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Couple take on big challenge in parenting

The angels around us don't necessarily sport wings and halos.

Sometimes, they are ordinary citizens of the community who choose to do extraordinary things for others.

Donald and LaNell Bradley are, in many ways, a typical couple. LaNell works in Dr. Thomas’s office in Greenville; Donald is a foreman at Alabama Dumpsters in Montgomery.

The Bradleys are parents to four grown children and eight grandchildren; again, not unusual.

What makes them extraordinary is the rest of this family’s story.

The couple elected to adopt a family of five youngsters last year, preventing the siblings from being split up among different homes.

The Bradleys also currently serve as foster parents to three children. Their brood ranges in age from six to 15.

When the entire family goes out together, it takes two vehicles to get them to their destination. And mealtimes can be very lively.

&uot;You have to love children to do this, definitely. And we’ve been blessed with children in our family,&uot; Lanell Bradley says with a smile.

It’s little wonder the couple, who have served as foster parents for nearly 16 years, were chosen as Alabama’s Foster Parents of the Year for 2004.

The Bradleys were also selected as Alabama’s &uot;Angels in Adoption&uot; and traveled to Washington, D.C. last October.

&uot;It was an amazing time. We had the chance to meet people who were once foster children and are now adults. It was wonderful to hear their stories. Some were international adoptions, while others were adopted through county agencies like ours,&uot; Mrs. Bradley says.

There are certainly ups and downs being a foster/adoptive parent. One of the hardest aspects,

Bradley says, is &uot;having to turn a foster child loose and let them go.&uot;

&uot;You bring them into your home and try to treat them as you would your own – but all the while, you know you can’t keep them,&uot; Bradley says, adding, &uot;That’s why my children say they can’t be foster parents – they wouldn’t be able to let them go.&uot;

But there are joys, too.

&uot;When you see the children happy and contented in your home, there’s great satisfaction in that. You know there are going to be some hard times, but you deal with that as it comes along,&uot; Bradley says.

There is always a need for loving, caring foster parents, she says.

&uot;I know we do need more foster parents to serve in this county. I hope more people will consider it,&uot; Bradley says.

To learn more about opportunities for foster and adoptive parents, contact the Butler County Department of Human Resources at 382-4400.