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Minnesota Melting Pot

June 18, 2012, 9:50 PM by Angela Kennecke

Minnesota Melting Pot

Parents may feel overwhelmed dealing with two or three kids on a daily basis.  But imagine having 13 of them.

That's now the case for a Southwest Minnesota family we first introduced you to four years ago.  The Haags had five biological children and then adopted five more from Ethiopia and Guatemala.  But they didn't stop there.

Chandler, Chloe, Candace, Caleb, Christopher, Carl; the list of names that start with "C" goes all the way to 13.   While they may share common initials, these kids are from all around the world making up a Minnesota melting pot in one rural farmstead. 

"I just love it. I feel like this is what God has called me to do.  I mean, it feels like it's fulfilling something inside of me," Jodi Haag said.

Jodi and Pat Haag began adding to their family of seven, first by adopting a pair of Guatemalan boys, now six, and then a trio of Ethiopian siblings whose mother had died.  We first met them all in 2008. The oldest, Candace, 12 at the time, didn't speak any English. But listen to her today. 

"Pretty much knowing there is someone there for you. It's fun being in such a big family," 16-year-old Candace Haag said.

And big is right.  The Haag family has continued to grow through adoption.

"We started feeling like maybe it was time to get another…adopt again (laughter)," Jodi said.

It started again with a little boy from a Chinese orphanage. 

"When he was a baby, he was really sick. They called it failure to thrive.  And he almost died quite a few different times.  They think he has dwarfism and severe scoliosis too," Jodi said.

And while the Haags were waiting for the paperwork to go through to adopt Caleb, they got an urgent plea to also take a girl who was about to turn 14. 

Jodi: She would be just out of the orphanage. 
Angela Kennecke: On the streets? 
Jodi: On her own.

Or banished to a life of working and living in a factory.  So the Haags brought home, not one, but two children from China.  Caelyn has surgery to fix a cleft palate and is still learning English today.

With 12 children in the house, you may think the Haags were done adopting.  But the call came in to adopt one more, this time not from another country but from within the United States for a child other potential parents may reject.

"We got this email saying there was a little boy born in February and his mother was HIV positive and on cocaine and meth and would we consider him?   At first I was like, 'No; no way.  That's way too scary for me,"' Haag said.

But after turning it over to God, the Haags had a change of heart.

"And Pat says, 'If we want God to lead us, we can't just say no to everything.  We have to be open and if the door's open, we'll just keep going with it,' and that's what happened," Jodi said.

Caden, now four and a half months, had a rough start in life.

"When he was first born in the hospital, he would just scream, almost 24 hours a day; just screaming and they had him on morphine to get him weaned off the drugs he was on.  When we got him home, he was still a little tense and sensitive and he screamed a lot.  But he's really mellowed out. I would say he's normal," Jodi said.

And so far, Caden has tested negative for HIV. But he will continue to be tested until he is two.  And it's this baby who has helped Cammi, from Ethiopia, now seven years old, come out of her shell. 

"She had a really hard beginning, Cammi did.  She was left outside in the wild.  She has marks from being scratched by hyenas.  She had a lot of trauma, but she's coming around now," Pat said.

And 16-year-old Candace has found her own calling.

"I guess I really love babies. I like helping my parents with what they need and look out for the little ones," Candace Haag said.

"She loves having all these kids around. Her heart is for children and she wants to be a missionary some day.    Hopefully back in Ethiopia is what she's thinking," Jodi said.

The younger boys have all bonded over boy stuff.

"Me and Caleb and Cameron?  We play Legos.  We all make a mess and then we clean it up," six-year-old Christopher Haag said.

Even the Haags' own biological children see how their expanding family has helped shape them.

"Not thinking all about myself all the time.  Just having a bigger heart for other nations and wanting to help more people, instead of just being in my own little world," 16-year-old Chandler Haag said.

And while the Haags' loud, busy household may have some wondering how they manage it all, the Haags say they wouldn't have it any other way.

"When we brought these kids home from difficult places, to start with the biggest thing for me was always when they'd start to laugh again.  There wouldn't be a lot of happiness in their past and when they just start to laugh and know they fit in, even on a day when they might get in trouble. They know they're still loved and they always will be and this is their family forever," Pat said.

So will the Haags adopt again?  The answer? That's a pretty sure bet.

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