Jeane and Paul Briggs have 34 children. Had they had them naturally that might set some sort of record, but 29 of the couple’s children are kids they adopted from other countries in difficult circumstances.
Their children hail from such wide-ranging places as Mexico, Ghana and Ukraine and now their family is about to get bigger.
The Briggs family has always had a soft spot in their heart for adoption. In 1985, Jeane Briggs was at church when she was shown a photograph of a two-year-old boy. He was living in an orphanage in Mexico, was blind and had been beaten so badly that he was in a body cast – his legs were broken and he had suffered brain damage.
Immediately after seeing the picture, Jeane and her husband Paul went to Mexico to visit the orphanage and met the little boy.
“I saw him knowing that he could be our child,” recalls Jeane. “I knew instantly that we should adopt him.”
Seven months later they adopted Abraham, who is now 31 and has his own family where he lives in West Virginia. Despite his injuries, he’s now a talented musician who can play the piano and guitar and composes his own music.
In total, since Abraham, the Briggs have adopted 28 children and they have five biological children of their own. Although that may seem to be enough, Jeane and Paul are in the process of adopting another two baby boys from Ghana. Jabin Kofi and John David will come to the United States once the adoption process is complete — giving them 36 children in all.
“They are three months old and were abandoned in the bush,” Jeanne said.
Here’s more on this remarkable family:
Each of the adoptions has taken a different length of time – the quickest was completed in just over two months, while the longest took nearly a year and a half. In many cases, Jeane and Paul have been able to expedite the process because of the children’s medical needs.
Over the past 29 years, as more children have arrived, the Briggs’s house has been adapted for their expanding family. It now has nine bedrooms – two of which resemble dormitories – and at over 5,000 square feet, the building is more than twice its original size.
But the house isn’t just a home, it’s also where the children go to school – Jeane has been home-schooling the children for nearly 30 years.
Each weekday morning the children get up between 07:00 and 07:30, have breakfast, do their chores and get ready for the school day which starts at 09:00.
The system seems to work well and has produced several college graduates, says Jeane. It also means the family doesn’t have to co-ordinate what would be a pretty complex school run.
Mealtimes are busy to say the least – Jeane describes them as “crazy”. Each day at breakfast, lunch and dinner there are about 30 mouths to feed and the family frequently relies on paper plates and cups. Their single dishwasher gets busy – it’s filled three times a day as it is.
Twenty-four-year-old Joseph, from eastern Ukraine, was left in the hospital shortly after he was born. He was living in an orphanage when he was adopted.
“I had a cleft lip and palate, I was treated differently and people made fun of me,” he says. “Every year, our orphanage would go on vacation to the Black Sea but I would be sent to [a] hospital.”
In 2005, when Joseph was 14, he found out that he was going to be adopted – it was a life-changing moment.
“I now had a family and would never have to worry about being left behind. If I was left in the orphanage, I would have been dead or homeless. Life would have been hell for me because of my special needs.”
From a young age, Jeane was concerned with the bigger issues affecting society and was particularly interested in orphans and adoption. Even then she knew she wanted a large family – although she never expected it would be this big.
“I guess all my life, even as a child, I knew I would adopt and have a large family. Faith has been the biggest motivation… every child should have a loving family. “