Luke Caldwell is a sought-after designer and an expert home renovator. But that’s not what he wants to talk about.
In fact, that’s not even why the Idaho native agreed to star in HGTV’s Boise Boys. Instead, the 40-year-old wants to use his platform to shine a light on something he’s passionate about: adoption.
Caldwell shares six kids and counting with his wife Miranda: two biological, four the couple welcomed via adoption and one on the way. Caldwell tells PEOPLE that, after the birth of two healthy biological children (Brighten, 8, and Elias, 10), they felt like they had “hit the lottery.”
But both Caldwell and Miranda were deeply impacted by orphanage mission trip work earlier in life (him in India, her in Romania) and knew that if they were going to have more children, they wanted to open their family to a child who wouldn’t otherwise have one.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe these kids don’t have parents, they don’t have anyone to take care of them,’ ” Caldwell tells PEOPLE of his experience in India. “It broke my heart, even as a 12-year-old.”
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So the couple started exploring their options. Throughout the entire process, they made sure to include Elias and Brighten, who were both under the age of 5 at the time. Although they might’ve been too young to understand the details of adoption, Caldwell tells PEOPLE they grasped the most important concept of it.
“One of the main things we tried to teach our kids is to not be entitled and to have empathy,” he says. “We want to be a family that loves other people. … We talked [about adoption] a lot to them, we showed them pictures, we prayed together about it.”
After a year of thinking and planning, Caldwell and Miranda found their perfect first match: a 5-year-old boy from China named Morris, who’s now 11. Morris then asked Caldwell and Miranda to adopt his best friend from home.
The superstar parents went back to the same orphanage in China and did just that with the adoption of Ezra, now 10. They developed a relationship with the nannies and soon ventured back for their third and, finally, their fourth child.
In total, the Caldwell family has four children whom they adopted from the same Chinese orphanage: Ezra and Morris plus daughter Darla, 7½, and son Tucker, 9½. And all four have special needs.
Happy World Down Syndrome Day ❤️ #lifeisbetterwithyou #ezra #promise #tucker #darla
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Caldwell says the adjustment process has been both challenging and rewarding for the whole family. But he and Miranda (as well as Elias and Brighten, whom he says are a huge help around the house) are committed to showing love and patience to all of their children, even in the most challenging circumstances.
“It takes time to build that bond, build that trust and build that connection with your child,” Caldwell tells PEOPLE. “It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s probably the hardest thing.”
He adds that communication in social settings has been hard to navigate because the children they welcomed via adoption aren’t used to so much stimulation and attention. Ezra, for example, was scared of grass when he came to America simply because he was rarely exposed to it at the orphanage. But Caldwell says he cherishes the privilege of opening his children’s eyes to all that life has to offer.
“I would say the most joyful thing is, as a dad, you just get to teach them everything — they haven’t been exposed to anything,” the proud father explains. “It’s just this huge opportunity. The possibilities are just endless.”
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With another little Caldwell baby coming soon (all the way from Eastern Europe), this HGTV star and his family aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
And despite his busy schedule, Caldwell says he always makes room for what’s important. When it’s family time in the Caldwell household, he’s all in — no texting, no work calls and no scrolling through social media.
“There’s no manual for this. I can’t just call up Chip and Jo and say, ‘Hey guys, how do you do this?’ ” he jokes. “I think the biggest thing is you have to live very intentionally. I do whatever it is to connect with the kids and try to make the most of that time.”
Catch up with the Caldwell clan on season 2 of Boise Boys, airing Wednesdays at 11 p.m. ET on HGTV.
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