Associate Board member one of 10 siblings, six of whom were adopted
Tim Stringer, one of Children’s Home & Aid’s dedicated volunteers, is completely comfortable surrounded by children. In fact, it’s remarkably like home for him. Tim, who serves on Children’s Home & Aid’s Associate Board, is one of 10 siblings, six of whom were adopted, two from Children’s Home & Aid’s Foster to Adopt program. Growing up in Wilmette, a suburb north of Chicago, Tim’s family of 10 siblings, of all different races and ethnicities did stand out.
“People ask me if it was hard having so many siblings join my family through adoption,” Tim says. “It was an amazingly quick and easy process to accept and welcome these kids into our very close family – it was just normal to us, and we loved them and fought with them as much as the rest of my brothers and sisters.”
Tim is the third of four biological siblings born to his mom, a family physician, and dad, a small business owner. Now 26 years old, Tim was in second grade when his parents decided to adopt. Two-year-old Ben and 3-month-old Stephanie came home from Cambodia within a year of each other. Two years later, Mike (2-and-a-half) and Amanda (9 months) followed, this time from Haiti.
“I was in fourth grade when I went to Haiti with my parents to visit Mike while he was still living in the orphanage,” Tim recalls. “It really solidified for me why we were adopting. I remember driving through these incredibly poor Haitian neighborhoods to the orphanage, where 100 kids lived with just a few staff who worked incredibly hard, doing their best to feed and care for the kids with no electricity. It really shaped me to see that at a young age.”
With a growing family of eight, Tim’s parents decided that they had room in their hearts for two more children, and turned to the foster care program at Children’s Home & Aid. Their first child was placed with them quickly – Charlie was just 2 months old, from a family circumstance that made it seem like adoption would be his future. However, after almost two-and-a-half years living with Tim’s family, Charlie was returned to his biological family. Despite Tim’s family being mentally prepared for the possibility, it was still very difficult to say goodbye to a child they had come to love as their own.
“Obviously we wanted the best for Charlie, and we were glad he has his biological family who also love him, but it was devastating to lose him,” Tim recalls. “My mom is a pretty tough lady, and she was really crushed.”
The family could not give up on their vision, so after a time to grieve and heal, they came back to Children’s Home & Aid and soon received a call about two siblings – Anna, age 10 and Ty, age 9. The process of adopting older children from foster care is quite different than adopting a baby – the older children have a say in the decision, so the family was invited to visit the children in their foster home near Bloomington.
“My mom was trying to be cautious, saying we’re just going to take our time, this is just a first meeting, and my sister and I just laughed at her,” Tim says. “We told her ‘this is the exact situation you’ve been asking and praying about for 10 years, so you can pretend that you’re just going to think about it, but you really decided 10 years ago.”
The family met the children at a museum and went out for pizza afterwards. Everyone was on their best behavior, but it was also clear that the kids were sweet and eager to be in a family. Tim and his family were hooked.
“My siblings and I would exchange looks while we were playing or having dinner – we felt like it was a fit,” Tim said. Just two weeks later, the bunk beds were stacked again and the family expanded by two.
The process of adopting older children who have suffered early loss and trauma has not always been easy, but the family has worked hard to ease the transition, with the support of their Children’s Home & Aid caseworker.
“The kids weren’t used to having much structure, and they felt like we were just another family that was going to move on from them,” Tim said. “It’s taken them a while to adjust and to trust, but they are doing much better now.”
Shortly after the kids came home, Tim was looking for a volunteer board to join, and he naturally thought of Children’s Home & Aid. The Associate Board is for young professionals who are committed to the mission of supporting children and families.
“I wanted the chance to give back, and it was a natural fit,” Tim said.
Tim has been a great help with planning the Associate Board’s fundraising events and volunteering on a regular basis at the Children’s Home & Aid Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Child + Family Center.
When he’s not busy with volunteer work or taking outings in his family’s 15-passenger van, Tim works in wealth management at the Zuckerman Investment Group. He lives in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood but returns home frequently to spend time with his siblings. The family has a deep commitment to their church and also volunteers together at a local homeless shelter.
Were there challenges growing up in such a busy and full family?
“If we had fewer kids, we might have gone on more elaborate vacations as opposed to crammed car rides to Grandma’s house,” Tim laughs. “But at the end of the day, those things are irrelevant. My parents set the example, and giving back is just part of my family’s culture. My parents did it and showed us the way – now it’s our turn.”