An Ohio couple never thought their family of two would become a family of six in just a few weeks when they agreed to adopt two sisters.

Calena and her husband BJ Durel, of Cincinnati, went through five years of infertility when they first got married. The couple had always planned to adopt children in addition to having their own, but sped up the process to become foster parents after struggling with infertility for years.

In the summer of 2016, the Durels first saw a pair of sisters with their former foster parents at an Anderson Township park.

At the time, the couple had just started their journey as foster parents. They were asked to watch them in order to give their foster parents at the time a break.

Calena said she and her husband felt an instant connection with the sisters, Aubree and Mariah.

“I took a photo of them that day because it just felt like we were supposed to be with them. I sent the picture to my mom and told her, ‘I can’t imagine these girls not being in our home,'” Calena said.

After becoming foster parents themselves, the Durels have fostered eight children for about three years while keeping in touch with Aubree, now 7, and Maria, now 10, sometimes picking them up from school and caring for them overnight.

“We had no idea where their case was going but we just had that tug that they were meant to be with us,” Calena said of the sisters.

PHOTO: Sisters Mariah, 10, and Aubree, 7, were formally adopted by the Durels on August 6, 2019.
Sisters Mariah, 10, and Aubree, 7, were formally adopted by the Durels on Aug. 6, 2019. (Calena Durel)

In July 2018, the couple was asked if they were still interested in adopting Aubree and Maria.

“We said, ‘Absolutely,’ BJ recalled.

Two weeks after deciding to adopt the sisters, Calena found out she was pregnant with twins, eight years after first trying to become pregnant.

“I thought it was impossible,” Calena said. “I thought God had this plan and it was for us to adopt.”

In December 2018, they moved with Mariah and Aubree into a new house which was, by chance, built with five bedrooms before they learned about the adoption or the pregnancy.

“We were just hoping God would fill the space,” said Calena.

Calena delivered the twins, Gavin and Grace, in February 2019.

On Tuesday Aug. 6, the Durels formally adopted Mariah and Aubree in court.

“There’s nothing like that day,” Calena said. “The joy on the girls’ faces was everything to us.”

Now, Mariah and Aubree are fantastic big sisters to their twin siblings, Gavin and Grace, the couple said.

Mariah will start this year in fifth grade and Aubree will enter second grade.

“Aubree is a first time big sister so she is over the moon about that, and it’s a whole new situation for Mariah,” Calena said. “She gets to be a big sister and do all of the fun things because she was kind of a caregiver before for Aubree.”

According to the Hamilton County Job & Family Services Agency director Moira Weir, around 400 children are currently in foster care in Hamilton County, where the Durels live.

Weir said the Durels filled two of the agency’s biggest needs by adopting siblings and children who are older.

“[Foster] children have had heartache and sadness but then they come into a home where people just fall in love with you,” she said. “It’s just amazing how people really rally around each other and love each other.”

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