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Arizona Clan Grows By 10

Van Hughes was taken aback when he was asked to adopt 10 children. He thought it was an unfair question and tears began to swell up in his eyes.

But, upon reflection, he and his wife, Shirley, agreed to take on the huge commitment. It's the largest adoption known to adoption experts.

Van and Shirley Hughes, of Mesa, Arizona, had already said they'd adopt the five youngest children in the family of 10. The children, who range from 4 to 17 years old, were found in 1995, living with five cousins and a lot of lice, in an abandoned house. The Hughes didn't want the children to endure any more trauma.

Thursday was a big day for the Hughes household. That's when the adoption became official for the children, who had been living with the Hughes under their foster care.

The children are Francisco, 17, Teresa, 16, Ascucena, 15, Steven, 13, Augustino, 12, Juan, 10, Jose, 9, Maria 8, Veronica, 6, and Doni, 4.

Shirley Hughes says her day begins at 5:15 a.m. and ends around 1 a.m. "My calendar is my brain to remember doctors' appointments and other things," she says.

The state subsidizes their expenses; groceries bills alone average $1,500 a month. The children are Hispanic and Indian, and their tribe will also give them financial help.

Some money goes to pay for counseling and medical expenses. Doni, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, has special needs; many of the kids need glasses and braces. But perhaps the most important thing the kids require comes from the Hughes, not the state: their dedication to parenting.

"If you knew these children," says Shirley Hughes. "They are so lovable."

She said that it's important to listen to each child and focus on their individual personalities and needs. "It's not just the cooking and washing that's important."

Asked how he and his wife could take on such a massive responsibility, Van Hughes responds, "As we get older, we get more patience and more understanding. And that's what this family needs - a lot of communication and love."

He points out that Frank has changed dramatically a lot since moving in. "I think the biggest thing is that they learned how to trust," Van Hughes says.

Frank agrees. "If someone touched me the wrong way, I would have a problem with that," he notes. "But I began to calm down."

The Hughes have two grown sons of their own. One son is also adopting two children. The Hughes hope that their example will inspire others.

"Society likes to complain about teens and kids, how they misbehave and get into trouble," says Shirley Hughes. "Our goal is to just get out and have people adopt one child, who needs to know what it's like to be loved."

"It feels great knowing that all my brothers and sisters are together now," Frank says.