The meaning of family

Left to right, Daniel, Cindy, Stan, Emmet, Tye and Neveah Chupp in their most recent family photo.

When Stan and Cindy Chupp met and fell in love, they both knew they wanted a big, happy family. When the dreamt of future Thanksgivings, the dreams involved a house full of their extended family, and children playing outside.

Years later, in time for Thanksgiving and National Adoption Month, Stan, Cindy and their four kids reflect on the meaning of family, and the beautiful family they built here in northeast Oklahoma.

All gathered in a nice warm living room as the seasons began to change outside, Daniel (16), Emmet (9), Nevaeh (9), and Tye (8), shared what family means to them as well.

Stan and Cindy grew up in the same circles, but they only really met when Cindy began working a Del Rio, a Mexican restaurant in Chouteau where Stan and his brother Dale were frequent diners.

They knew, in the simple way that many people just know, they had found their one.

They got married and started planning for a family. They tried for years, but with no luck

“We weren’t able to conceive,” Cindy said, but they still knew in their hearts that they were meant to have a family.

As they approached their eighth year of child-free married life, they couldn’t hold out hope any longer.

“I always had in the back of my mind that adoption may be something that I’d like to do,” Cindy said. “I was an only child, so I didn’t want to have a bunch of children, but I thought it would be nice to have more than just one, because I was always so bored growing up.”

“She doesn’t like baby-babies, because they’re too annoying,” Emmet chimed in.

Cindy is Cherokee, so they became dually-certified to adopt through the Cherokee Nation and the Department of Human Services.

“They told us adopting an older child will be easier, so we were excited about that,” Cindy said.

Through DHS they had to attend 10 weeks of class and fill out a mountain of paperwork. There was an extensive background check, multiple interviews and a home inspection.

“All that was going on, we finally were in the system. We were waiting, waiting waiting. Nothing, nothing, nothing,” Cindy said.

They were in the system for six months.

“When nothing happened, we almost gave up,” Stan said. “Just as we were giving up, they came to us with this kid.”

Their caseworker mentioned a little boy, still in the foster care system, whose biological mother would most likely have her parental rights terminated within a year. But, for a chance to adopt him, Stan and Cindy would have to join the foster care system as well.

“We really didn’t want to go the foster route,” Stan said.

“We couldn’t imagine having a child in our home and then having them leave,” Cindy said.

It was a hard decision to make.

And although there was no guarantee that 8-year-old Daniel would get to stay with them forever, Stan and Cindy chose to open their hearts and home.

“I adapted very well. It was very easy for me,” Daniel said. “Before foster care, I wasn’t loved. I just did my own thing.”

In his first foster placement, and with the Chupps, “I was loved,” Daniel said.

Cindy said Daniel was an easy kid: smart, kind, not picky about food and already well adjusted to a routine.

Around a year later, July 20, 2012, Cindy and Stan legally adopted Daniel as their son.

Not long after, 2-year-old Emmet, born with the name Romeo, and his biological sisters entered the foster care system.

The state tried to place them as a sibling group, “but they had six placements in five weeks. No one could keep him and his older sister under control,” Cindy said.

The state decided it was best to split the kids up.

Cindy, Stan and Daniel drove to Adair to invite Emmet to live in their home.

Or if you ask Emmet to tell it, “I walked from Adair ALL the way to Chupp’s farm.”

The process to adopt Emmet was the longest of any of the children, involving a years-long court battle that ended in the halls of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Emmet legally became a Chupp on Dec. 12, 2015, and he said simply, “I love it.”

Emmet still visits his biological sisters on their birthdays and around the holidays.

“That connection is important,” Cindy said.

After Emmet, Cindy and Stan fostered again.

Like their first two, they quickly fell in love with the siblings they fostered, and were making plans to adopt.

But life intervened.

Luckily, for the children at least, their biological mother was able to get her situation together, reclaim custody, and provide a happy life for her children.

Cindy and Stan were shy to talk about it. They were happy for the kids, that they would have a happy life. But they also experienced grief at the loss.

“It was pretty heart breaking,” Cindy said.

“After that, we thought we were done,” Stan said.

They had a family, after all: the American Dream, happily married, two-child household.

If this is how God saw fit to bless them, it more than enough, they thought.

“Then this lady called me out of the blue from Pryor,” Cindy said.

She had two children in foster care who she could not adopt because of their Native American heritage. She heard about the Chupp family from friends in church, and decided to make the call.

“We prayed about it, and decided we would at least meet the kids,” Cindy said.

So Cindy, Stan, Daniel and Emmet piled in the car and drove to Pryor, where they met 4-year-old Tye and 5-year-old Neveah for ice cream.

Tye remembers the day he met his family, because he slipped on the floor and fell on his back.

He performed a dramatic reenactment of the scene in their living room.

Tye and Neveah’s adoption proceedings took a little over a year, and they became full-fledged Chupps on Nov. 18, 2016.

For Neveah, the only sad thing was that her adoption was on a school day, and she didn’t want to miss school.

Adding Tye and Neveah to the family was a moment of extreme joy and celebration, but it came with a new set of challenges.

As a mixed-race family, they‘re occasionally stared at in public, Cindy said. But they’ve noticed it less and less as time goes by.

For a while, some kids in school couldn’t believe Tye and Emmet were brothers.

The change in perspective has been positive for everyone in the household, though.

Daniel said having multiple races in his own home has helped him notice and appreciate other mixed families out in the world.

“Honestly, it’s no different,” Cindy said.

Sure there are differences in how to care for their skin and hair, Cindy said, but when it comes to being a parent, love doesn’t have color.

For the kids, there is a lot to love about being a Chupp.

They love grandma and going church. And between the four kids, there is always a school or sports event to attend.

“We’re really busy people, there is no down time,” Daniel said, adding that it can be both a blessing and a curse.

“My favorite thing is getting to visit our family,” Emmet said, listing off his favorite aunts, uncles and cousins.

Although reserved compared to her brothers, Neveah prides herself on being the fastest runner and the best football player of the group.

And as siblings do, they all enjoy picking on the youngest, Tye, who is more than happy to give it right back.

There are many fears that people face when they consider adopting. What if the biological parent wants a role in the kid’s life, or wants to come in and out when it’s convenient? What if the kids grow up and stop loving me after they meet their biological parent?

Cindy reassured those potential adopting families, if procedure is followed and if you love those kids with you whole heart, as your own, then you’ll have nothing to fear.

“All mothers have the same challenges,” Cindy said. “No two kids can be parented alike, whether they are adopted or flesh and blood.”

In all the paperwork, home visits, waiting time and heartache, family is ultimately a blessing, Stan and Cindy said.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s all worth it,” Cindy said.

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