Wyoming Couple Adopt 5 Boys With Down Syndrome Bounced Through 'Broken' Foster System

Wyoming Couple Adopt 5 Boys With Down Syndrome Bounced Through 'Broken' Foster System
(Courtesy of Shannon Barrett Pinkerton)
Michael Wing

The Pinkertons are no ordinary family.

Not many families can boast of having a commercial playground built for them in their honor, yet the Pinkertons can, on account of another special feature their family has.

Their sizable brood consists of four biological kids, plus six that were adopted—all of the latter being special-needs children, five of whom have Down syndrome.

Caring for kids, ages ranging from 18 to 27, one could say the parents, Troy and Shannon Pinkerton, have their hands full.

"During school time, it kind of gets rowdy because the boys wrestle and they wrestle in the house,” Ms. Pinkerton, 51, told The Epoch Times.

Or else Cameron, 23, who is clinically blind, might "get ticked off because he thinks he owns the TV."

But Ms. Pinkerton said she was raised by parents who ran a group home and was always surrounded by special needs individuals. It doesn't get to her at all; that's all she's ever known.

 (Left) The Pinkertons pose for a family photo; (Right) Troy and Shannon Pinkerton. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.instagram.com/pinkerton_boys_adventures_/">Shannon Barrett Pinkerton</a>)
(Left) The Pinkertons pose for a family photo; (Right) Troy and Shannon Pinkerton. (Courtesy of Shannon Barrett Pinkerton)

From San Diego originally, both she and her husband now call their 40-acre (16-hectare) ranch in Wyoming home, where together they have fostered 30 kids, before finally adopting Joey in 2000.

"My husband and I have a heart for elderly people and kids in the foster care system," she said. "We believe those kids deserve a home."

But in truth, raising six special needs kids isn't as chaotic as one might imagine, according to the mom.

"People have a pre-notion of what kids with disabilities are like, and it's not—people will come into my home and be like, 'Wow, your house is really calm," Ms. Pinkerton said. "They expected it to be hectic and chaos. And it's not."

Kids with disabilities, like Devlin, 18, who have been through staff-run facilities, received little in the way of consistency. With often contradictory rules, depending who was on shift, there was bound to be rebellion.

“So when I first get my kids, they are naughty,” Ms. Pinkerton said. “A few of them came from great homes, but a couple of them, they come from a facility.”

Many kids with Down syndrome in the foster system get bounced around, she adds. Often, the foster parents have never dealt with a child with special needs—as was the case with Cameron.

 The Pinkerton couple's adoptive children. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.instagram.com/pinkerton_boys_adventures_/">Shannon Barrett Pinkerton</a>)
The Pinkerton couple's adoptive children. (Courtesy of Shannon Barrett Pinkerton)

In a previous home, he'd been booked to see a doctor but was removed and placed in another home before that could happen. “He fell through the cracks and that doctor appointment didn't get met,” Ms. Pinkerton said. "I think the foster system’s broken."

Cameron had behavioral issues when he first arrived at the Pinkertons’ home. Repeated outbursts led to several hundred dollars in household damages, and at one point he yelled, “You're gonna make me leave, aren't you?”

To which Ms. Pinkerton replied, “Oh, no, buddy, you're grounded. You're gonna finish out your grounding, and then you can let me know what you want to do when you're ready.”

But Cameron doesn’t do that anymore, she told us. He has since “mellowed out.”

A typical day in the life of the Pinkertons starts at 5 or 6 a.m. when Ms. Pinkerton chooses to rise. She gets coffee going, and that bit of noise rouses Cameron, Devlin, and Anthony, 24, out of bed. Anthony, they dubbed “Mr. Clean,” because he fetches the dishes from the dishwasher regularly.

The others, Joey, 22, Tracy, 27, and Julian, 20, then wake and together they all share a breakfast of cereal or eggs.

 The Pinkerton boys pose for a photo at a restaurant. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.instagram.com/pinkerton_boys_adventures_/">Shannon Barrett Pinkerton</a>)
The Pinkerton boys pose for a photo at a restaurant. (Courtesy of Shannon Barrett Pinkerton)

Lately, on the ranch, they've spent more time playing in their new, fully-accessible playground that was gifted to them by Unlimited Play—in commemoration of the company's 20th anniversary.

“The Pinkerton family provides inspiration to millions of people, and they share our ideals—of inclusivity and understanding,” Unlimited Play founder Natalie MacKay stated. “We are proud to donate a playground to this wonderfully selfless family.”

Beyond the ranch, the family has plenty of other activities to keep them busy. The mom shared what their plan is today.

“I only have Julian today,” Ms. Pinkerton said, adding that they plan to meet her biological kids and mom for lunch. “And Julian is getting a new bike from Walmart.”

An outing at Jump Craze trampoline park in Casper, Wyoming, was also on their itinerary.

Yet with all these activities, they've just gotten started. Whether it's their yearly trip to Disneyland, regular camping trips, or three-hour road trips for lunch at Chick-fil-A, the Pinkertons are always on the move.

It was Cameron’s desire to reunite with some old friends and family that drew Ms. Pinkerton into starting the boys’ now-formidable social media presence.

“Cameron's been in so many placements that he wanted to meet up with some of his friends,” Ms. Pinkerton said. “There is no goodbyes to your teachers [in the foster system], no goodbyes to your friends. You're just gone.”

So she started The Pinkerton Boys—which is now firmly established with a sizable, 1.2 million-strong following.

Sharing their story in short clips on Instagram eventually saw Cameron's successful reunion with a friend. “We did go to Utah. They met up,” Ms. Pinkerton said.

But at the end of every trip, the family regroups back at home, where “there's days you’ve just got to have more patience than others," according to the mom. She anticipates more rows over the TV, and who gets to watch what shows.

To which Ms. Pinkerton will respond, “What are you doing, buddy? You're being ridiculous,” before settling the matter with a compassionate “We need to regroup, take a nap, and wake up on the other side of the bed.”

Yet, the mom insists it's not too much to handle. “I ran a group home,” she said. “It's always been a part of my life."

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