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Hawksfords prove adoption can work at any age

The Hawksford brothers share a love of fishing and everything outdoors. Pictured are, from left, Kolya, Max and C.J. All three will graduate from Hudson High School this spring. Not pictured is brother Dima. Submitted photo1 / 3
The Hawksfords went from a family of six to one of eight back in 2005, a transition that had challenges but appears seamless in 2012. Pictured are, front from left, Tom Hawksford, daughters Meg and Jessi and mother Mary. In back from left are brothers Kolya, Max, C.J. and Dima. Submitted photo2 / 3
After spending several years in a Russian orphanage, Kolya, left, and Dima Hawksford were a little overwhelmed on their first visit to their eventual home. Mary and Tom Hawksford remember the boys hid a stash of food in their room in those early days, just to be sure the supply would last. Fresh fruit was a favorite of the former junk food lovers. Submitted photo3 / 3

When Mary and Tom Hawksford first welcomed their sons Kolya and Dima into their Troy home back in 2004, they thought it would just be for a visit before the boys, Russian orphans, found another permanent home in the area.

But as things turned out, the Hawksford family was that permanent home and everyone, including the family's other four children, seem very content with that decision.

Today Kolya is preparing to graduate from Hudson High School along with his brothers Max and C.J. A state-ranked wrestler, Kolya has already landed a job as an apprentice welder with OEM of Baldwin, and operates both a landscaping and woodworking business.

Dima is a junior at HHS and is also a wrestler who has his eye on the state championship next year. Beyond that, he hopes to join the military with the goal of becoming a Navy Seal.

The boys joined the family when Kolya was 11 and Dima was 9. They are not biological brothers but on that first visit, Mary Hawksford thought it was very important that the boys be adopted together. She sensed a bond between them that she knew would be important to their transition into a new family.

Dima said that he and Kolya had not been particularly close at the orphanage and only got to know one another on that first summer visit. But the bond did grow, particularly since the boys knew no English. Tom Hawksford recalled that summer falling asleep to the boys talking excitedly in Russian. "Who knows what they were saying but they laughed a lot and sounded happy. That was a great way to fall asleep."

The Hawksfords had experience with older children in their home as foster parents and were not concerned about the boys' ages when they made the decision to adopt them. She remembers people asking her if she was worried about bringing older boys into their home and about any "baggage" they might have from their previous life in Russia.

"That was never an issue for us. We didn't get any guarantees about what we would get with our birth children. And we never worried about bringing the boys into our home. We monitored them just like we did our own kids. We really didn't do anything differently and they really didn't change anything coming in. We just added two more sons," said Mary.

The other Hawksford children remember things in much the same way. Language was the biggest challenge in the early days but the siblings, including sisters Meg and Jessi, adjusted to their brothers pretty quickly.

"The language thing was rough at first but they were easy to get along with pretty much from the start," said brother Max.

Mary describes her parenting style as strict, with everyone being held to the same expectations. "Tom travels a lot and while I say yes a lot, I say just as many no's. All our kids know that we expect them to keep their noses clean and if they don't there will be consequences."

Mary said the key was letting the boys know what the boundaries were from the beginning and showing them that they would be treated with as much love and attention as their birth children. "I think they were both a little afraid of disappointing me at first and they wanted to do well. We are a family with a lot of blessings and I think even as young boys, they appreciated that. All in all, they were very low maintenance and very easy to love."

The boys are described by their mother as good students who work hard and play hard. All of the Hawksfords share a love of the outdoors and have always led an active family life. "The boys have always been very active and they love the outdoors. It is something we had in common with them right from the start," said Mary.

Kolya and Dima both agree that the years since their adoption have gone by quickly. Teachers like Susan Anderson, then at Willow River Elementary, Melissa Hansen at HHS and coaches like Art Tobin and others along the way had a big impact on them.

This summer the boys will return to Russia with their father. The trip is a graduation present and the boys will visit the orphanage where they lived before becoming American citizens. While the boys' parents are all deceased, Dima still has contact with his grandmother there, an impressive bread baker among other things, and expects to see her on the visit.

Mary said she hopes that by telling their story, others may consider adopting older children. Russian adoptions have dropped off in recent years and stricter guidelines have been imposed but there are older children waiting to be adopted in this country and others around the world.

"These children are just like our boys. They want families and homes of their own and it can be as rewarding for the family as it is for the children. I would urge anyone interested to check it out.'

For more information about older adoption contact Mary Hawksford at (715) 425-8667. For adoption information contact Crossroads Adoption Services at (715) 386-5550.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604