By Kristina Houck
Nov. 30 is a special day for the Bonadeo family of Del Mar.
John and Betty Bonadeo will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, and their oldest child will turn 10 years old. Dorothea, 9, proudly informs others that she was born on her parents’ wedding day.
“We actually had a child that day, we just didn’t know her yet,” Betty Bonadeo said.
The Bonadeo family celebrated National Adoption Month by finalizing the adoption of their four children Nov. 15, when nearly 20 families finalized adoptions during a ceremony at Juvenile Court in San Diego. The event was held a week before National Adoption Day, which takes place Nov. 23.
“I can’t imagine life without them,” Betty Bonadeo said.
John, 59, and Betty Bonadeo, 56, met later in life.
Originally from Detroit, John Bonadeo owns a bathroom and kitchen remodeling business. Betty Bonadeo, a Chicago native, is a former Secret Service agent who retired 12 years ago.
After working with fertility specialists and trying in vitro fertilization and surrogacy in their early years of marriage, the couple turned to adoption. They decided to relocate to California, which they found to be an “adoption-friendly state,” and moved from Washington D.C. to Del Mar in 2010.
“When I was working, failure was impossible,” Betty Bonadeo said. “I always thought I could work hard enough or study hard enough and I could get whatever I wanted.
“It was the first time I ever came up against a wall and couldn’t get what I wanted with hard work. It took a long time to move on.”
Shortly after becoming licensed foster care parents, the couple received a call about four siblings from Alaska who needed a forever family. They welcomed Dorothea, Peter, David and Katherine — now 9, 8, 7 and 5 years old — into their home on March 24, 2012.
Being new parents to four children was a little overwhelming at first, Betty Bonadeo admitted.
During the first week, she and her husband planned a family outing every day, taking their the children to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland and other kid-friendly destinations.
“It was the wrong thing to do because after that first week, the kids said, ‘Where are we going now?’” recalled Betty as she laughed.
After three months, the couple hired a summer nanny. An au pair from Germany now lives with the family.
The bonding process also took time, especially for the two older children as they had memories of their birth parents, she added.
“When the bonding occurs, you know what day it is,” she said. “These little kids look at me in a loving way, and of course, I love them, too.”
One of her most cherished memories was hearing her youngest tell her classmate, “That’s my real mom!” when he asked whether Betty Bonadeo was her grandmother.
“It just touched my heart,” she said.
Now, the couple is open to potentially welcome a fifth child. Their home could accommodate one more child and they plan to renew their foster care license.
“The kids all want more kids. The girls want a girl and the boys want a boy,” said Betty Bonadeo, who noted the family sponsors a 15-year-old girl from Guatemala. “I already cook for seven people, so one more child doesn’t seem like a big deal.”
For the most part, John Bonadeo said the adoption ceremony was “not going to change anything.” He was already their father, and his wife was already their mother.
“It seems like we’ve had them forever,” Betty Bonadeo said. “I don’t remember not having them.”
“The good lord provided,” John Bonadeo said. “I think what happened to us — we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
There are about 3,500 youth in the San Diego County foster care system. At any given time, more than 40 children are waiting for permanent adoptive placement, according to the county’s website.
The couple encouraged others to become foster parents and choose adoption.
“Don’t be afraid of doing it,” Betty Bonadeo said. “We want to tell everybody that we’re not perfect and they’re not perfect, but it’s OK.
“Everybody can do this. It doesn’t matter how old you are.”