Her unyielding commitment is driving her to ensure the well-being of the six siblings she took in three years ago, affectionately referred to as the 'Six Pack.'
The strength of a family, whether chosen or not, is what glues it together even through trying times and Amanda Perry is striving to maintain just that. "I am going to do whatever it takes to keep them together and for them to never go back to where they once were in life," Perry exclusively told Upworthy. The mom from Mississippi is currently fighting to keep her nest full with six siblings she welcomed into her life and home three years ago. The siblings, lovingly referred to as the "Six Pack" by Perry, include brothers Travis, Travon, Travell, Tremaine and Terrell—aged 12 to 8—and their 4-year-old sister, Tia.
"I was an empty nester. My son was out of the house on his own working for the USDA and my daughter was living on campus at Alcorn State University getting her Bachelor's degree in Nursing," Perry revealed. Little did she know, one call from child protective services would change her world. Her nest was soon filled with more fruit as she likes to describe it.
The call let her know that her half-sister, who was struggling with mental health issues and drug addiction, could no longer take responsibility for her six children and that they were being taken into state custody on account of child neglect. "They also stated they had already contacted several other family members who declined due to the number of children involved. Six children would be a lot for any household to 'all of a sudden' adjust to," Perry stated.
The caller also informed her that the children would be divided among four different foster families due to the state's placement limit at the time. After receiving the call, Perry immediately got into her car and drove to Batesville to pick them up. "I was told this would be temporary placement until the mother was released from the mental/rehab institution within 60 to 90 days. After 90 days, mom was released and went back to the same place she was before the children were removed," she shared. "I was told I could keep the children under CPS status and wait for foster homes or I could hire an attorney and seek legal guardianship of them. I did not want them to be in the system as wards of the state. I hired an attorney and was granted legal guardianship of them."
However, some major adjustments had to be made once they were all under the same roof. A few of the children were triggered by noise, wouldn't speak much and weren't used to using beds. Good bunk beds were brought for them but "they all would be huddled up in the middle of the floor in a ball" since they were used to sleeping on the floor. As they were used to a lack of running water, bathing was also a challenge for them. They also "hated" going to school as they were teased for their hygiene and clothing. Not having the assurance of food also made them "sneak" and "hide" food. After two years of feeling safe and a sense of belonging, they were able to overcome these obstacles.
They now love attending school, bathing and sleeping in their own beds. "The boys absolutely love to play football and basketball. Baby girl enjoys playing with her Barbies and being a cheerleader for her brothers. My son often comes home and 'shoots hoops' with the boys or takes them all to movie night. My daughter who is now in her last year of college will come home and give me a day off while she will babysit all the kiddos for an entire day. They are very helpful and supportive of the children. As is my entire family, my Mom, sister, brother, neighbors, community, church members and many more," Perry revealed.
However, even after three years, their mother was in the same position. "I thought maybe she would get better and want a better life for her and her children," Perry said, explaining what lead to her final decision of adopting the children. "These children have been through things that no one should ever have to endure in life, therefore, I am going to do whatever it takes to keep them together and for them to never go back to where they once were in life! I had to make the decision to make my home a permanent home for The Six Pack."
Although Perry is able to look after all six of the children, meet their needs and manage their living expenses, covering legal and adoption fees for this process has turned out to be prohibitively expensive. This is why Perry turned to GoFundMe. Within weeks, she was able to collect over twice her goal amount of $15,000. The adoption process will take a year and with the remaining money that's been raised, she plans on buying the kids a better home. "We currently live in a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath with 1 bathtub, which makes bath time very challenging. I dare complain because we are blessed to be under the same roof. The boys, especially the oldest, Travis, wishes for his own room daily and I plan to make his dream come true if it's the last thing I am able to do for them," she shared.
Everyone, especially the kids, seems to be thrilled about this development and loves the idea of staying Perry's six-pack forever. "The kiddos are overly excited about being adopted and have been saying over and over we're gonna have TeeTee Shea's last name when we get adopted!! Having my last name seems to be a big thing to them. They all call me TeeTee Shea. As in Auntie Shea," she added. "I must say these kiddos are truly humbled individuals wishing for nothing more than a forever home and to be loved and treated correctly."