The Morningstar family poses with their dogs Teddy and Bear outside their home in Caribou. In back, from left to right, Elijah, 16, Josiah, 12, Bridget Morningstar, Gabby, 6, and Peter Morningstar. In front, left to right, Angel, 9, Lexie, 15, Jane, 15, and Luke, 8. Absent from the photo are Jack, 22, Nick, 19, and Julianna Morningstar, 18. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU, Maine — When Peter and Bridget Morningstar first became foster parents, they never expected to one day add seven children to their family — and certainly not all at once.

But that’s exactly how the Morningstars became a family of 12, which most recently added biological siblings Julianna, 18, Elijah, 16, Lexie, 15, Josiah, 12, Angel, 9, Luke, 8, and Gabby, 6. They joined a family that already included the Morningstars’ biological son Jack, 22, and adopted children Nick, 19, and Jane, 15.

“We’re blessed that these kids loved each other so much and wanted to be together,” Bridget Morningstar said.

Nearly one year after officially adopting the seven siblings, the Morningstars have been recognized nationally as one of 71 Angels in Adoption, a program administered by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. The Morningstars were nominated by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Congressional Adoption Caucus.

Though the Morningstars said they are honored to be recognized, the real honor has been sharing lessons they’ve learned about perseverance, family values and the positive impact that adoption can have on children’s lives.

After Jack, Nick and Jane started school, the Morningstars decided to become foster parents as a way to help children in their community find loving environments and reconcile with their birth families. They began fostering Luke in 2018 and soon realized how strong the bonds between him and his siblings, who were staying with other foster families, had become.

“Luke had been here a few months and one day he said, ‘This has been nice but I need to go back where my brothers and sisters are.’ He started walking down the driveway, so we were walking and talking with him,” Peter Morningstar said.

As time passed, more of Luke’s siblings began joining him. When it became clear that the siblings would not reunite with their birth parents, the Morningstars began the process of adoption.

Though all of the siblings had stayed in supportive and caring foster homes, being together more made everyone realize just how much they needed one another, Bridget Morningstar said.

One especially powerful moment happened when she heard Gabby and Angel singing along to “Trust in You” by Christian singer Lauren Daigle, a song about prayer and determination. The girls explained that Julianna had taught them that song during one of their visits.

“That sent a message into my heart,” Bridget Morningstar said. “It made me realize just how much these kids love each other and what we needed to do to get them together.”

The seven siblings officially became Morningstars in November 2020, making the home a daily “center of activity.” Between coordinating school, activities, meals and family time, the past year has taught Peter and Bridget Morningstar about embracing everyday challenges.

“We’ve learned to be more comfortable with our imperfections, which is a good lesson to learn as parents, especially when things don’t go according to plan,” Peter Morningstar said.

Amidst the organized chaos of a large family, the siblings are grateful that adoption has given them a loving home and a second chance to grow up together.

“Even before foster care we had each other’s backs,” Elijah Morninstar said. “But being together again reminds us that we’ll always be there for each other.”