Misty told Jon about the radio ad, and the couple talked and prayed about it for more than a year. Jon wanted to adopt one or two children at most, none with physical disabilities. Misty longed for a huge family — six, eight or more — and was open to mild disabilities, possibly more serious ones, depending on the situation. Their four biological children, ranging from 6 to 13 at the time, signed onto the idea, as much as kids that age can. They were excited about having new babies in the house. “I’d seen ‘Annie,’ ” Lauren, the oldest, told me not long ago. “I thought: How hard can it be?”
Misty and Jon knew only a few things about Shon and Cory’s early life. Misty says they were told that the boys’ mother dropped them off with a man who didn’t know their ages or names and never returned. In the first weeks after Misty and Jon took the boys home, Shon would slide his plate over to his brother and refuse to eat until Cory did. Some mornings the family awoke to the sound of crashing pots and pans, as Shon tried to prepare breakfast for Cory. Misty once found spilled muffin mix and a spray bottle of bleach in the boys’ bedroom — presumably the ingredients for an aborted meal. At bedtime, Shon lay on his back, his head in his hands, and stared straight ahead until Misty left the bedroom. He awoke each morning in the same position, as if he were on guard all night.
About eight months later, as the adoption process inched forward and the boys began to adjust to their new life, a county caseworker came by. Shon and Cory’s mother had just given birth to twins, a boy and a girl. They were only 24 weeks old — at the edge of life. Each baby weighed a little more than a pound. Given the mother’s history of abandoning her children, Misty says, the county wanted foster parents who could visit and hold the babies in the hospital. Misty and Jon had a couple of days to decide.