This year — 2024 — is a very special year for Wide Horizons For Children. It marks the 50th anniversary of our founding in the US, which arose from the need to find permanent homes for children orphaned by the Vietnam war. To celebrate this milestone, we are presenting a series of stories — stories of hope and transformation — from across these five decades. Over the next two years, we will publish one new story per month showcasing all areas of our work: Family Preservation, Adoption, and Orphan Care.

Please join us for this journey back in time and enjoy these powerful stories that shine a spotlight on the healing power of love and hope.

A Story of Commitment — the Ruddy/Novelle Family

A Columbia Adoption Success Story — the Ruddy/Novelle Family

Michelle and Rob, a social worker and special ed teacher, respectively, may have “… just wanted a family, like everyone else”, but that’s where the similarity between their journey and everyone else’s ended. In truth, you couldn’t make up the story of their family journey if you tried. This is truly a Columbia adoption success story.

Through their work with a Boston-based agency dedicated to helping at-risk youth, they gained some clarity on how they wanted their future family to be. They knew they wanted to build their family through adoption. They knew that they wanted to help the older children many wouldn’t consider… kids others left behind. And they knew they were open to sibling groups… to adopting more than one child at a time. 

After reaching out to Wide Horizons For Children in 1997 and being told “If you embark upon this journey with us, you will have a family”, they decided to adopt from Colombia. A year later, Michelle and Rob were on their way to collect their children – three sisters, aged 10, 7 and 4. They now had the family they so wanted.

In 2000, however, Wide Horizons contacted them out of the blue. Their adoption partner in Colombia had just located three more siblings from this family – one girl and two boys. Were they interested in adopting them, too?

Rob and Michelle jumped at the chance. After all, these kids were part of their family, too. There were some complications with this adoption as one of the boys had autism, but Rob and Michelle persevered and eventually got these three siblings back home with them. So, they now had a family of six – four girls and two boys. 

That would have been it… but for something that happened before Michelle left Colombia. An old woman had approached her, saying that she knew of another sibling – a boy — but didn’t know where he was. Michelle had no reason to doubt this story – why would the old woman make it up? And so began another chapter in her family’s story.

On her return from Colombia, Michelle got in touch with Wide Horizons to ask for their help tracking down this seventh child. Six years later, they found him — plus two more brothers. Would Rob and Michelle take them all? came the question. Of course, came the answer.

And then there were nine.

Ruddy Novelle Family Adoption Story

You might think that’s where the story ends. But it doesn’t. Six years later, they adopted a tenth child – the newborn daughter of their eldest child.

Today there are ten children in their family, ranging in age between 10 and 36, plus three granddaughters. Six of the children still live at home.

Ruddy Novelle Family Adoption Story

When asked if she would do it all over again if she were 25, Michelle replied, without skipping a beat:

“I wouldn’t need to be 25 to do it all over again. I’d do it today!”

Not surprisingly with children who were abandoned and experienced considerable disruption in their early years, Rob and Michelle’s family has had to work through many challenges. But, helped by an extensive network of friends and their parents’ attitude and resourcefulness, they have met and overcome them. These children know their parents are there for them, no matter what. Their commitment to their family is unquestionable. 

a quote from Michelle Ruddy/Novelle

In the 27 years since their family journey began, seeing how their family has blossomed is a huge source of joy to Michelle and Rob. “Our world expanded in so many wonderful ways because of our children.”