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'We had to rely on strength that is not our own,' says adoptive mother of seven siblings

The Lakes Area Adoptive Moms Retreat is scheduled for next Saturday, Oct. 29, at Christian Fellowship Church in Detroit Lakes, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Liz Warren says the annual retreat has helped her immensely in finding the support and resources she and her husband Ron needed for raising their seven adopted children, who range in age from 4 to 17.

Warren Family.jpeg
The family of Bejou residents Ronald and Elizabeth Warren now includes 10 children, after they adopted seven young children about five years ago. The Warrens had three adult children of their own, and when one of them got married last year, they invited all of their siblings to be a part of the wedding party.
Contributed / Elizabeth Warren

DETROIT LAKES — When parents lose custody of their children, those siblings often get placed in separate homes.

But after the unexpected death of his youngest brother, Wayne, about seven years ago, Bejou resident Ronald Warren and his wife Elizabeth were presented with a dilemma: They had received a call informing them that Wayne's girlfriend, the mother of his son, was about to lose custody of her six children, for reasons primarily related to her mental health. While they could have chosen to adopt just the one who was directly related to them by blood, there was considerable concern about what separating their nephew from his half-siblings might do to him, as well as to his brothers and sisters.

"They (social services) were very concerned about the impact of separating them," Liz Warren said in a recent interview. "We just couldn't bring ourselves to do it."

So instead of one young child to raise, the Warrens, who were in their late 40s at the time, were presented with six children, ranging from a newborn up to 9 years old. After much prayer and lengthy discussion, "One day we just looked at each other and said, 'We're doing it,'" said Liz Warren. They went ahead with a process known as kinship adoption, where children are permanently placed with relatives of their biological parents.

About a year later, they learned of another child that had been born to the same biological mom as the others, and decided to adopt that one too. "At first, we thought it was probably temporary, an emergency situation, and they (social services) would find a better fit" for some of them, she said, "but as time went on, we saw clearly, they're our kids. Our family.

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"After the initial decision (to adopt), the next year or so was very much filled with a lot of prayer, seeking wisdom and counsel (from the Lord)," Liz said, adding that it was also a year filled with court appearances and legal procedures, as the adoption process continued through to fruition.

The process was smoothed out a bit by the fact that they were not at odds with the children's biological mother, who never opposed the adoption. "We've always been very fond of her," Liz said. "She is a kind person. She's just had a lot of life struggles that meant she couldn't raise them herself."

Though there could have been some tension within the family, from the Warrens' three biological children, who were all grown and starting families of their own, the older children threw their support behind their parents and new siblings completely. Their youngest son even invited all of his brothers and sisters, adopted and biological, to participate in his wedding, so the whole family drove cross-country to Kansas for the ceremony.

"They've been incredible; so supportive," Liz said of her older children. "We've been fortunate. We definitely had to rely on a strength that was not our own."

In addition to a lot of prayer and support from within the family, Warren also began to reach out to others, and met Lakes Area Adoption Support founder Lori Kenney at an event for parents of home-schooled children. When she found out about Kenney's annual Adoptive Moms Retreat, she signed up, and has been back every year they've held it since then.

"I think this is her fourth one," said Liz. "It's a great way for adoptive mothers from a vast area to come together and share our stories, our concerns, our resources, and just enjoy time with each other.

"There are some unique issues and struggles that can surface with adoption," she continued. "Lakes Area Adoption Support provides a lot of information, training, books and other resources to help with those situations."

"Lakes Area Adoption Support was started as a faith-based ministry back in 2018, by my husband Jeff and I," said Kenney in a separate interview. "We felt the need to be available to other families going through challenging times with a child or children they had adopted through foster care, as we had experienced."

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The Kenneys have one biological child, but adopted four more, and all five of their children are now adults, ranging in age from 20-32. Lakes Area Adoption Support provides a way for them to help parents going through a similar situation to connect with everything they need to raise healthy, happy children.

"We offer resources, support, a listening ear and a small getaway cabin for adoptive moms and dads in the area," she said. "This is all done as a volunteer ministry, and thankfully we have been supported by some wonderful donations.

"Our annual fall retreat is for moms to get to know each other and come away for a day to be educated, refreshed and renewed on their journey of raising their adopted children," she added. "Our keynote speaker, Sarah How, is also an adoptive mother, and a school psychologist from Audubon. She has a heart to reach out families, and will be sharing with the ladies about how we can grow spiritually and deep in our connection with others and God through the challenging seasons of raising our adopted children."

Liz Warren agreed that there have been challenges, but also a lot of blessings. "People tend to say, 'Oh, you rescued them, how wonderful for them,'" she said. "But it's been equally wonderful to us, and a blessing. Ron and I have learned so much from the kids. They teach us and bless us and encourage us every day. We had an opportunity to become a family."

This year's Adoptive Moms Retreat is set for Saturday, Oct. 29 at Christian Fellowship Church in Detroit Lakes. To learn more, visit adoptiveretreat.com or contact Lori Kenney at 701-238-8046.

If you go

What: Adoptive Moms Retreat
Where: Christian Fellowship Church, 28048 Meadow Drive, Detroit Lakes
When: Saturday, Oct. 29, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Who: Hosted by Lakes Area Adoption Support ; featuring keynote speaker Sarah How
How: Cost is $50 per person, including lunch and workshop materials. Go online to sign up at adoptiveretreat.com/events .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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