Utah, Mormon parents of 18 children share story of love, family and adoption

By Erica Palmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 20 2014 1:23 p.m. MDT

Doug and Deanne Walker have 18 children: 9 biological and 9 adopted. They say their experience with raising such a large family has completely changed who they are and helped them to value the things that they believe are really important in this life.

Tyler Walker

Busy.

That's how Deanne Walker, mother of 18 children, describes her daily life.

"It's always busy," she said. "There are always things happening, there's always something to accomplish. But at the same time, there's always laughter and smiling and playing."

Deanne and her husband, Doug Walker, have 18 children, ranging in age from 5 to 27. Thirteen are still living at home. Nine of them are biological and nine are adopted.

Deanne comes from a family of 10 and Doug from a family of five. The Walkers didn't start out with thoughts of having a large family.

"At some point early on, I told her dad … 'We're not going to be as crazy as you are with 10 kids,’ ” Doug Walker said with a smile.

"We kind of thought six or seven," Deanne Walker said of their family, who live in South Jordan and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "And then, it exploded."

Their words were interspersed with the sounds of children laughing and playing and the movie "Frozen" in the background. Deanne Walker constantly had a baby in her lap or children running to give her bear hugs before they went off to play.

Deanne said the couple knew early on that they were going to adopt a child of a different race.

"I had a dream," she said. "And it was the first time I had a dream that made me think, 'There's something more to this.’ ”

At the time they had two children, and one was still an infant. Although they started looking into adoption right away, the timing wasn't right.

She gave birth to five more children before she had a strong prompting to start the adoption process immediately. They did, and six weeks later they were on their way to Chicago to adopt a baby boy.

They brought their 6-month-old daughter, Hannah, to the hospital to pick up the new baby. When the nurse brought the baby to the window, Hannah had a big smile and started waving her arms excitedly.

"She knew that was her brother," Deanne Walker said. "She was waiting for him. And those two have been like twins, the best of friends, ever since."

In the next three years, the Walkers adopted four more children and had another biological baby. It got to the point where their 5-year-old daughter thought babies came from the airport.

"We were talking about going to the airport and Hannah thought we were getting a baby, because every time we had gone to the airport in her young life we had come home with a baby," Doug Walker said.

He said his wife has always been a very spiritual person, and the promptings to adopt another child always come to her.

"I am a very spiritually based person," Deanne Walker said. "But there have been enough times when I have felt like we have another child coming, and then it didn't happen in the time frame that I thought. So then I question myself, 'Maybe I didn’t really know.’ ”

She said although sometimes these promptings have been difficult to follow, she made the decision when she was a young girl that she would never shut the door to another child in her family.

The Walkers have adopted children from the United States, India and China. Some of their adopted children have special needs, including cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.

One of their daughters, 5-year-old Bria, has a condition called amniotic banding. While she was in utero, little threads wrapped around her body, restricting development.

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