Coon Rapids family adopts six children at one time

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 20, 2013 - 12:30 PM

A Coon Rapids family of four became a family of 10 when mom and dad adopted six siblings who had been in foster care.


Jennifer and Nathan Johnson rounded up their kids, and the family dog, for a portrait. In the back row were Josephine, 12, Hannah, 10, Emma, 5, Nathan, Jennifer, Gabby, 3, Katrina, 9 and Danielle, 16. In the front row were Nathan, 5,wearing his railroad engineer’s hat, and Sam, 7.

Photo: Brian Peterson , Star Tribune

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Are you my forever mom?

Seven-year-old Sam Johnson asks his adoptive mother, Jennifer Johnson, that question almost every day. He craves her reassurance.

“Yes,” she tells him.

They’re a forever family.

Jennifer and Nathan Johnson of Coon Rapids adopted six children, including Sam, all from the same birth family last November.

“It will probably take years for them to understand we’re there forever, but for me it’s a done deal,” said Jennifer Johnson, 37.

Johnson first spotted the children on the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network website about a year ago. She later learned that their birth mother had developmental disabilities and their birth father had fallen down a flight of stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury, forcing the children to go into foster care.

“I looked at their picture and I said, ‘Who would want to take six kids?’ ” Johnson recalled.

She couldn’t get the faces off her mind. There were Danielle, age 16; Josephine, 12; Hannah, 10; Sam, 7; Nathan, 5; and Gabby, 3.

Guided by their faith, the Johnsons did what most people couldn’t fathom. They adopted them all.

“Every kid deserves a family,” explained Nathan Johnson, 36. “How do you make it through life without people to come back to?”

The couple now have eight children, including their 9-year-old birth daughter, Katrina, and 5-year-old adopted daughter, Emma, both of whom have a rare neurological disorder called Rett syndrome.

Don Ilse, Anoka County’s Human Services Division manager, sums up the Johnsons this way: “They’re better people than I am. The world is a better place for people like these adoptive parents.”

There are 34 children in Anoka County waiting to be adopted, with 19 already in pre-adoptive homes. Sibling groups of four or more up come up for adoption once or twice a year and placing them together poses a challenge, Ilse said. Sometimes birth siblings are adopted to different families, so to find one home for all six children is a triumph.

A love story

Sitting on the couch in their living room, the couple recalls their own modern-day love story. They met via the Internet in 1996. He was a Minnesotan serving in the Navy and stationed in South Carolina. She lived in northern California. They married in 1997 and settled in Minnesota in 2000.

“It’s called the bait and switch,” Nathan Johnson jokes. “I was stationed in Hawaii when we first got married, and we lived there for three years.”

They’re both only children. He wanted one child. She dreamed of two.

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