Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fifth Adoption 'Completes Us'; Jacksonville Couple Has Already Welcomed 2-Year-Old's 4 Siblings

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fifth Adoption 'Completes Us'; Jacksonville Couple Has Already Welcomed 2-Year-Old's 4 Siblings

Article excerpt

Byline: William Browning

Little 2-year-old Bella went home with her mom and dad Thursday.

So did her sister and four brothers. It doesn't sound like much. But they left from the Duval County Courthouse, where Darriel and Jessica Steedman formally became Bella's parents in an adoption ceremony.

The Steedmans were asked at the ceremony why they wanted to adopt Bella.

"She completes us," Jessica answered and teared up.

Not long later, the adoption became official and Judge David Gooding explained to the Steedmans that he was only "making legal what is already in your hearts."

The Steedmans let Bella into their Jacksonville home in December. She has lived with them since. Her older sister and twin brothers were adopted by the Steedmans in 2005. They adopted her other brother in 2007.

Here they are: Stevie, 10; Joseph and Jesse, both 8; Cody, 6; and Bella.

There is also 11-year-old Holden, the Steedmans' biological son.

It began in 2003, when the Steedmans applied for and became foster parents. At the time, their other five children were growing up and, one by one, leaving home. The Steedmans didn't want Holden to be all alone.

"It was kind of an empty-nest syndrome," said Darriel, a 54-year-old Navy veteran who works for JEA.

Stevie came in 2003. Her mother, who lives in Jacksonville, made some bad decisions and the Department of Children and Families took her children out of her home. Stevie landed at the Steedmans.

A month later they learned she had baby twin brothers that needed a foster home.

"So we went out and bought cribs," said Jessica, who works at Wells Fargo bank.

In 2005 they formally adopted all three.

Then in 2007 they adopted Cody. Now they have adopted Bella and jokingly swear they are done.

They admit it can be tough - there is not much leftover time and it takes "a lot of patience and understanding," Jessica Steedman said - but, after taking in Stevie, they wanted to keep the siblings together to give them that sense of home.

"There is something to be said for a child that has been loved and cared for and given the things they need to grow," she said.

Darriel Steedman understands. …

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