A family comes together in Eagle County
GYPSUM, Colorado –The most remarkable thing about the Hanson family of Gypsum is how natural everything feels.
That’s saying a lot, considering the path that brought them all together and the journey it took to bring them home.
The Hanson family was legally formed just over a month ago when Robyn and Joel Hanson finalized the adoption of their five children. The children – Karina, 11, Araceli, 9, Dany 8, Yen, 5, and Zuleica, 4 – are siblings who lived at Hogar de Exparanza, an orphanage in Peru. Robyn and Joel first learned about the children when they volunteered for one year at the facility. They had always planned to adopt from the orphanage and by the conclusion of their time there, they knew they had found their family.
Through their work, the Hansons found themselves increasingly drawn to the five orphaned siblings. In turn, the children began bonding with the Hansons. Then came the day when the kids asked the couple if they would adopt all of them. The Hansons had already decided to go for it, but having the children ask sealed the deal.
But making that commitment was just the first step in a process that took more than a year and at times seemed tortuously slow.
As the Hansons look back on the past year, Robyn says it passed in two-week increments. There was always some prospect that in “just two weeks” an important document would be forthcoming or a vital decision would be made.
“I left here on June 30. I thought I was arriving two weeks early,” she said “I thought since I work for the orphanage, l would just go down and work while everything is finalized. But after I arrived, it was just one complication after another.”
She ended up spending six months in Peru.
“Every investigation they could do, they did,” she said. “It all had to do with we were adopting five children and we had a relationship with them.”
She notes that the rules for adoption have tightened considerably in recent years due to incidents of human trafficking and other abuses. She knows there are reasons for all the paperwork, but that didn’t make the wait any easier at the time.
In retrospect, Robyn has come to appreciate the time spent in Peru. It gave her the opportunity to bond with her children. Though they couldn’t live with her while the adoption was pending, she did work at the orphanage and they could spend extra time together during weekends.
“I missed my husband, that was the very difficult part,” said Robyn.
Joel echoes that thought. “The waiting was really hard, probably the hardest period of my life. You never knew when they could come home or even if it was going to happen. It was such a relief to finally get to go to Peru.”
Joel traveled to Peru for the final two weeks of the adoption process. He had to travel back to the United States ahead of the rest of the family but Robyn and the kids were not far behind. The plane ride home was the first of many adventures.
Robyn and the kids boarded the plane Dec. 11 to come home.
“That was interesting, a seven-hour plane ride with five kids who had never seen a plane, let alone been on one,” says Robyn.
She sat with the two youngest in the row right in front of the three older children. She poked her hands back through the seat, telling them if they got scared, they could hang on.
“As soon as we went down that runway, I thought may arms were going to fall off,” Robyn said with a laugh.
After the long flight and a night at a Denver hotel, the Hansons headed home to Gypsum. It was a moment that everyone had been waiting for.
“I had been living in that house by myself for so long. I just wanted my family in it,” said Joel.
“The kids were so amazed and elated, jumping on their beds,” said Robyn. “The first day it was all pulling everything out and looking at it.”
During that happy time, Robyn and Joel made sure they shared an important lesson with their kids – all the clothing in their closets, the furniture in their rooms and the toys on the shelves has been donated by people from this community.
“Truthfully, that hit home for them. They understood that concept of what this community did for them,” said Robyn.
Since their arrival a little more than a month ago, the four oldest Hanson kids have enrolled at Eagle Valley Elementary School. The youngest – known as ZuZu, attends preschool. Robyn works part-time at Eagle Valley High School and Joel works for UPS.
The family is finding its rhythm.
“It’s difficult to remember life without them. I can’t remember sitting around my kitchen table with just my husband and me,” says Robyn.
Currently the family speaks Spanish at home, but English will come in time. “My concern right now is that they all feel safe and secure and nurtured and loved,” says Robyn.
The biggest goal for the Hansons is to learn how to be a family during this year of huge change.
Robyn and Joel note that several people have commented on the significant change the couple has undertaken, but they like to put it in perspective. Their change is dwarfed by the magnitude of change their children have faced. They now live in a country where nothing is familiar, from the weather to the language to the food.
“They wonder why we eat macaroni and cheese. That is very strange to them,” Robyn says.
However, as they navigate the daily challenges they face, the Hansons don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the difficulties. They talk about how happy and lucky they feel.
“It’s amazing having a family. We have all been waiting for it for so long,” says Joel.
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The operating license for Kent Funeral Home in Gypsum has been summarily suspended by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies following an investigation that revealed disturbing conditions at an associated funeral home in Leadville.