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Harry and Lori Aho's family continues to grow, adding a granddaughter. Their family includes, from left, their son Daryl and his wife, Megan, and their daughter, Aubrey, Lanae, Harry, Lori, Ginger, Abbie, Lily and Jaden. SUBMITTED PHOTO

'Family is everything': Adoption helped their family grow

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Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

When Harry and Lori Aho got married 35 years ago, there was no question that they planned to have children.

“Harry comes from a family of 13; I come from a family of seven. Family means everything,” Lori said.

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But once the Wolf Lake couple found out they couldn’t conceive children, they turned to adoption.

“It was just second nature to adopt,” she said.

Six children later, the family has bonded, squabbled and shared a story that many families will never get the chance to tell.

The Ahos first adopted Daryl, now 26, in 1987 when he was a baby. They adopted him through Becker County, but then over the next several years, they found that it was more difficult to adopt babies.

“It’s hard to get infants through the county and that’s what we wanted, infants,” Lori said.

So they started working through the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota, where there were more children waiting to be adopted. Nine years after adopting Daryl, they found Jaden. He was 2½ years old, and three months after bringing him to their home, the Ahos found out that Jaden had a sister, Lanae.

“We like to keep families together. We don’t believe in splitting them up,” Lori said.

So they started the process to foster-adopt Lanae, who was 13 months old, as well.

Not long after welcoming Jaden and Lanae to their family, they found another sibling group to join their family, but it would be a taxing process.

The Ahos brought sisters Lily, who was 3, and Abbie, who was 2, home and learned there was a third sister, Ginger. Ginger was placed with another family, but wanting nothing more than to keep the three sisters together, the Ahos got more than they imagined trying to keep them together.

“We got into a court battle for her,” Harry said.

He said that the family went to Ginger’s 1 year birthday party, and knew that day he didn’t want to leave without the little girl. The court battle lasted two years, but the Ahos were eventually able to bring Ginger to live with them as well.

“We just about lost her,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to give in.”

“We would do it all over again. It was worth it,” Lori agreed.

Within five years, the Ahos adopted five children. They said it was an adjustment for their oldest son, who had basically been an only child for a decade, but he got used to the added siblings as well.

“I wanted a dozen, but the house wasn’t big enough,” Harry said with a laugh.

The last adoption was 10 years ago, and their kids are now young adults and teens. Daryl is married with a little girl of his own. Harry and Lori said having a granddaughter “is everything.”

Jaden is now 17, Lanae is 16, Lily is 15, Abbie is 14 and Ginger is 12.

Lori said they can see a different bond between the blood siblings than with the other siblings, but they all have bonded and are one big, happy family. They have let their foster license lapse because they only got it so they could adopt their children.

They said they likely won’t adopt any more children because they are enjoying the next phase – being grandparents.

All the kids have known since the beginning that they are adopted, and the Ahos agree that once the kids are 18 they are welcome to find their blood relatives if they want.

“It’s just not a big thing. This is just how we got our family,” Lori said of adoption, adding that it’s not a threat to them if the kids want to find their biological families. “We’re still their parents.”

Any families interested in adopting or fostering children can contact Joni Wohlwend with Becker County Human Services at 847-5628 or jrwohlw@co.becker.mn.us.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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