For Amber and Michael Ortiz of Dinuba, adopting several children was a natural step after being foster parents.
It began nine years ago when they took in an infant, Dolores, and then returned the baby to her mother after several months.
"It was heartbreaking" to let her go, Amber said, and the couple vowed to adopt the next time.
Within days, the family took in three brothers ages 11, 9, and 8 -- Andrew, Jeremiah and Angel -- and after a required trial period as foster parents, adopted them.
The willingness of the Ortiz family to open their hearts to three older siblings for adoption serves as an example for anyone considering adoption, according to Aspiranet social services agency, a nonprofit that arranges foster care and adoptions, including for the Ortiz family. And this is the appropriate time to recognize them -- November is National Adoption Month.
"They were willing to take older kids and adopt them," foster care supervisor Sharla Hutchison said. "The kids were so happy to be placed together."
Although Amber and her husband -- then a truck driver and now an auto parts salesman -- hadn't planned on adopting older children, when Amber got the call from the agency about the three brothers, she didn't hesitate.
"Something just clicked," she said. "I said 'I'll take all three. When do I pick them up?' "
Amber and Michael already had two biological children, Joshua and Alissa, then 3 and 5.
"People think an older child will be a problem," said Amber, a homemaker who sells candles from home to make extra money. "To me, it's the home you give a child."
The family kept adopting.
To her astonishment, Amber learned that the three boys had a younger sister, Jasmynn, 7, living in Modesto with a foster family. So she reached out and adopted her, too.
The Ortiz adoption saga doesn't end at five children.
They kept in touch with Dolores, and eventually her mother agreed to let Amber and Michael adopt her. Dolores, now 9, was adopted just before Jasmynn.
The Ortiz children, both adopted and biological, get along fine, Amber said.
After four years of living in a rental home, the Ortiz family bought a five-bedroom, three-bath home, she said.
Andrew, 19, graduated from high school last year, now works at a warehouse and lives in an apartment, and plans to become a police officer.
Jeremiah, 18, a senior at Dinuba High, said his mother and father make ideal parents.
"They're just warm-hearted and sweet," he said. "If we're ever in a predicament or need guidance, they're just there and support us and give us the guidance we need."
Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee. His column runs Sunday. He can be reached at (559) 441-6104, email@example.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.