Andi and Thomas Bonura always knew that they wanted a large family but, unfortunately, they were unable to create one in the traditional way. After years of struggling to conceive, they finally decided to look into foster care and adoption. However, what followed was something no one could have predicted…
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Bonura couple, there was a family of five children who had been separated in the foster care system. While social services try to keep siblings together, it’s always difficult to find people who are willing to take in a large number of children. Therefore, the five siblings were split up into different foster homes, without any hope of ever being a family again.
Andi and Thomas Bonura
Andi and Thomas Bonura are your typical American couple from Houston, Texas, living the American dream. They worked hard, purchased a home, and got ready to settle down and start a family. However, the universe had other plans in store for the Bonuras, as they quickly learned that their life wasn’t going to be what they thought it would be.
The Bonura family was created through a perfect series of events that, while they were heartbreaking at the time, resulted in a beautiful and loving family. Andi and Thomas had no idea they were about to be faced with life-altering decisions that would affect not only them but another family as well…
A Whirlwind Romance
Andi and Thomas met back in 2005 and fell in love straight away. The couple tied the knot after a mere four months together! Despite the raised eyebrows that their hasty nuptials inspired, the two are still together today proving that “when you know, you just know.” Andi says that Thomas was “this amazing guy who just swept me off my feet.”
Andi explained, “We always dreamed of having a large family.” Given that she was 33-years-old at the time of their wedding, she and Thomas decided to start trying straight away. While the couple briefly discussed adoption, they settled on having children the traditional way instead. Despite their decision, the universe still led them to where they needed to be…
Struggling to Conceive
Despite their eagerness to start a family, Thomas and Andi struggled to become pregnant and spent four years enduring fertility treatments. The couple was heartbroken as they saw their dreams of raising a family slipping away from them. However, they didn’t give up and they remained strong in their commitment to each other.
Andi and Thomas tragically suffered a miscarriage after finally getting pregnant for the first time. Their love stayed strong as they continued to try again. Six months later, Andi became pregnant with twins! She and Thomas were “ecstatic” that they would finally start a family. However, at a routine doctor’s appointment, it was discovered that the twins would be born prematurely.
Joey and Eli
In 2009, Andi and Thomas became parents to twin boys Joey and Eli. Due to their premature birth, of only 25 weeks, the twins spent five months in an intensive care unit at the hospital. Tragically, Eli passed away shortly after his birth, leaving Joey an only child.
Joey went home with full-time care and nurses to help Thomas and Andi with his disabilities. The beautiful boy has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and he is blind. Joey is non-verbal and unable to walk, but he “army crawls” places and communicates via sign language.
Joey Bonura is a happy and beautiful child, full of love. Andi has explained, “He’s very smart… Whenever people start to pity him, I tell them, ‘Don’t.’ He’s the happiest kid in this house.” Joey enjoys spending time with his nurses and his family. He loves swimming and attending school, both of which give him confidence.
Joey has a service dog, named Doc, who helps him throughout the day. The Bonura family, including Joey and Doc, attend the annual Abilities Expo, an event that teaches parents of different-abled children about new technologies on the market that can help make family life easier.
The Next Step
While Thomas and Andi now had a beautiful family with Joey and Doc, they still wanted more children and siblings for Joey. However, after Eli passed, they were told that they would not be able to birth to any more children. Therefore, the couple decided to reconsider the option of adopting.
Andi says that adoption was “always on my heart” and the timing seemed right for the couple to go ahead with it. However, they soon received shocking news that would change all of their plans… It turns out that Andi was actually pregnant again, this time with a baby girl!
Sadie and Daphne
Shortly after Andi and Thomas were told they couldn’t have more children, Andi discovered that she was pregnant with Sadie, who was born in 2010. Sadie’s birth, like Joey’s, was premature but, luckily, both baby and mother were safe. Not long after Sadie was born, Thomas and Andi became pregnant again!
The second Bonura daughter, Daphne, was also born early. After three premature births, doctors were concerned about Andi’s ability to carry a child to full-term and recommended against having more biological children. However, Thomas and Andi did not yet feel that their family was complete…
A Step in a New Direction
In 2017, Andi and Thomas became licensed foster parents, after years of training and preparation. Andi explained, “I have always been interested in the idea of adoption, and my husband and I both always wanted a big family.” The first children put in their foster care were two babies, but unfortunately, this new family dynamic wasn’t built to last…
Andi recalls, “We fostered two precious babies who left us – each time it was so sad.” Despite the initial setback, Thomas and Andi remained determined to become a foster child’s forever family. They remained with the Depelchin foster agency, in the hopes that another child would need them.
Shortly after the two babies left the Bonura’s home, the couple got a call that another child was in need of a foster family. Andi and Thomas couldn’t believe their luck! They quickly accepted the offer to be this baby’s foster parents and they immediately drove to meet baby Bryson.
An overjoyed Andi said, “The second our sweet baby came to us in foster care, I was instantly a pile of loving mush. These precious children are so innocent and desperate for love and it’s the most wonderful feeling to allow yourself to open up and love them wholeheartedly and completely unconditionally.”
While Bryson settled into his new home and loving family, Thomas and Andi found out some information about their new baby’s background. It turns out that Bryson was the youngest of five siblings and they had all been put into the foster care system. Unfortunately, they had been separated and were living amongst different families around the Houston area.
Andi and Thomas were faced with a difficult choice. How could they leave Bryson separated from his siblings? On the other hand, could they really care for a total of eight children? What would their biological kids think about extending their family? Would the state even allow Thomas and Andi to foster more kids? Despite all of these concerns, the couple knew what they had to do.
Two More Children Join the Family
Andi and Thomas spoke with social services and requested permission to foster Bryson’s siblings, as well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be that simple. Texas had a law stating that a foster family couldn’t have more than six children in the home, and with all of Bryson’s siblings and the Bonura’s biological children, the Bonura clan would consist of a total of eight children. Thomas and Andi were devastated.
In the hopes of being able to reunite Bryston with, at least, some of his siblings, Andi and Thomas requested permission to foster two of the four remaining children. They were approved and David and Gabi joined the family! This brought the Bonura household up to a total of six children – the state limit.
An Adjustment Period
The Bonura family quickly entered a challenging adjustment period, in which they learned how to be a united family. Andi recalls, “As we found out there were more kids, we would sit down and talk to our biological kids and they would tell us that these kids needed a family and they needed us. Not that everything has been perfect, they’re children and there will be times they argue, but we really try hard to make sure every child gets the attention they need.”
Not only did Thomas and Andi’s biological children need to adjust to their new family, but Gabi and David had challenges, as well. Andi explained, “They had lived in different places and hadn’t had security or trust. We just had to buckle down and be unconditionally loving and nurture them through the healing process with the help of therapy.”
New Family Dynamics
As the Bonuras continued to figure out their new family dynamics, Andi and Thomas couldn’t shake off the feeling that Bryson’s family wasn’t whole – which meant that the Bonura family wasn’t whole, either. However, the couple already had their hands full and needed to focus on the wellbeing of the children who were already in their care.
Andi talked about the dynamics at home by saying, “My eldest son Joey has been very aware of the increase in the number of kids at home, and he’s been very sweet and patient with the kids playing with his toys. And my girls have been amazing. My eldest girl Sadie is the leader of the house, she’s kind and loves all of them. And my younger daughter Daphne loves babies, she wanted to hold them and help.”
A Small Improvement
While Thomas and Andi were still unable to complete their family, they did find a way to improve the situation. They obtained visitation rights with Bryson’s other siblings, Carter and Thomas, who would often spend time in the Bonura home. The boys fit right in with the other children and never wanted to leave!
Andi said about the twin boys, “They were sweet and would say, ‘Can we come live with you?'” While Andi and Thomas wanted the twins to live with them, just as much as Carter and Thomas wanted to live with the couple, it was still forbidden by the state. However, things were about to take a major turn…
In the fall of 2017, the state of Texas amended the law about foster families. The rule now states that if a family is fostering siblings, there is no limit to how many kids they can foster for the sake of keeping the siblings together. Carter and Thomas were able to join their younger brothers and sister and move into the Bonura home!
Andi explained, “It took us about two months to get approved by the state, with the help of our agency, and the two older boys moved in around Thanksgiving in 2017 – we were all so excited. Once again it was very challenging as these were older boys, they had really been through a lot. It was a lot of therapy and patience, but they’re just incredible boys.”
More Good News
Andi and Thomas’s luck continued to turn around when the agency called to tell them that the parents of their fostered children had given up their rights. The agency asked Thomas and Andi if they’d like to officially adopt the five siblings, to which the couple gave an overjoyed and resounding “YES!”
The children had to live in the Bonura home for six months before the couple could officially adopt them. At which point, COVID hit and the courts closed. Andi and Thomas were worried by the latest setback: Would they still be able to adopt the children? What else could go wrong?
Becoming a Family
Luckily, the courts agreed to handle the adoption case over Zoom, so the Bonuras wouldn’t have to wait for the pandemic to end before becoming a family. On May 16, after a 15 minute, online, court process, the Bonuras officially became a happy and beautiful family of 10!
Andi recalls, “It was an easy decision to make, adopting them. We knew all the siblings before they moved in and I was completely in love with each of them. When they called and asked if we wanted to adopt, it was an instant yes, for all five. They were so precious and they had my entire heart.”
On the adoption day, itself, the Bonura family recalls jumping up and down together, crying and laughing with joy. They went outside to take some well-earned family photos and their neighborhood even celebrated with them! The community created a car parade, and everyone drove by honking their horns, to help the newly whole family celebrate.
Andi and Thomas’s dream of having a large family has finally come true! Andi says, “It’s amazing to have eight children. Each one of my children are incredibly kind and loving, with special characteristics. Watching their little hearts grow and heal has been so rewarding. We have a busy house, but everyone pitches in. They look out for each other, and support and encourage. I really don’t know how I became the lucky mom of these incredible little humans.”
Life in the Bonura Household
While a household of 10 is certainly chaotic, it’s also full of love. Andi has quit her teaching job in order to become a full-time mother, while Thomas still works as a healthcare attorney. Andi says that Thomas is “the greatest dad ever” and the children are always excited to greet him when he gets home from work.
The Bonura children enjoy playing volleyball, bike riding, Minecraft, card games, and pretending that the floor is lava. The family’s Instagram account consists of photos of their homemade pizzas, the children doing schoolwork, and helping out with household chores. Andi says about her children, “They’re fun to be around, and they’re the greatest kids.”
The Choice to Foster
Andi and Thomas are huge advocates for foster families and they believe strongly that there is endless gain, for both sides, in a foster parent-child relationship. They encourage other families to consider taking in a child in need of a home. For those who are not in a position to become foster parents, Thomas and Andi maintain that they can still help out by providing support to foster families in their communities.
Andi says, “Taking in a precious foster child and showing them unconditional love, through their struggles and healing, challenges one to grow and become such a strong person… There is such a need for foster parents and there are so many children who are desperate for love. I certainly did not do this on my own. My family, my friends, other foster parents, the teachers, they all participated with encouragement and love.”
What It’s Like to Be a Biracial Family
While the Bonuras are one, big, happy, family – the rest of the world doesn’t always see them that way. Being Caucasian parents of African American children, Andi and Thomas needed to educate themselves about matters of race and learn how to best care for their family. Thomas and Andi routinely discuss racism with their children, each according to their age level.
Andi explains, “I would say that now having African American kids, my eyes have been opened. I can never understand or even relate to anyone who has grown up and had to experience racism of any sort. But when George Floyd’s death happened and during the protests that followed, my stomach hurt and I was crying all the time.”
A Harrowing Incident
Andi recalls a particularly harrowing incident, in which she was at the store with two of her kids, Thomas and Carter when security demanded to see the receipt from their purchase. Andi, clearly upset, says that it was “surreal and sickening” and she knew that she would have to do more to keep her boys safe.
Andi says, “I have a lot of African American friends who are moms and I was asking what I could do. I can never truly understand, so I have been speaking to other people and trying to learn how to address this with my kids. I’m very blessed that my mom friends are so wonderful.”
Family Life During the Pandemic
The Bonura clan are lucky for countless reasons, but one reason, in particular, is that their mother worked as a teacher for 13 years, which certainly came in handy when schools closed due to the pandemic. The newly formed family found themselves stuck at home all the time, but they now had each other.
During the pandemic, the children studied on Zoom and stayed in close communication with their teachers. They took turns being “chefs” for the night, each child helping prepare the family dinner. The family has also been working hard to raise funds for the agency that united theme: Depelchin Children’s Center.
An Incredible Journey
Andi and Thomas Bonura went from struggling to have any children at all, to form a beautiful family of 10! The couple truly feel that the universe has guided them and pushed them to make the right choices, bringing their family to be exactly what was meant for them.
Andi lovingly said, “It is challenging and overwhelming but it’s the most fulfilling joy I have ever felt. I wake up every morning and I can’t believe I get to be their mom. Because it took me a long time to be a mom… It’s the most meaningful thing I have ever done. Where we are now as a family, it’s just heaven, it really is.”