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Fergus Falls, Minn. After adopting a baby girl from South Korea two decades ago, Roger and Amy Twedt agreed they now had the ideal-size family. The Fergus Falls couple, who had two biological children, looks back on that adoption as a self-center...

Roger and Amy Twedt
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Fergus Falls, Minn.

After adopting a baby girl from South Korea two decades ago, Roger and Amy Twedt agreed they now had the ideal-size family.

The Fergus Falls couple, who had two biological children, looks back on that adoption as a self-centered act that made them feel good about themselves and rounded out their household.

But they didn't stop. Their family grew rapidly, a bustling haven for youngsters from four continents. In January, the Twedts adopted for the ninth time.

The family might remind some of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but the Twedts readily point out theirs is not an unfailingly uplifting story that fits on a single glossy page. Over the years, it's involved the thrashing of the parents' bedroom, battles with flashbacks to physical and sexual abuse and stints in juvenile detention.

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Amy, who founded a nonprofit adoption agency several years ago, doesn't sugarcoat the story for prospective parents. Still, she has a way of making them want to adopt even more. And she no longer tries to argue what she and her husband are doing is self-centered.

"Most of us at some point quit adopting just because we have this hole in our hearts that needs to be filled by a child," says Amy. "We start adopting because it's the right thing to do."

A wild ride

The Twedts' first adoption made them acutely aware of a global crisis that Amy captures in haunting numbers: more than 143 million orphans worldwide, and some 500,000 children in foster care in this country. Devout Christians, they took the scriptural mandate to care for orphans to heart.

The Twedts' biological daughter, Lindsey, 24, recalls spotting a "For Sale" sign on, say, the family's pop-up camper - a signal her parents were contemplating a new addition to the family and planning for the hefty adoption fees. Soon after, there'd be a family meeting.

The Twedts have daughters from South Korea, the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Haiti. They've also adopted an infant son from Houston, a young boy from Florida and three brothers from the foster care system. Today, they raise eight children ages 5 to 18; Lindsey and her two oldest siblings have moved on.

"You won't see an 'S' on our shirts," says Roger, a loan officer. "We're not super parents. We're just tools and instruments God is using to help."

The Twedts learned to deal with the unique challenges of adoptive parenting as they went along. They saw one of their daughters struggle to make sense of the scarce details of her back story.

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So with their younger daughters, they made life books, picture journals piecing together glimpses of where they came from. Eight-year-old Emilee's tells of her mom, who worked in a South Korean department store, excelled at cross-stitch and was too poor to marry the girl's dad. It features photos of Emilee's casts after she had surgeries for clefts in her hands, a congenital deformity.

The Twedts also saw their children wrestle with fear, anger and mistrust. Shortly after he and his two brothers arrived in Fergus Falls, Wil, then 7, rushed into his new parents' bedroom. He grabbed pictures from the walls and clothes from the closet and threw them to the floor. He even yanked their mattress off the box spring. Roger picked up the objects and set them outside the bedroom until Wil paused, looked around the bare room and said, "I think you do love me."

Two years ago, the family faced its greatest crisis when police officers showed up at their home and arrested two of the Twedt teenage sons, both star athletes and good students. Amy, who stops short of sharing how the boys got in trouble, says the incident brought the family closer.

"Sometimes I get in bed at night, and I think, 'I can't believe we're doing this. How are we going to do this another day?' " says Amy, who quit her job as a financial planner after the second adoption. "But our children need someone who's strong and won't crumble."

Giving thanks

But the pitfalls of adoptive parenting, the Twedts say, pale compared to the rewards. There's the pride they feel daily at seeing their children, despite the obstacles they faced, do well in school, in sports and at music recitals. And there's the pride in that visitors to their home are hard pressed to spot some of the scars the Twedts have worked to heal.

Lindsey, the Twedts' biological daughter, says she started acting out as a teenager to get her endlessly busy parents' attention. She craved one-on-one time, yet knew her parents did their best. For instance, once they drove to Florida to pick up the three boys and then still made her basketball game: "I looked up at the stands and here were my three new brothers cheering for me."

Her adopted siblings taught her great lessons in grit and resilience. Her parents taught her about unconditional love. Last year, Lindsey and her husband, Kyle Ness, adopted a baby girl in the U.S.

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Five years ago, Amy tagged along on a high school mission trip to an orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico. She resolved to come back and help some of the children find a home. Back in Fergus Falls, she started God's Children Adoption Agency, which has placed close to 20 children from that orphanage and 70 in all. More recently, she started In His Arms Adoption Ministry to spread the word about the needs of orphans and foster children.

Amy and Roger don't have immediate plans to expand their family. But Amy's new job exposes her to stories of children in need daily, Lindsey says, and she knows her mom doesn't take those in stride: "I personally don't think they're done."

For more information

- God's Children Adoption Agency:

Visit www.adoptgodschildren.com or call Amy Twedt at (877) 233-2025

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

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