Like many parents this time of the year, Larry and Lana Behrens are thankful for their children. Unlike many, they have 11 children to be thankful for and each one was adopted.
The couple recently received the 2012 OKDHS family of the Year award and adopted their 11th child all in the month of November.
The couple has fostered many children and consider even some they could not adopt as their own.
They have been fostering children since 1990. Since Lana was unable to have children and the couple said they felt as though they had too much room and no purpose, they decided to begin fostering.
Adoption was not something they had planned on, they said. That is until Brandon, their second foster child came back to them when he was 17 and asked the couple to adopt him.
“We said sure,” said Larry. Brandon had older siblings but nobody he felt could take care of him. That was 20 years ago, said the couple.
Today, the couple has six children living in their four bedroom log cabin in Caddo. These six are the youngest of their 11 children.
Teenagers Maggie and Erica are the youngest of a four sibling group and the oldest in the house.
They were also the first two the couple adopted as babies. With seven children, the couple agreed to only foster one or two more children.
Shortly after the agreement Larry said Lana called him and told him she was on her way to pick up a sibling group of four young children.
Larry and Lana adopted siblings Christoper, David and Emily last December and told the judge that they were not adopting any more.
When the fourth member of this sibling group came up for adoption however, the couple did adopt again. This month, Joshua became the couple’s 11th child.
Joshua, who had a different father, lived with his paternal grandfather. His grandfather decided it would be better for Joshua to grow up with his siblings and allowed the Behrenses to adopt him.
Even though the family has 11 children from different origins, they are a pretty close family.
“Thanksgiving is our big time for the family to be together,” said Lana. This year however, Larry was under doctor’s orders to keep it small.
Larry is scheduled to have a bypass surgery soon and to avoid too much excitement, was ordered to stay home, despite plans on visiting Lana’s family and keep the holiday small despite the ritual of a large family gathering.
The older children in the Behrens family also remember almost seven years ago when Larry had to have a liver transplant.
Larry was diagnosed with cirrhosis and had to receive a new liver.
One winter night the Behrenses received a call telling them there was a liver for Larry and they had to get to the hospital quickly.
That night was the first time the couple had their first grandchild at their home. with the help of family the couple scrambled to get the baby taken care of and Larry taken to Oklahoma City.
The couple drove that night on icy, snowy roads. When they arrived the doctor gave them the news that the liver was no good. The couple returned home.
Five days later, they received another call. This time the liver was good and so was the weather.
The Behrenses said that the older children worry about Larry, but they all stick together.
The couple also has a niece and nephew nearby who foster and adopt children. The Behrenses said while their niece and nephew do ask for advice occasionally, they have to learn on their own.
They said each child you foster or adopt will come with their own set of issues and they are all different.
The Behrenses now have 11 very different children and 13 grandchildren. The majority of their children graduated high school and some went on to college.
“My husband and my children, that’s been my life,” said Lana. They couple said they are lucky to have all of the children.
This holiday season the couple said they are thankful for the Choctaw Nation who has helped them in many ways, God and their children.