When most of us think back on our childhood, we generally remember happy times. When we look back, we can see all the love and support we received from our family and friends, especially our parents’ enduring love and kindness.

Terri and Michael Hawthorn of Hot Springs, who have had over 80 foster children over the years, are no strangers to having a busy house.

At first, they had no desire to adopt, but their hearts were taken by siblings Korgen and Haizlee, who they formally adopted at ages one and three.

They realized they could open their homes and hearts to more children after falling in love with the toddlers, so they adopted a set of seven siblings who were not related to the toddlers.

After nearly three years in foster care, the siblings—an eight-year-old, a set of nine-year-old twins, 10-year-old twins, and an 11-year-old and 15-year-old—were officially adopted by the family.

Every day, unfortunately, there are children who suffer. Children who do not have a hot meal every day, who rarely attend school, who have not received the hugs they require, and who wish their lives were different.

Many of these children wind up in foster care, which is heartbreaking. But, in reality, there were almost 420,000 foster children in 2020, with a typical age of 6.5 years.

These children can have one of two outcomes: they can go from one foster home to the next until they reach the time to age out of the system, or they can be formally adopted. Unfortunately, children who leave the foster care system have fewer career possibilities, poorer income, and may even become homeless.

Many of their newly adopted siblings were briefly taken in by the Hawthorns throughout the years. Still, they were saddened each time the Arkansas Department of Human Services transferred them to other homes while attempting to permanently place the children.

“When DHS kept moving them out of our house, it just kept ripping our hearts,” Michael explains.” Before we ever even dreamed of adoption, Layna was asking if she could live here forever.

The Hawthorns had taken all of the siblings to live with them in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Dawson, 15, Kyndall, 11, Addiley, Arria, both 9, and Nixson, 8, were among the siblings that joined Lacey and Layna.

Michael now recalls, “They really got a hold of us early on, to be with our family,” adding, “We were already a family before the adoption was finalized. All the court hearing and the paperwork did—it just made it legal and finalized it. But we already looked at them as being part of our family a long time ago.”

“We knew two years ago that we were gonna adopt them,” Michael continues. “We promised we wouldn’t give up on them.”

The Hawthorns had already adopted two small children, Korgen, 3, and Haizlee, 1, unrelated to the seven siblings they adopted.

The Hawthorns family has grown to 13 members, including their four biological children, Ryan, 32, Blake, 28, Jordan, 25, and Micah, 20.

According to Michael, the Hawthorns gathered for “our first Christmas as a whole family” only weeks after the adoption was finalized, and the day couldn’t have gone any better.

He explains, “There was a lot of excitement on our part and their part,” then, “they all told us that this was the best Christmas that they’ve ever had. They’re as cute as can be.”

Terri is a stay-at-home parent, while Michael works as a landscaper for his son Blake.

Michael admits that their five-bedroom house is a little crowded at times, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We knew they weren’t going anywhere a long time ago,” the adoring father said, “For them, they have the security now of knowing that they’re not gonna get moved out of our home.”

“It’s been a relief for them knowing that they’re here now and not going anywhere.”

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