Adopted at 3, graduating from US at 18
Josh Russell doesn’t know much about the first three years of his life. He knows he was the youngest of seven siblings in a family likely living in poverty in the Philippines. He knows his parents gave him up for adoption at age 3.
He knows that Tim and Kristi Russell of Sevierville wanted a child. They filled out the paperwork and were sent a package of materials including photos of prospective adoptees. They took an immediate liking to 3-year-old Josh.
Kristi and her mother flew over that year to Manila, and they picked him out of all the kids in the orphanage. Two weeks later after all the paperwork was signed, he flew back to the States with his new mom and grandmother.
Before too long he was Josh Russell, American, and later this month he will receive his diploma at Gatlinburg-Pittman. There is a college scholarship awaiting him to attend East Tennessee State University, and he plans to enter the National Guard this summer.
“I think my biological parents wanted a better life for me,” Russell said. “The Russells flew over because they wanted a child. It all worked out.”
Kristi Russell said Josh’s biological parents eventually gave up five of their seven children for adoption. She said the material they got on him from the orphanage indicated he was developmentally disabled, but later that was changed when they found out Josh’s ears were so infected he couldn’t hear well.
So far Russell has not tried to learn much about his early life in the Philippines or his biological family.
“After college I’d like to go back there,” he said. “I’d like to see if I can find my family. I’d like to get to know my siblings.”
“We talked about it,” his mother said. “He said, ‘You know you’ll always be my mom. I’m just curious.’ I asked if he’d like me to go with him and he said yes. We plan to do that one day. I don’t know if we can find them, but we can try.”
Josh Russell has had a great 15 years in America, all of them in Sevier County. He has a younger brother, Steve, who’s 16. His mom works for the juvenile court. His dad Tim Russell is a Sevierville police officer. In fact his father’s career has led Josh to plan to major in criminal justice.
“I’ve been blessed to have parents like mine,” he said. “They are good, Christian, loving parents. I feel like I know everybody in the county.”
One reason for that knowledge is that he has attended six schools: Seymour Primary, Northview, Boyds Creek, Sevierville Intermediate, Caton’s Chapel and G-P. He’s is a good student, was a standout Highlander football player and is a favorite among his classmates. He is involved in lots of activities at Richardson’s Cove Baptist Church.
His favorite subject at G-P was anatomy, taught by his favorite teacher, Elaine Wilson.
Russell’s life has been so good that he rarely thinks back to what it must have been like for the first three years. He only knows what it has been for the last 15. And that’s been pretty good.