Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 5, 1999

Adams family finds room for four more

By Luis Puga

Payment for a source's story is always a precarious position for any reporter.

But when Sandra Adams saw fit to get answers from her eight children with Girl Scout cookies, this reporter saw fit to defer to maternal wisdom.

Of course, what followed was not the most organized of Q&As.

The simple query of what rules had been made since Chuck and Sandra Adams of rural Glencoe adopted four children in addition to their four natural kids turned into a free for all.

Pre-teen hands shot up, with anxious yells of "no frogs in the house," and "homework before Nintendo," and "no sliding down the stairs."

Sandra handed out cookies to awaiting children liberally. Chuck sat smiling gleefully, at the managed chaos that was ensuing around the dinner table.

Not all the kids participated. Some sat coolly, smiling at their new and old siblings, who were outbidding each other for sugar.

The eldest, Dustin, who returned from the Air Force to find his family plus four, wandered around the living room, perhaps reminiscing on the privacy of a military barrack.

Eventually, as the rules and cookies were exhausted, things became more calm.

Sandra said, without a trace of regret and a great deal of satisfaction, that this is how her dinner table is every night.

How it came to be like this started in August of 1997.

The Adamses had friends who were adopting and came across the story of two brothers and two sisters from California.

The story related how the children might have to be split up.

The Adamses, who had lost a son, Charlie shortly beforehand in January 1996, said they knew how those children would feel if they were to lose each other.

They decided to check into it and found that the kids were essentially being sold by a facilitator, a process illegal in Minnesota. The facilitator was charging $7,000 for information on the kids.

The Adams sent out an Internet plea for anyone in northern California to relay information on the kids to them. A reply came in the form of a surname, and after two months of investigation, the Adamses located the four kids.

By Christmas 1997, they had made contact with the children through their school and their aunt. The decision then became what to do after first contact.

"We did a lot of prayer, a lot of soul searching, a lot of family discussion with our kids," Chuck said.

Sandra added that her natural children, Dustin, Martina, Nicole, and Tia were all very supportive of the idea.

Eventually, it was their pastor who recommended that they not decide until they meet the prospective adoptees. Incognito as friends of the family, the Adamses flew out to meet the four children: Melinda, John, Amanda, and Jacob. They spent a whole day with the kids in January 1998.

After the visit, the Adams asked the children if they would like to adopt them as parents.

The children reacted excitedly with Amanda practicing writing her new name. Jacob, the youngest at eight, responded by grabbing his backpack, ready to leave with the Adams that day.

Despite the consensus of the burgeoning family, what followed was a long beauracratic process that could best be described as discouraging.

The Adamses first got the adoption to be done through the state of California rather than the facilitator.

McLeod County requires a home study, a process where the parents are put through a background check to ensure that they are qualified to adopt. They took classes. Family and friends were interviewed for references.

However, the Adamses found that if they opted for foster care, their adopted kids could come to Minnesota sooner. By June 1998, they then obtained a foster care license.

The Adams were ready to send for the kids when McLeod County put the brakes on, saying that the kids weren't allowed to come.

Essentially, the Adamses said that the county was afraid to bring the children into the state because the county feared what would happen if the adoption did not go through. Chuck explained that the county felt that it should hold up the best interest of McLeod County taxpayers, not kids from California.

"We had plane tickets and everything to go down there in October, and McLeod County called three days before we were supposed to go and said 'We are not going to approve this," Chuck said.

He also related how the kids, who were having a going away party for themselves, were crushed to hear that they were not going.

Sandra said that the kids' arrival was by the grace of God, in this case in the guise of a county mix-up.

As the Adamses waited even longer for their new family, they also completed their home study. The county approved the study and sent a copy to California.

In effect, McLeod County had inadvertently approved the transfer of the children.

Despite its protestations, the Adamses had their new family, even with plane tickets courtesy of Northwest Airlines.

Although it was a discouraging process, the Adamses said they knew it was God's will that the kids come to Minnesota.

Currently, they are still foster children (which explains why their faces are not pictured), but after six months, the Adams will adopt.

Of course, changes had to be made. The basement was converted to a lower level, an easy task for Chuck who is a home builder.

Many of the rules made are obvious reactions to new situations that have occurred.

The cloth table cover was replaced with a plastic cover and there will be even more expansion of the house. And, inevitably, privacy has dramatically been re-defined.

The kids, coming from a California city, had to and did adjust to a rural Minnesota environment.

Still hanging in the dining room is the welcome sign for the new siblings. The majority of the family is playing softball this season, and they visibly enjoy the boisterous sounds of a full house.

During the picture, they break into a couple of verses of "The Addams Family" television theme.

Invariably, a number of conversations break out at once.

Some kids are still petitioning cookies.

Some are blatantly making up rules.

A mint cookie is rejected for a peanut butter one, and there is contention of who said what first.

Mom realizes that one of her daughters has dyed her hair, but is gratified to find it washes out.

Despite the noise, the Adamses continue to smile. They have a big troop of wonderful kids and they revel in a typical dinner table discussion for a family of eight.

They don't worry about the cost of four additional kids or the amount of schedule juggling for extra curriculars. They just smile and laugh.

Sandra said that people have praised them for their efforts to adopt the children. However, she insists that it is Chuck and she who are blessed.

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