Curtis Family called Angels in Adoption
WINSLOW — Dawn and Danny Curtis first became adoptive parents after seeing a photo album of children in foster care at a booth hosted by the Arkansas Department of Human Services at their local Walmart. That was in the late 1980s. Since, then they adopted 10 children.
Crawford and Sebastian counties have the biggest adoption care need in the state. There are just 53 foster homes recruited by The CALL of the River Valley, but 630 children in care. In comparison, there are 174 kids in foster care in Franklin, Johnson, Logan and Scott counties, with about 35 homes open to them.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman recently recognized Dawn Curtis and the late Danny Curtis for their commitment to providing a loving home to children in need, and making a difference for other families throughout the region. Boozman nominated the couple from Winslow for the 2020 Congressional Angels in Adoption Award in October.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) coordinates the Angels in Adoption program and raises awareness about the tens of thousands of orphans and foster children in the United States, and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent homes.
“The Angels in Adoption program gives a platform to the families, advocates, and experts who so often serve quietly behind the scenes yet make a huge impact on behalf of children and families. Together with the Adoption Caucus, we are thrilled to shine a light on the extraordinary work of our Angels,” says Nancy Kay Blackwell, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
Boozman annually nominates an Arkansan or Arkansas organization that has made an extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of safe and loving homes as an Angel in Adoption.
Advocates for adoption
The Curtises, who have 12 children, have been advocates for adoption and the needs of children through their careers and personal lives. They adopted their first child in 1987. In all, the Curtis children include Tasha, Brad, Dustin, Levi, John, Shammy, DeDe, Sha-Ron, Tyron and Tammie.
“The Curtis family is an amazing example of putting love into action,” Boozman said at a recent event honoring the Curtis Family. “Their personal commitment changed the lives of the children they brought into their family and serves as an inspiration for others as to the impact of foster care and adoption."
Back at that Walmart all those years ago, Dawn says she and her husband fell in love with the picture of a 4-year-old girl, then learned she had three brothers. The siblings had been in the foster care system for three years and multiple homes when the Curtises adopted all four of the children.
“Life was so wonderful and good,” Dawn said. “We had a few trials and problems along the way, but we handled them as a family. Going from two children to six over night was quite a challenge but also a big blessing ... I remember the community of Elkins threw us this big shower. We got food, clothing and supplies for the house to help meet the needs of our kids.”
Dawn says she remembers the first Christmas they had with their adopted children.
“My two biological sons stopped opening their presents after one of my adopted sons made the comment, “We get to keep these? They are ours?” I just sat back and cried as I watched,” she said.
After their first adoption experience, Dawn decided to follow her passion to work with children in foster care and obtained her master’s degree in social work. She went on to work for the Arkansas Department of Human Services and served in a variety of roles during her career, including as an adoption specialist. During these years, the family was approached to consider adopting others in foster care and eventually added six additional children to their home.
The Curtises adopted their seventh child after looking through books on kids waiting for adoption. Dawn noticed that a lot of these children were either African-American or biracial. At the time — Dawn can’t recall what year that was — white families couldn’t adopt across racial lines. One day, they got a call that informed them that the rule had changed. They got information about a 9-year-old boy that needed a home, and they quickly took the opportunity.
“We drove several hours one Saturday and picked up John and spent the day with him. He won our hearts over. So, we decided yes, we wanted to adopt him,” Dawn said. “A few years later, the family got another call about two girls that need a home. “The girls had some issues. They had been kicked out of two daycares due to their behavior. They were 3 and 4 years of age.”
November of that year, the two girls were added to the Curtis’ growing family. The following July their younger brother was added as well.
“The older ones helped with the younger ones. We all worked together,” Dawn said. “The behaviors of the last were difficult at times to say the least. But again, we all worked together as a family.”
Several years later she was approached by another adoption specialist through the Department of Human Services that there was a sibling group of three that needed a family. They were ages 9, 11 and 13. Dawn, Danny and the family discussed it. Some of the kids were in college at that point and out of the house. Dawn, Dan and the growing family decided to give it a shot, again.
Danny worked for many years as a police officer and a bus driver while caring for his growing family. Danny and Dawn also visited Washington, D.C., on several occasions to advocate for adoption and children in foster care. The 12 Curtis children span 20 years of age and are all adults now, but the example and dedication of their parents continues to move everyone around them.
“Nothing about raising 12 kids from all walks of life has been easy,” Dawn said. “We went through some really rough times but what I want everyone to know is that we so depended on God through everything. That being said, I would not trade any of the trials, heartache and blessings. Everything we went through we went through as a family.”
Danny Curtis died in August 2017 after his battle with cancer.