Toni and Bill Maher's connection with adoption began in a supermarket of all places. While it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that the seeds of adoption are planted in a family's mind, the Maher family can trace that moment to a unique encounter with a distressed stranger at their local grocery store.
After Toni and Bill welcomed their two biological sons, Andrew and Connor, they believed their family was complete. "I never even though about adoption", explained Toni. The Mahers were plenty busy with all the activities, scheduling, and daily liveliness of raising two children; adding more to the equation was simply not on Bill and Toni's radar.
It was on a routine trip to the grocery store, that stay-at-home mom, Toni, saw something rather unusual; a woman crying in one of the aisles. In a moment that surprised even herself, Toni approached the stranger to find out that the woman was struggling under the stresses of trying to juggle her young children, her job as a nurse, and other life challenges. Toni invited the woman and her children back to the Maher household and in another unexpected moment, the woman accepted the invitation. Toni cooked mac n' cheese and their children ate and played together while she comforted the woman from the grocery store. The two mothers sat and talked for hours about parenting, life, family, and everything in between. The woman left that evening, thanking Toni for taking the time to talk to her.
That night around 9pm, Toni received an unexpected call. It was the same woman from the grocery store, "She told me that her cousin was fostering a baby and that the baby would not be reunified with its mother. She told me that she kept thinking about me and asked if I would take it", recounted Toni. Toni Maher was shocked and told the woman that she'd have to think this over and talk about it with Bill. When Toni told Bill about this baby who would not be reunified with the biological mother, they both agreed that taking in another kid would be crazy. They already had two children and were happy and comfortable. However, after sleeping on it, both woke up with the shared feeling that something was pulling them towards this baby and towards adoption. Within the week they began looking for MAPP classes.
The couple began attending local MAPP classes, and the information they learned only affirmed their decision to embark on this path. After three or four weeks, the couple got another call. They found out that the woman who had been fostering the very baby they started MAPP classes for, was going to keep the child. But they both knew continuing these classes was the right path for them. Several months later they found out about a pair of twins whose goal had just been changed from reunification with the biological family to adoption. Toni and Bill were then informed that these two twins were the biological siblings of the original baby they believed they'd be adopting and just like that, their family grew from four to six.
As the twins, Rena and Robbie, grew, Toni felt a similar pull that she'd felt towards adoption. After hearing about the intense need for loving foster families, the Maher family opened their home to foster infants. The family fostered several infants over a short period. The last of the infants they fostered was Emma. After only seven days in the Maher household, the couple received a phone call from an attorney asking if they would like to adopt Emma. Once again, Bill and Toni said yes, and their family grew from six to seven.
With five children, three being under the age of four, the Maher family closed their home for fostering and devoted their time to their family. As the younger children grew older, Toni, who had been a stay at home mom this whole time, decided to look for a new job. Toni knew she loved infants and thought she could lend her expertise and experience as a nanny. She found a job posting by a grandmother who had just obtained temporary guardianship of her infant grandson, which seemed like the perfect fit. She could help the grandmother navigate the system and provide loving care to the infant. She was hired almost immediately.
It was a short time after beginning her work as a nanny that the grandmother asked Toni if she would adopt the infant. In the midst of figuring out how they could add another baby to the family, Toni and Bill found out that this infant had a biological brother who had just been born and who was also seeking adoption. For the third time, Toni and Bill said yes and began the process of adoption once again. This time to add Jackson and Ollie to their family, growing from seven to nine.
The Maher family has been pulled back again and again to adopt and they have continued to say yes. Today Toni is as confident as ever that adoption was always meant to be a part of her family's story. She now dedicates her time to helping other adoptive families as a MARE mentor, speaker, and experienced family
"This is my calling", Toni explains. She often tells waiting families, "Don't give up, just keep pushing through. The right time will happen", she advises. "You won't know it now, but you will once it happens". Through her family's own experiences, Toni Maher knows first hand that the ‘right time’ hardly ever comes when it's expected to.