After pirouetting in a gingham frock outside an Austrian chateau, Liz Patterson of Cedar Falls, Iowa was introduced to her children, who marched down the stairs in formation wearing matching maritime uniforms. Well, maybe it didn’t exactly happen that way, but she did adopt seven children from Poland, and she has an exceptional story to tell.
When they learned they couldn’t have children, Liz and her husband, Ben, a pastor, felt called to adopt a family from Poland. The country’s policy is to keep sibling groups together, and they were excited at the prospect of adopting more than one child at the same time. Approved for and expecting a referral for two children, Liz was stunned when her agency called, asking if she would be interested in adopting a sibling group of four, ages 5, 4, 3, and 2. Her answer was emphatically, “yes.”
The Patterson family made a trip to Poland in October of 2009 to meet their children. The meeting was awkward at first, but the kids soon warmed up and were giving their new parents hugs and high fives and playing silly games with them. Liz and Ben knew in their hearts that the children were theirs. They returned in the winter to bring their family home, and Liz has vivid memories of “roughing it” during two and a half weeks of bonding in a rural Polish village where no one spoke English. Keeping food cold on the balcony of their refrigerator-less apartment, air-drying clothes in a country that doesn’t use dryers, and getting the kids to sleep while all-night polka weddings partied on next door were just a few of the initial adventures.
After a court date that legally bequeathed the sibling group to their new parents, the tribe headed to Warsaw, where there were familiar stores, restaurants, and an abundance of English-speaking Poles. After a two-week appeals period, the family flew back to the States, where Liz’s relatives were eager to welcome their new kin at the airport, immediately receiving them as their own grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Three years later, Liz felt an unmistakable tug in her heart, knowing that her mission on earth was not finished yet. After more paperwork, praying, and waiting, the family returned to Poland in the summer of 2014 to adopt a sibling group of three more children, ages 7, 6, and 5. The country keeps an adoptive family’s children in birth order, and her oldest child in the new group was six months younger than the youngest child in her first sibling set. Summer in Poland was a contrasting experience, with its protracted daylight, warm sun, and newly renovated parks. Once again, Liz knew that her family was meant to be.
Today, Liz Patterson is a successful Mary Kay director with a brimming household. She and her husband are excellent role models for their growing brood. They look back on their initial adoption journey with humor and awe.