For most siblings waiting in foster care, their one wish is to stay together. In their minds, it's all they have left of their family. One group of brothers who were split up received the next best thing to staying together. They were adopted by neighbors.
We introduced you Markel, Elijah and Samadrey a couple of years ago in CBS 19's Children are a Gift segment. These brothers were very close and played well together. They had spent several years in foster care and were ready for a forever family.
When prospective adoptive families would meet the boys, they all felt they could handle the two younger ones, but didn't want to take on the challenges of the older brother, Markel. So they remained in foster care until two East Texas families, who didn't know each other very well, decided to open their hearts and homes.
"We all sat down and decided we were going to do this and we just decided we were going to be like in-laws and we were going to be one big family and that we were going to do our best to keep the brothers as siblings," Toni Pontius said.
These two families live just a few miles down the road from each other. At least once a week, they have play dates for the brothers to get together.
"They can keep that bond and they can feel secure that they have their brother and their family. They have all been real good and they know that we love them," Emily Punches said.
Emily and Christian Punches adopted 7-year-old Elijah and 5-year-old Samadrey, whom they now call Sammy. They had already adopted four other children and, despite a full house, began praying about adding two more. They felt led to give them a home, too.
"There is just something special about children who have been fatherless," Christian said. "There is just a special love in our heart for children who come from difficult circumstances."
After much prayer, Toni and Tyler Pontius adopted the older brother, 8-year-old Markel.
"From the very beginning, Tyler and I were like, absolutely," Toni said. "That's the one that we would love. You know, if God put him in our family, we would love that."
Tyler added, "The challenges with Markel are nothing compared to the progress he's made. He's obviously grieving, being put in a different place than his brothers, but we see them often, so we think he's doing well. He's still in the same school as his brothers. He has started soccer and he's loving that, and his grades have come up consistently."
Watching the boys interact and play, it's easy to see how much they love each other, and the two families who have now joined as one say they are very blessed.
"I couldn't imagine it a different way," Tyler said, with tears streaming down his face. "We love him like our own. The feeling I get is it's a shame we didn't know him sooner, but cherish all the time we have now."
Also with tears in her eyes, Toni said, "He means the world to me. He's amazing. He's so incredible and I tell him everyday I'm so lucky that I get to be his mom. I'm so lucky that God picked me for him because he's amazing."
This was a new beginning for these brothers with forever families who truly believe children are a gift.
"It's a faith walk, but adoption is an amazing beautiful thing," Christian said. "It's just unbelievable!"
To learn more about this unique adoption story, join Gillian Sheridan for her Children are a Gift report Tuesday night on CBS 19 News at 10. You can also find information on www.cbs19.tv or to inquire about an East Texas child waiting to be adopted call 903-533-4109.