By U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt,
Ohio’s Second Congressional District
Six-year-old Jesi Ingle can’t walk or talk, but she can smile.
“She smiles all the time,” said her adoptive mother, Heather Ingle of Montgomery. “She’s like the centerpiece of our family. She’s touched more lives than I ever will just by smiling.”
Jesi is one of 12 children adopted by Heather and her husband, Rick Ingle. They also have three biological children, for a total of 15 kids. The children range in age from 9 months to 20 years old. Jesi, whose ailments include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and brain damage, has been cared for by the Ingles for about 5½ years – ever since she arrived from the Caribbean island of Haiti when she was under 6 months old.
Nearly all of the children adopted by the Hamilton County couple have serious medical issues – including Down syndrome, autism, bipolar disorder, and severe mental illness. Some of the children were born to women who were addicted to alcohol or drugs. In addition to Jesi, two other children from Haiti require wheelchairs and feeding tubes, can’t walk or talk, and have seizures.
“We’re at the hospital three to four times a week because I have so many kids with special needs,” Heather said. “Neurosurgery, neurology, psychology, psychiatry, pulmonary, ophthalmology, and others – we’re at so many different clinics” at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.
As a mother and grandmother myself, I realize the time and responsibility involved in caring for a child. But Heather and Rick Ingle’s commitment to family is extraordinary. Why would Heather and Rick take on such an enormous responsibility? Because every life is precious.
I’m pleased to announce that I have selected Heather and Rick Ingle as this year’s Angels in Adoption for Southern Ohio.
Along with some of my colleagues on Capitol Hill, I participate in the Angels in Adoption program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Members of the House and Senate select people based on their generosity and willingness to help the children of those unable to fulfill their roles as parents.
Many residents of Ohio’s Second Congressional District have opened their hearts and homes to foster or to adopt children, and I’m pleased to recognize four other caring individuals whom I believe are worthy of honorable mention as part of this year’s Angels in Adoption selection process:
- Chris Combs of Montgomery in Hamilton County, who is executive director of the Coalition of Care Greater Cincinnati – as well as a single dad who adopted a brother and sister from Nicaragua.
- Rosanne Barg of Union Township in Clermont County, a 66-year-old single mom who welcomed two special-needs sisters into her home and has so far adopted one.
- Cherie McCarthy of Terrace Park in Hamilton County, director of the Adoption Connection, who is a licensed independent social worker and adoption assessor.
- Dottie Boner of Symmes Township in Hamilton County, who has worked as a counselor, clinician, adoption consultant, and medical social worker in the hope of making Americans more aware of the need for adoptive and foster parents.
Heather Ingle, 44, and Rick, 46, have been married 21 years. “We started foster parenting a month or two after we got married,” Heather said. Helping children “has been our whole marriage. We just both recognized the need.”
Before marrying, “we discussed what our plan was for our family,” Heather said. “We didn’t really set a number. We just said we wanted lots of kids. We knew we wanted to adopt, and we knew we wanted birth children.
“God has blessed us with a really strong marriage,” Heather said. “I don’t want anyone to think we have a perfect marriage and a perfect family. We don’t have this parenting thing figured out yet. We are a work in progress. We are trying to do what God has asked us to do.
“Clearly, what we do is not easy,” Heather said. “We have a lot of people who love us. We have a good support system.”
The Ingles worship at Montgomery Community Church, where members “have been super supportive of the kids we’ve brought in,” Heather said. “A lot of our children have behavior problems, and one of our kids has a service dog that attends church with him.”
Rick Ingle grew up in White Oak in Hamilton County, while Heather Hartley Ingle is from Columbus. Both were raised as Catholics, but now “we just call ourselves Christian believers,” Heather said. “We read the Bible and believe what’s in the Bible.”
One of the children they have adopted is from the African nation of Liberia. “When I was a young girl, my dad subscribed to National Geographic magazine,” Heather said. “I was so drawn to pictures of the children of Africa,” some of whom were obviously malnourished. “I was young and so naïve, and I wondered why we as Americans weren’t helping them.”
Now, Heather laughs at the notion that anybody else should consider adopting a dozen children. “Only if God tells them to,” Heather said.
Rick Ingle works for a company that sells medical devices. Heather is a full-time mom. Some days, “he walks in after a day at work, and I walk out because I’m spent,” Heather said. “I had a day with (feeding) tubes falling out and kids screaming their heads off.”
Because of their medical issues, many of the children need around-the-clock care.
“Everyone thinks I’m a nurse, and I’m not,” Heather said. “But as soon as your child is diagnosed with something, you become an expert for your child. You have to advocate.
“We do have some nurses that come in to help,” Heather said. “I have nurses two hours a day during the school year. We have full-time nurses during the summer – until 5 p.m.” That gives the Ingles time to shuttle most of the kids to summer activities.
“We go out and do a lot of things with the kids – including the kids in wheelchairs, but not on days when it’s too hot.”
The Ingle home has nine bedrooms and four bathrooms. It used to have just four bedrooms and two baths, but a few years ago hundreds of members of the community pitched in with labor, materials, or donations for renovations that doubled the size of the house. The four oldest kids now each have their own bedrooms, while the others share.
One of the Ingles’ birth children will head off to college this month (August). Ten adopted kids who have special needs benefit from independent education programs in the Sycamore public school system, which Heather said has been very accommodating.
“We love our kids, and we love our life,” Heather said. “We wouldn’t change anything about it. Despite the many trials we have gone through, we wouldn’t change anything.”
May God bless Heather and Rick Ingle – and all 15 of their children. And may God bless the United States with more people just like them.