Bachelor who wanted to adopt a child takes in 5 siblings, cousin
By Hannah Kohut Sun-Times Media September 5, 2011 5:42PM
LeVan Williams (sitting center) with five of his six adopted children. Sitting left to right are David Wicker and Trevon McClure; standing left to right are Dominic McClure, Ernest McClure, and Stefano McClure. They posed Thursday afternoon September 1, 2011 at their home in Chicago, Illinois. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2011 2:49PM
In early 2009, LeVan Williams was living the bachelor’s dream. He was a young, successful, pharmaceutical salesman, making a good salary and living in his posh Bronzeville condo. He holds several degrees, including biochemistry, technology and a master’s degree in business administration — he was even accepted to medical school.
Life was good, but he felt something was missing. He knew he wanted to help his community. Why not adopt a kid in need?
That was Williams’ plan — to take in a young boy who needed positive leadership; someone he could mold and give a good life to, the way he had a good life. He got more than he bargained for — six children.
Williams, 39, was inspired while campaigning for Barack Obama. He remembered some powerful words from Obama: How are you going to help your community? Taking that question to heart, in early 2009, he made his decision to adopt. Williams knew he wanted a little boy. He completed his classwork to qualify him as a parent, and soon after, he got a call from the agency.
“They said, ‘We have good news, we have you a little boy,’ ” Williams said. “Then they asked me if I ever considered taking more than one child, and I was like, ‘no.’ Not unless they had brothers and sisters, because I wouldn’t want to break up a family.”
Little did he know.
“She said, ‘Well, that’s the case we have,’ ” Williams said.
The young 5-year-old boy, David, had three brothers and one sister. Williams thought long and hard. Then he took the plunge and adopted all five siblings — ages ranging from 5 to 15.
Williams was told the kids were “clean and clear.” But they came from a troubled home.
“They were taken from a home where the mom would drop them off at random people’s houses for days or weeks,” Williams said. “They had no structure, no discipline.”
Two months later, the five children’s teenage cousin came for a visit.
His mother never came back for him. Williams said she moved to Mississippi with his other siblings. He ended up filling out the paperwork to adopt him as well, to keep him with his family. At the time, Williams and all six kids were living out of his three-bedroom condo.
“Like something you’d see in a movie.”
But there were cultural differences, too. Williams found that he and the children came from different worlds. And there was an adjustment period that included bad grades and fighting at school, he said.
“You’d think we’d have a lot in common, since nearly all of them are black boys, and I’m a black man. None. I was raised totally different than they were,” Williams said. “I had to dispel all the regular stereotypical black male things. One of them asked me if I was white, since he said I talked white. They would see all the degrees on the wall and where I lived and what I drove. They didn’t think any of that was possible for a black man.”
Williams was not happy with their education, either. He said their Chicago Public Schools were not meeting their needs. So, Williams bought books for all of their grade levels and tutored them for 30 minutes to an hour each night.
Their grades have improved dramatically.
There was also the struggle of feeding six kids.
“The first year, I lost 20 pounds because I forgot to feed myself,” Williams said.
A surprise of a lifetime
In February, Williams bought a larger home in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood and surprised them.
“The kids didn’t know I was bringing them here. I had told them we were going to a friend’s house,” Williams said.
Williams said he pulled up in front of the house, told the kids to stay in the car, then he went inside to turn on all the lights. He then texted the oldest one to bring in all the kids.
“They came in, looking around at the empty house, and asked if my friend had moved,” Williams said. “And I’m like, ‘Welcome to your new home.’ They all just started crying.”
Challenges toughen up
In December 2010, before he and the kids moved into that new home, Williams was laid off from his pharmaceutical sales job, even though, he says, he was one of the best salesmen in the country.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” Williams said. “I started stashing away money ahead of time, and I own seven other properties, but nothing we could all live in. I just needed to remain positive for the kids.”
Williams decided to follow his dream of owning his own business. He didn’t want to be in the corporate world anymore.
He was introduced to a commercial vent-cleaning franchise, called Hoodz, which is the first franchise of its kind. Williams said he took a franchise consultant’s word on all of it, even though it’s not his line of work.
“We clean commercial hood vents; anything installed over a grill,” Williams said.
Williams said the kids are all now on state aid for medical care, and he receives a small stipend to offset food costs. Still, he said, times are getting tough.
Then and now
Williams said you would not recognize the kids from when he first got them. At first, it was chaos: no discipline, no structure, no respect, failing grades. Now, they’re doing their homework and chores, and their behavior has turned around completely.
“They are so structured now, especially the boys,” Williams said.
“Would I recommend this to anyone? No, absolutely not,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of hard work. You have to put your own life on hold. But then again, this is the best thing to ever happen to these kids.”