FAIRFIELD, Ohio - Kathy and Scott Rosenow had four children during the early years of their marriage. Then nine years ago, they decided to adopt, taking in children again and again until they had 16 kids in all.
The suburban Cincinnati couple got the urge to adopt after Kathy Rosenow, 48, heard a radio program about former major league pitcher Tim Burke, who along with his wife, Christine, adopted special-needs children from other countries.
Such adoptions cost as much as $35,000, adding up travel, lodging, paperwork, attorney's fees. It was more than a family of six could afford on Scott Rosenow's salary as an engineer.
"This isn't going to happen," he told his wife.
Then, they heard about a girl available for adoption in Bolivia through friends who were adopting Mexican children. For nearly 10 months, an agency tried to place the 9-month-old.
Scott Rosenow, 49, sent out letters asking for help and within three months the couple had raised all but $7,000 of the $35,000 needed for the girl's adoption. They borrowed the rest. They sent their paperwork into the agency and got ready for their new daughter.
But suddenly the girl was gone, adopted by a Swedish family.
Then the couple found Nathan, a 9-month-boy born without a left foot and abandoned outside a Bolivian orphanage. The couple asked their donors if they could use the money to adopt a different child. No one objected and they adopted Nathan in 1998
That began the steady stream of adoptions that has filled their home. The Rosenows have adopted special-needs children from Bolivia, China, Romania, Haiti and Guatemala - 12 in all. They range in age from 15 months to 11.
Thanksgiving - and every - dinner turns into a major event. The table that fills most of the dining room is surrounded by children and crowded with plates and silverware. During a typical meal, a 26-quart pot of meat and beans sits in the middle of the table, near a dish of rice so heavy it makes lifting it difficult.
Pictures of the children cover the wall beside a staircase and pile up at the bottom. Stacks of diapers sit in giant bins beside a television. The bumper sticker on the back of the van that can no longer hold everyone says: "Yes, all sixteen are ours."
In 2000, the Rosenows began what would become Shepherd's Crook Ministries, a nonprofit group that has connected families with about 150 special-needs orphans around the world.
Scott Rosenow quit his engineering job and began working full time from home as the ministry's director. Kathy home-schools the children and keeps busy scheduling doctor visits.
"It is remarkable," said Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers, who has handled some legal issues involving the Rosenows' adoptions. "They're some of the best-behaved children I've ever seen."
The Rosenows have help. People give them money, meals and clothes. The older kids help too, with everything from cooking to schooling.
"We don't know how we were able to do this," Scott Rosenow said.
Another child - Shannen, from Guatemala - is coming to the Rosenows. She'll be the last, at least the last for their current home and its two bathrooms, single dishwasher and nine-foot dining table.
"What most guys want for their 50th birthday - a 2-year-old," Kathy joked.
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