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"The very best part of doing Wednesday Child is getting to do updates on the children we've featured... and letting the world know they have a family that wants them, loves them and cares for them; and who promises to do that for life!"
—Robyn Nance, KXLY TV
Every adoptive family and each adopted child brings with them an inspiring story of hope and courage. Below are just a few examples of lives touched by adoption and the NWAE that we found uplifting. We thank these families and children for sharing their stories and their wisdom.
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
2006 Alaska Family of the Year
Tammy and Mike are a parenting team, participating together in school gatherings, all-day dentist appointments, carpooling, and family weekend camps with their children. They manage to make parent teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and band and choir concerts. The kids are well cared for, thriving and content. On more than one occasion, a social worker, teacher or therapist has said, of a former foster child placed in Tammy and Mike’s home, “I cannot believe this is the same child I knew before. He is so happy and outgoing now.”
Their children are involved in many activities, from church and school to Tae Kwon Do and Scouts. Each child is encouraged to play a musical instrument of their choice, and music lessons are provided. Despite this dizzy schedule, Mike and Tammy somehow keep their wits about them as they juggle the family’s parade of activities.
Tammy and Mike also ensure that each child has some connection with their heritage. Since several of their children are Alaska Native, they are regulars at a local Native Heritage Center and support activities for Native students in the schools. Where appropriate, they facilitate ongoing contact with birth relatives and/or siblings. They also offer encouragement and support to former foster children who seek to reconnect with them, or to other birth relatives of their children who need a helping hand.
Both parents appear to have an endless supply of passion for children – especially for those children who have been lucky enough to find their way into their home. Issues that have impacted the behaviors of their children – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; early emotional or physical abuse; Attention Deficient Disorder; and more – have demanded rigorous structure, faith, openness to resources in the community, and a huge reservoir of humor.
Tammy and Mike set a moral example for young people by practicing what they preach. They not only talk about the importance of making lives better for foster children, but they have taken it to heart by providing a safe, nurturing and permanent home to so many. Thank you Tammy and Mike!
Tammy and Mike are the proud parents of sixteen children - by birth, by marriage, and by adoption, and are the proud recipients of the 2006 Alaska Parents of the Year Award.
How life turned out for 7 siblings adopted together
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
Seattle Times staff reporter
Houses tell stories of the lives they sheltered.
So it is with a home in north Ballard, where 20 years ago a childless couple adopted seven siblings, answering the kids' nearly impossible dream that they be kept together.
The once nationally famous siblings now have homes of their own. So Glen and Yvonne Lutz, who in 1990 found their family through a Seattle Times feature profiling children available for adoption, are moving to a Federal Way apartment.
The other day, the brawniest of the siblings and significant others clomped up and down stairs, carting boxes filled with several decades of possessions out to a truck.
After 24 years of marriage, seven children, accompanying friends and holidays with countless relatives, the house that was cobbled together with love no longer will be the center of the Lutz family life.
"It's kind of sad," Chantell Lutz, 27, said as she held her toddler nephew Preston Rice Lutz in the dining room where the built-in cupboards once held Yvonne's china, waiting for holiday dinners.
"When we first came here we couldn't believe how big it was," she said of the two-story, 2,200-square-foot house.
To accommodate the family, every available nook was turned into a bedroom â€” seven in all. When the children grew and began to leave, bedrooms again transformed, one turning into an upstairs sitting room, and the hardwood floor was refinished to remove the scratches from countless toys, kids and pets.
Glen and Yvonne met on a blind date 24 years ago. They spent the next few years traveling and going to the symphony. They always enjoyed "other people's children" and longed for their own.
Yvonne was 46, came from a large family and wanted to adopt a sibling group. Glen, then 38, said no more than three.
They looked through the weekly Times' feature on children available for adoption, but nothing seemed quite right. Yvonne then saw the seven Utah children needing parents. To her surprise, Glen read the story and agreed to apply.
The children's birth father had long ago dropped out of their lives, and their birth mother used drugs, eventually losing custody of the children. Despite being often split up in different foster homes, they clung to the hope they'd all be reunited.
Tragedy then struck another blow: Their mother, Betty Sue Bishop, was killed by her boyfriend in a murder-suicide, Glen Lutz said. The children feared they'd never again be a family.
But by October 1990, Glen and Yvonne were in Utah wearing sweatshirts with "Mom" and "Dad" on the back. They gave the children matching shirts with their names.
Both educators â€” he as a parochial-school principal and she as a former nun and a teacher â€” they figured if they could handle classes of 30, seven would be easy.
"We had counted on the teacher mystique being there," Yvonne said. "What we thought it would be like was 180 degrees opposite."
"It was a shock," Glen said.
Quickly, their notions of parenting went out the window. Instead, the children began training the parents.
At the time, the children ranged in age from 4 to 13 and had learned to survive by their intense commitment to each other. One of the couple's first tasks was to relieve the oldest two girls of the burden of being in charge of the others so they simply could be kids.
"They seemed like they were ready for us," said Rocky Lutz, 25, who was 5 at the time. "I remember how organized they were, and one week later stuff was all over the place. I was happy to be in a place that was consistent."
When his parents talked about finalizing the adoption, he worried about being included. "They kept talking about signing papers, and I didn't know how to write." He worried, too, that his new home wouldn't last any longer than the other places he'd known.
"At first it was scary and kind of overwhelming," said Brandy Lutz, 30. She eventually would believe "we went from hell to heaven."
"They changed our lives and made everything worth living," said Danny Lutz, 24. "I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. Mom is a saint and Dad the same."
"They've done so much for us," Rocky added. "Too much, really."
Difficult early years
That's not to say the children didn't face big challenges, coming from a home where neglect and abuse were common and where they'd never consistently been in school. One child had bipolar disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome and, years after the adoption was finalized, had to be hospitalized for a year after tossing furniture through windows.
Others had difficulty adjusting to household rules, having spent much of their early lives without any. Post-traumatic stress disorder troubles some others. All had difficulty catching up in school.
In addition to braces, dance and modeling lessons, a variety of sports, family vacations and education at the private schools where their parents taught, the entire clan received counseling.
Through it all, Glen and Yvonne, for whom loving the children unconditionally came easy, found the hardest parenting task of all was letting them suffer the consequences of their mistakes.
"There's a fine line between empowering and enabling," Glen said.
For some of the siblings, it's meant spending several weeks in jail, relinquishing two babies for adoption, kicking a drug habit and getting a GED instead of a high-school diploma.
Whatever mistakes they made, the Lutz children say their parents' open arms and love were always there.
Aware that the children still grieved for their birth mother, Glen and Yvonne about two years ago arranged to have Bishop's ashes interred at a local cemetery. The kids designed the marker with a horse, a favorite of hers, and seven roses.
"To acknowledge that the children have a precious history that came before our family was created was very important to Glen and myself," Yvonne wrote in an e-mail. "Even if dysfunctional in the eyes of some, their birth family was their family. ... The ceremony was a way to help them celebrate Betty and bring some closure to her passing. I often send a prayer up to Betty and ask for her help in raising our children."
According to the Rev. Kendall Haynes, who presided over the ceremony, "Glen and Yvonne are such loving and comforting souls. They just exhibit a sense of generosity and godly love. They are very patient. ... They are a joy-filled couple."
He said the children wouldn't have had a chance to stay together if not for Glen and Yvonne.
Today, all seven siblings are thriving. There are 13 grandchildren. And the Lutz bunch live throughout Western Washington, hugging and enthusiastically greeting their parents and each other when they gather.
Even on the bittersweet moving day.
"It will be sad not coming here anymore," Chantell said.
As boxes piled up in the place where the large dining- room table once sat, they remembered a Halloween when they all dressed in costumes created from Goodwill finds except Brandy, who dressed as a cow. They remembered Lake Chelan vacations when Glen got them up early to do jumping jacks. And the night Glen spied a large foot sticking out from under the blanket in one girl's room and caught a male interloper.
They remember Yvonne's familiar saying, "Clean up your room or I'll throw it all away," and find themselves repeating it to their children.
With time, inevitable changes come to families. Nests empty, refill and empty again. That happened to Glen and Yvonne, but so did another change. Yvonne lost her hearing in 1998. While she once taught kindergarten, she now teaches deaf children in the Highline School District.
Glen is now principal at St. Mary's Christian School in Lakewood. The move to Federal Way made sense.
What they leave behind at their Ballard home is etched in concrete nine handprints on a path made shortly after the adoption. Above the hands is an inscription: "Famous Fabulous Family."
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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