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A Multi-Generational Family of Cradle Adoptees: The Crannell Family’s Story

When Chuck Crannell adopted his son Casey from The Cradle, he learned that his own history as a Cradle adoptee factored into Casey’s birth parents’ decision. 

When Patricia and Kenneth C. Crannell Sr. started exploring adoption in their home state of Massachusetts nearly six decades ago, it didn’t go so well at first. 

“My dad had polio,” says their son, Kenneth “Chuck” Crannell Jr. “Back in the sixties, that made for an interesting adoption situation. My parents were concerned that adoption agencies wouldn’t look beyond my dad’s [disability], and that proved to be true of some [agencies].”

Ken Sr., a professor of speech at Emerson College in Boston, got accepted into a Ph.D. program at Northwestern University in Illinois. When he and Pat moved to Evanston, they began to explore their options for adopting in Illinois. The couple soon learned about The Cradle.

The Cradle looked beyond Ken’s disability to see what kind of father he would be and accepted their application. 

“They filed their paperwork and nine months later, on November 28, 1964, they [adopted] me,” Chuck says. In July 1967, Chuck’s parents adopted his sister, Tracy, through The Cradle, and the family returned to the east coast.

A Cradle Adoptee Deciding to Create a Family Through Adoption

Chuck has known his wife, Martha, since they were kids. Even before they were engaged, they talked about having kids of their own one day. When they were unable to conceive a child and fertility treatments failed, they shifted their focus to adoption without hesitation. 

“Adoption was always at the forefront of our thoughts about family, right from the start,” Martha says. “Chuck and I agreed that there are different routes to building a family, so we said, let’s do it!”

Chuck and Martha lived in Massachusetts at the time, and while The Cradle is licensed to complete adoptions in Illinois, an exception was made because Chuck is a Cradle adoptee. He and Martha completed their home study in May 2008, took online courses through Adoption Learning Partners, and then traveled to Evanston in August 2008 to participate in the required, all-day “Adoption 101” class. That November, just before Martha’s 20th high school reunion, they went on the adoptive parent waiting list. 

“It was the big news at the reunion,” Martha recalls.

Being Chosen by Birth Parents and Discussing Adoption

Martha and Chuck waited a long time until they were matched with their son. Chuck describes the nearly three-year wait as “a rollercoaster.” Their profile was pulled by birth parents six times, but unlike Cradle families who were local, they couldn’t easily arrange to meet with birth parents. They did, however, make it clear in their profile that they would be willing to return to the Chicago area yearly to visit with a birth family.

Seven was the lucky number. When Martha and Chuck got the call from The Cradle that they had been selected by the birth parents of a baby boy, they had only one week to make arrangements and fly to Chicago. Baby “Jonathan” had already been born and was staying in the Nursery. Martha and Chuck decided to name him Kenneth Jonathan Crannell and call him Casey, from his initials K.C.

At the entrustment ceremony — where they met the birth parents for the first time — Martha and Chuck discovered some of the reasons why they had been chosen. “They think Chicago can be a scary place, and thought that our home looked like a safe environment to raise a little guy,” Martha says.

“We also mentioned that we loved to travel and would be taking him places,” Chuck adds. The couple enjoys hiking and camping and fostered the same love of the outdoors in their son.

The fact that Chuck was also adopted through The Cradle helped solidify the birth parents’ decision. “The birth mom really liked the fact that we will be able to talk to Casey about what it’s like to be adopted,” Martha says. “She said to us, ‘You’re really going to understand.’”

“They met me and said, ‘Oh, he’s normal,’” Chuck says with a laugh. “When questions come up for Casey, it’s easier to answer him, because he knows that his dad is adopted too.”

Introducing Baby Casey to the Family

Casey’s placement day was June 16, and Martha and Chuck stayed in Chicago for another week until all the necessary court papers were filed. While their extended family had to wait awhile to meet Casey in person, Chuck and Martha introduced him right away through Skype and phone calls. 

“We talked to my parents on the phone and Casey was in one of his fun little moods, babbling,” Chuck recalls. “I just held the phone up to him for them to hear. Then we got the video chat going, and they were both glued to the screen.” 

“They were ridiculously happy,” Martha says. Casey was the first grandson for the senior Crannells and the first grandchild on Martha’s side.

Reflecting on his hopes for his son, Chuck recalls simply hoping that Casey would “go wherever his passion takes him.”

For 100 years and counting, The Cradle has built nurturing families and provided lifelong support to people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Faces of The Cradle is a celebration of their stories. Meet more of the people who make what we do possible and all the more meaningful.

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