Family adopts family
Hudson Middle School teacher Chris Deleon's name has appeared in the Star-Observer numerous times over the past several years as his students have entered and consistently won numerous national science competitions.
But this time around it is more personal.
Deleon and his wife Hailey are in the process of adopting three children from Milwaukee -- Tannor, 1, Tristan, 3 and Trinity, 5. They will join the family that also includes their new siblings, Madison, 11 and Austin, 10.
The Deleons were committed to their multiple child adoption. The children are siblings. "And the last thing in the world that we wanted to do was separate them," Chris said. "From what we were told, large sibling groups are very hard to place into a new family. Many possible adoptive families prefer babies and usually want no more than one child. Our children are very close and have been together in the foster care system for two years, so we didn't even bat an eye when it came to adopting them together."
When the Deleons decided to pursue adoption, they talked as a family to make sure it was something that everyone wanted to do. It was. Chris said Madison and Austin were very excited at the idea of another child in their family. "When they heard that there were going to be three, it was triple the excitement!"
The Deleon family met the children on June 1 and visited them regularly to get better acquainted until the three moved into their Amery home on Aug. 1. Since the children have moved in, the five siblings have become very close.
Big brother Austin had an assignment in his fifth-grade class at school to write about something he was thankful for. He wrote about how thankful he was for his loving family, and for his new brothers and sister.
"His teacher was very impressed, saying that a fifth-grade boy typically wouldn't write about this, because of being a male, and being 10 years old. That was really a tear-jerker moment for his teacher and parents. We were so proud to hear this," said Chris.
The Deleons say the process of adopting their children was harder than they expected. The most challenging part was the wait. They learned in April that they were chosen to become the new family for the children, but they didn't get to see or meet children until June.
"That was hard because we were so excited to meet them and had waited so long for that day, that the two month wait to finally see them just about killed us," recalled Chris. But in the end it was worth the wait.
"We had been trying to adopt a child for over three years. We thought it was going to happen so much sooner, but we were patient and held out for the right fit," Chris said.
The couple hadn't considered adopting a sibling group, let alone three children, but when they heard of the circumstances and found out that children were about to be separated, they knew they wanted to keep them together and with them.
"We didn't hesitate and said yes immediately. We honestly couldn't have got a better match! There are even some ironic similarities. One of the boys has the same middle name as their new father, and the younger boy shares a birthday with his new grandfather. We are looking forward to having birthday parties together," said Chris.
Adoption has always been on the radar for the Deleons. Both Chris and Hailey were adopted by their fathers and there are numerous adoptions in Hailey's extended family. The couple had started the adoption process first 12 years ago before their biological children were born and knew they would consider it again.
"Adoption is just part of our family. Our oldest daughter already talks about how she can't wait to adopt a child from Africa someday. As she tells us this, she laughs and says 'only a girl though,'" said Chris.
Chris says that some of his students are aware that the family is in the process of adopting. "What surprised me was that a few of them have shared their own adoption stories with me. Most of those adoptions are from overseas."
Hailey Deleon is also an educator and works in the Unity School District in Balsam Lake, where she teaches family and consumer education. Her husband says she is very family-oriented which is why she chose to go into the profession that she did. She is currently on family and medical leave and took 12 weeks to be with the two youngest children to help with the bonding process before having to send them to daycare.
Her students frequently ask about the adoption, wanting to know how old they are and where are they from and how they are doing. Hailey goes back to work right after Thanksgiving, but said she is so thankful and appreciative of her school district, and their efforts to help her remain at home with their children for as long as possible.
The Deleons say this Thanksgiving will be a very special one. "We are grateful to everyone that has helped support us in our efforts to adopt and to those that have helped us since the children have moved in. Our next door neighbors have been like family, and have helped above and beyond with the children."
According to Chris and Hailey, "We have so much to be thankful for this year -- what a Thanksgiving this will be!"