved anything in my life like I did losing Mike. It’s been 20 years, and I still tear up thinking about it. But some of the things I learned from the grief of losing a son enabled me to be a better parent to kids who are dealing with their own grief issues.”
“Older kids are their own kind of wonderful”
All of the children Bob adopted were between 5 and 15 years old when they joined his family. He says that he is a huge advocate of adopting older children and teens because, in his experience, there are fewer surprises and their progress is visible.
“Of course, change happens in fits and starts. But overall, it’s positive from the beginning. And every year you can look back on the one before and say ‘wow,’ look how far they’ve come.”
Room for more?
Today Bob’s two youngest sons are wrapping up junior college and getting ready to move out of the house. Bob has been spending time on AdoptUSKids, looking at the photolisting and considering adopting again.
“I’m going to be empty-nesting it soon, and I’m not 100 percent sure that I’m done adopting yet. I’d like to think that the more times you do it, the better you get. Which offsets the fact that your energy level goes down between when you are 20 and when you are 60!”