AMESBURY — There are empty nesters who travel, play golf and explore new adventures after all their kids are grown. Then, there's Amesbury's Pouliot family, who decided they'd just fill up that nest one more time.
Yesterday, Barbara and Paul Pouliot, their three grown children and four grandchildren headed to Salem Family Court in a stretch limo to adopt their fourth child, Melissa, a charming 11-year old girl who clearly fills the hearts of all involved.
"We're thrilled," Barbara Pouliot said. "She's just a wonderful child. We've wanted to do this for a while, and this is the right time."
The Pouliots are in their mid-50s and the parents of three: Paul, 35; Nathan, 25; and Roseanna, 21. One might think that the Pouliots had fulfilled their child-rearing experience and could satisfy any need to have children around with their grandchildren: Tyler, 12; Dylan, 10; Phoebe, 5; and Karleigh, 3.
One might think so, that is, until meeting Barbara and Paul Pouliot.
"We don't play golf; we don't travel," said Paul Pouliot. "We just really love raising children. We wanted to give Melissa a good, loving and stable home. She had been in a foster home in Lowell before coming to us."
Married young and together for 38 years, the Pouliots enjoy their lives together as husband and wife and parents.
"I got married at 17," Barbara Pouliot said. "Right out of high school; Paul was my high school sweetheart. We waited three years and had our first child, then waited ten years for our next, then four for the next."
With a close family even now that all are grown, Barbara and Paul Pouliot had the full support of their kids and grandkids concerning their decision to adopt another child.
Daughter Roseanna Pouliot Almagra said that getting used to having a little sister around wasn't hard, because she'd always wanted a sister. On the calendar is a date this holiday season for the two sisters to take in a show together in Boston, probably one of many such excursions to come.
Eldest son, Paul Pouliot III, said that Melissa blended into the family with little effort, finding a niche in everyone's heart.
"I think it's great; we're all thrilled," he said. "She just a great little kid."
Grandson Dylan also feels that adding another to the family was a good idea. Although at first it was "a little weird" to get used to having an aunt who was about the same age as he, Dylan said that as time progressed, the newness disappeared.
"Melissa fits right in," he said.
When deciding to adopt, the Pouliots reached out to the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (www.mareinc.org), which helps prospective adoptive parents connect with the proper agencies and helps match adoptive parents with children at fun events.
"We went to an adoption party organized by MARE at the Ironstone horse farm in Andover," Barbara Pouliot said. "I got out of the car and saw Melissa, and that was it. I knew; I just knew."
That was in August 2010, and two months later, Melissa was living with the Pouliots. The official adoption on Friday, which was National Adoption Day, was a meaningful experience, the family said, but it was a technicality. Melissa had become a part of the fabric of the family months earlier.
Adoption is usually seen as a complicated and expensive enterprise that can cost many thousands. But by working through the state of Massachusetts, adoption doesn't cost anything, Barbara Pouliot said. Working through MARE, the Pouliots were connected to Melissa and then the state Department of Children and Families. Then, one Monday a week for ten weeks, she and her husband went to seminars that help prepare adoptive parents for what lies ahead.
"More people should do this; there are thousands of children out there to be adopted," Barbara Pouliot said. "Melissa has just added so much to the life and love of our family. It's awesome."