We Are Family

How One Couple Built Their Family of Nine Children

Article by Jennifer Bennhoff

Photography by Jennifer Bennhoff

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

Janalen and Rocky Fischer, married 26 years, were friends growing up in Filer, Idaho, population 2,500. While Rocky served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they exchanged letters. Four months after he returned, they married. Franklin Lifestyle sat down with the Fischers. They wanted to tell us about each member of their family in their own words because, “people need to know they are not alone in the challenges that each one faces. And together we can and will overcome.”

The Fischers tried for seven years to have a child and applied to adopt when Janalen became pregnant. As Rocky finished law school and Janalen earned a master’s degree in piano performance, their daughter Abigail was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). Thus began the couple’s journey parenting children with special needs. “Abby” is now 19, a college student and a singer-songwriter with her own music on Spotify.

Three years later Kati, 16, was born. “She's unique as she was the first documented person to have
both CF and Prader-Willi,” says Janalen. Kati meticulously designs greeting cards that she hands out to her
friends.  Kati also loves a good party! Both girls take Trikafta, a gene modulator approved in 2019. “Trikafta has changed our lives,” says Janalen, “Abby and Kati haven’t been hospitalized since. Rocky adds, “Our children might have medical challenges but they are so much more than that. We wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.’”

When Katie was five, the couple registered with an adoption agency and soon received a call: “You’re having a baby tomorrow!” The next day, they attended Keelan’s birth.  Keelan, 11, called “Bubba” by his family, is an intelligent, friendly, voracious reader who composes his own electronic music. On their way home from
the hospital with newborn Keelan, Janalen bought a pregnancy test. Eight months later she delivered Annie, 10, the family peacemaker. Annie loves golfing with her dad and has become a second mother to her siblings.

Soon another agency called about a birth mother expecting a child. Would the Fischers like to meet her? “It seemed daunting, but the birth mother’s name wouldn’t leave my mind,” says Janalen. “We knew this baby was ours.” They flew to Atlanta for the birth of Kaleigh, 9. “We had three babies in 20 months!” Kaleigh loves to bake treats and has a talent for choreographing dances that match her outgoing personality.

Less than a year after Kaleigh arrived, a birth couple from Wisconsin chose the Fischers to adopt Andrew, now 8. He receives treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD and severe anxiety. He likes to explore tools and kitchen utensils, in particular spatulas – you’ll often find Andrew with a big smile on his face, waving a spatula.

While raising their new family, the Fischers helped fund a Congolese orphanage and traveled there to visit. There they met a toddler named Bernard. After 17 months and seven trips to the
Democratic Republic of Congo, they brought him home. “He didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French,” says Rocky, “but he is thriving.” Bernard has a gentle spirit and takes good care of the family’s dogs, Bailey and Max. 

Next came Emma, age six. She was adopted from China, has a heart defect, Down syndrome, ASD, and she’s nonverbal. Despite her challenges, Emma loves watching “Cocomelon,” swaying to music, and eating her favorite food rice pudding.

“Rocky and I had counseled couples through the IVF process into adoption,” says Janalen, “Then we tried IVF ourselves.” Their “caboose,” McKay, two, is a fan of dinosaurs, a ham for the camera, and can talk anyone into reading him a stack of books before bed.

“We’ve met wonderful, diverse families since moving to Franklin a couple of years ago,” says Rocky, a marketing entrepreneur. The boys play football for the Franklin Cowboys, and the girls enjoy swimming with the Franklin Flippers. All of the children play the piano and have a love for music.  “People ask us why we have so many kids, how do we afford it? I say, "It’s the Lord’s money. If we provide love and a home, He’ll provide for us. And He has!”

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