Local Family Has A Full House With 17 Children
This is what a typical day looks like for the Dudleys, a house full of life. There are ten kids playing around or receiving medical treatment. You can say they have a full house.
Kent and Shantel Dudley started adopting children with serious medical conditions and haven’t looked back ever since. They blended their own family of seven children, have adopted six and four are pending adoption. That brings them a total of 17 children.
“And I was assuming an orphanage overseas or not married with other children working with drug addicted babies,” said Shantel. “I had no idea it was going to be looking like this where we would adopt children one by one and each one of our kids were drug addicted.”
Life wasn’t always this way for the family. Kent spent 16 years as a chaplain and musician as part of his group, Bended Knee. Shantel was a stay at home mom. Now that their life has gone in a different direction their focus is on caring for their children full time.
“The music was a big, just a venue where we could go out and promote adoption,” said Kent. “We talked a lot about adoption. I think there were somewhere around 10 to 12 families that stepped put and directly adopted because the concerts we put on and talking about adoptions.”
“Usually if you ask most of our kids that can talk they’ll just say my mama couldn’t take care of me or there was an accident and mama couldn’t take care of me,” said Shantel.
It’s a completely different story from years ago when one child was left in the closet and tortured and another was left in the toilet.
“Mathis is fun to play with and he’s funny which I really like having him here,” said Vontae Dudley.
“I really love my mom and dad,” said Victoria Dudley. “They’re the best ever.”
No parent should have to lose a child and unfortunately the Dudleys know that pain too well. Two of their daughters passed away Raniyah and Kiah. Those girls are never forgotten as Shantel keeps the angel wings that hung in Raniyah’s room and she has a special way to honor the girls with a memory tree.
‘We wanted to hold on to her, but even today we know that she’s not hurting anymore,” said Kent.
Some of the kids don’t know what Christmas feels like and will finally experience that for the first time. Waking up with their family and seeing what gifts are under the tree.
“The thought of children going to bed at night and not having parents to read to them or to tuck them in, to have Christmas with a family that still even 10 kids later that still bothers me,” said Shantel.
Of course this wouldn’t be possible without the help from others. The Dudleys have nurses, PCA’s and LVN’s to help care for the children. Shantel calls them her all-stars.
“Our family some of these nurses get hands on experience where even in school they’re not offered that with the specialty peds and so it’s been fun,” said Shantel.
On this night the nurses are in until seven then the Dudley’s take over. They split the shifts and it works for them.
“I would much rather do hands on giving showers getting kids dressed being on the floor, rolling around and playing,” said Kent. “Mom is great with appointments and forms and medications and doctors and coordinating nurses and these are going on everyday.”
Six children are tube fed and three are on a trachea (trake). With everything they experience on a daily basis it can be tough sometimes. The Dudleys continuously uplift each other and sometimes enjoy time to themselves in their own personal sanctuary also known as the living room.
“We’re best friends,” said Shanetl. “When he’s having a tough day I’ll usually be a little stronger that day and vice versa.”
For such a big family one will need a big house. Bended Knee Ranch was built five years ago and the Dudleys renovated the house themselves. It’s a team effort. Kent builds and Shantel decorates. It’s also expensive. Last January the electricity bill was twelve hundred dollars.
“We get a subsidy that keeps the cupboards full and our supply list is off the charts,” said Kent. “You would not believe the supplies we go through. The medical side is covered but the supply end, but the supply end is not.”
The Dudleys have told themselves we didn’t break these children; we’re trying to make them better. That’s what they’re doing one child at a time. Their message is simple. These children aren’t a burden, they’re miracle babies and deserve to be loved.