Daisy Rivera and Mahogany Corioso’s family more than doubled overnight.
The couple were relaxing together April 11, 2012, at their Spanaway home, where they had just moved, when they got a call that Rivera’s two nieces and two nephews, now ages 4 to 12, were about to be picked up by police and placed into foster care.
“It was our day off,” Rivera said. “We get this really serious call out of nowhere.”
A state worker on the phone started asking why Rivera missed a “meeting” about the children, instantly confusing her.
“He was kind of grilling us,” Rivera said.
They didn’t know about the meeting. They didn’t know Rivera’s sister had an open Child Protective Services case regarding her kids.
But they knew they needed to help. Immediately.
“If nobody comes for these kids, they are going into foster homes, and they’re probably going to get separated,” Corioso remembered.
“We were like: ‘No, no. Stop. Don’t separate them,’ ” Rivera said. “ ‘Tell us what we have to do.’ ”
Three years later, the couple intend to adopt all four children Tuesday, making their family permanent.
“We call them Mommy,” 8-year-old Gisselle Guzman said recently. “Mommy M and Mommy D. I can’t wait to be adopted.”
The other niece and nephews are 12-year-old Adrian Rodriguez, 9-year-old Gabriel Guzman, and 4-year-old Annaligh Guzman.
Gisselle said she’s excited for the adoption, “because I’m with a happy family that takes care of me good.”
Adrian said he was “a little nervous about it, but I know I’m going to be in a home where I’m fed and taken care of. Now it’s permanent. I’m never going to go home. I get that. My parents made some bad choices. But at least I’m with relatives who are taking care of us.”
The family learned about the adoption date four weeks ago. It was good news to get it so soon, but they had been told it would most likely be later in the summer, which would have given them some time to save for the fees.
Instead, they’ve had to scramble to come up with more than $2,000 in a month.
“That’s kind of how the past three years have been,” Corioso said. “We’ve been pulled from pillar to post. That’s just how the system is.”
The kids helped with garage sales and washed cars to get some of the funds. They put Corioso’s most recent paycheck toward the fees.
And they came up with enough for the adoption.
But their leased couches go back this week. They don’t know how other expenses will be covered.
“There’s going to be some bills that aren’t going to get paid,” Corioso said.
That’s why a friend set up an online fundraiser for the family, which has raised about $1,600 in less than two weeks. If there’s enough, extra funds will help the family move to a bigger house. Space is tight in their three-bedroom, and they’d love for Corioso’s 17-year-old son, Evin Corioso, to get a bedroom of his own again, which they’ve been promising for years but haven’t had the money for.
It’s been a difficult few years for the family financially, even before the adoption fees.
“There were times within that period where we were like: ‘I don’t know how much longer we can do this,’ ” Corioso said. “I’ve never had to struggle the way I’ve had to struggle the past three years.”
Rivera lost her previous job, working retail at Kmart, when the kids’ day care closed and she had to stay home with them until they could find a new facility.
She works at an optical lab now. Corioso works for a company where she helps run training and orientation for several local McDonald’s restaurants. They get some state support for the kids, and will continue getting help after the adoption, but not enough to cover expenses.
It’s been a huge help that Corioso’s employer has been flexible with her schedule to work around the kids and that the family’s landlord has been understanding about late rent some months.
The important thing, the kids agree, is that they get to stay together.
“We’re brothers and sisters, and we look out for each other,” Adrian explained.
“I should look out for Annaligh, in case she gets hurt,” Gisselle added.
Looking back, Corioso and Rivera call the social workers who made it possible for the kids to stay together “miracle workers,” and believe they got lucky to get the kids that day, on such short notice.
They rushed to the Department of Social and Health Services office on South State Street in Tacoma, to meet with a social worker to get emergency background checks to take the kids home.
“I think the first thing out of her mouth was, ‘Do you have car seats?’ ” Rivera remembered, laughing.
No, in the rush of the crazy day, of course they didn’t have car seats. The only other child in their home was Evin, who was already a teenager.
After finding car seats, they made their way to Tillicum, where they waited for police to take the kids and transfer custody.
The kids came with basically the clothes on their backs.
There seems to be several reasons they were taken, the couple said.
They had missed about 40 days of school between January and when they were removed in April.
The home was trashed, they said, and there was drug paraphernalia.
“There’s just like waves of cops, people crying,” Corioso said. “It was bad. That was a rough night, too.”
Then came the never-ending wave of case workers, counselors, and medical visits for kids who needed extra love and support.
Rivera said her sister has had some visits with the kids, but didn’t seem to take advantage of resources available to try to regain custody. The children’s father was deported to Mexico a year ago. So last summer, the state wanted to know if Rivera and Corioso would adopt the children.
They decided their goal was to get the kids out of the foster care system, which led to the Tuesday court date.
And while it might not be easy sometimes, they say they’ll get by.