Three children from Brazil have filled the hearts and home of Fred and Danielle Kauser, with the help of Hand in Hand International Adoptions.
It's estimated that more than 45,000 children live in orphanages in Brazil, said Camilla Turquia Gomes, an attorney from Brazil and Brazilian program coordinator for Hand in Hand.
According to the National Adoption Registry, about 4,900 children are available to be adopted and waiting on a family; 66 percent have siblings and 90 percent are age 7 and older.
"Lucas, Jaqueline and Bruna were three of them, but not any more," Gomes said. "They left the statistics of Brazil to have a life full and love and opportunities. Everything worked out for the best for them. The Kausers are a beautiful family and I am proud to have helped them to be together."
Fred Kauser, Mifflin Township's fire chief, said he and his wife, Danielle, knew they wanted to adopt and began the process in March 2017.
Both previously married, they wed in 2016.
Mr. Kauser, 52, has five adult children from his previous marriage.
Mrs. Kauser, 34, is an administrator for the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
She was a Brazilian orphan adopted by U.S. parents and is a first-time mother.
The couple are now the parents of Lucas, 14, Jaqueline, 11, and Bruna, 4.
"We were open to two to six kids," Mr. Kauser said.
"We had so many people tell us that you're really helping these kids. It feels the opposite (they are helping us)."
He said the children added something to their lives that "you can't create on your own. ... They're just like every other child. They want love, validation, to be guided, to have dreams."
Mrs. Kauser recalls the moment she and her husband were notified by email about the children on March 8, 2017.
"It was a Wednesday," she said. "We were about to enjoy a dinner at Easton. The email was titled 'active search' ... I know this came sooner than expected, but ..."
The two youngest children were in the process of being separated from their brother at the orphanage.
"Our hearts said 'yes' and we thought this is what we're supposed to be doing," Mr. Kauser said. "These guys could have been adopted anywhere in the world. They had conversations before they knew of us. They hoped they would be adopted to the U.S."
He said the children have an image of the United States being a place where one has freedoms and opportunities.
"We spent time talking about that," he said. "They embraced it fully."
The couple submitted their application and were given five months to complete domestic adoption-immigration and international adoption-immigration processes.
"We met the deadline three months early," Mrs. Kauser said. "We were as organized as possible."
Mr. Kauser said the paperwork could be overwhelming and distracting.
"It takes an average of one to two years to finalize an adoption in Brazil," Gomes said.
"The Kausers, for instance, was the fastest adoption I have worked on," she said. "From the first phone call to children being home took a total of 10 months. But for that, you have to be determined like Fred and Dani."
When the Brazilian government approved the couple for adoption in August, they started Skyping with the children on a weekly basis.
"They had an interpreter," Mr. Kauser said. "We'd get on the laptop every week. We got to know each other. We sent them each a (photo) book so they could see us."
By Brazilian law, the couple were required to be in residence for 30 days in Brazil, where they were court-supervised.
"Every week, you meet with a social worker, and the court had a representative that met with us as a family and separately," he said.
The family met each other for the first time on Nov. 2, Mrs. Kauser's birthday.
"We met them on Nov. 2 and picked them up on Friday, Nov. 3, and woke up as a family in Brazil on Nov. 4," he said. "We were parents to these kids."
Their bonding was monitored while they stayed at a house in Florianopolis.
"We could drive around," he said. "It was surrounded by water and there were some beaches. We were able to stay there for a month and get to know each other."
He said it was helpful to have a dedicated time to get to know the children and what bothered and excited them.
Mrs. Kauser said her husband's parenting experience was very helpful.
"I've never been a mother before and had to understand them and meet them where they were -- having a toddler, preteen and teen," she said. "The bonding period was exceptionally valuable."
While in Brazil, they communicated using Google Translate.
"There were lot of charades," she said.
The children didn't know English, while the Kausers had studied some Portuguese.
They also spent last summer learning how to cook Portuguese food.
"Our intention is they're always Brazilians and Americans," Mr. Kauser said. "We want to maintain their culture. These two (oldest children) have such a memory. I'm confident they will travel back and forth."
The family arrived in Miami, Florida, on Dec. 16.
"When the wheels touched down in Miami, they were U.S. citizens," he said. "We went to immigration at 2:30 a.m."
Mr. Kauser, whose youngest biological child is 20, didn't originally plan to adopt a 4-year-old.
"I love being a dad," he said. "I think it's just a gift. I thought it might be rougher with a 4-year-old. I have two daughters and they prepared me well. Besides being tired, it's going OK."
As for the children, Jaqueline was so eager to get to her new home, she packed a suitcase two weeks before leaving Brazil.
She said she feels happy and safe in her new home.
"Here I have Mom and Dad," she said. "Mom and Dad protect."
She acted out how she saw violence near her orphanage in Brazil.
Lucas, who loves soccer, said he likes everything about his new family.
"I love it," he said.
Mrs. Kauser said they've already experienced many firsts with the children, from going to a grocery store and letting them pick something out, to visiting an amusement park.
"Those were incredible things," she said.
The youngsters attend St. Matthias School.
"One thing we learned was to get them in a place where there's some familiarity," Mr. Kauser said. "The being Catholic part is the same in both countries. They're learning English in school and at home. The first part of the school experience here is to learn English and the socialization."
He said the children came from tough conditions.
"They had challenging situations each were involved in," he said. "It has made them resilient. They seem to be very grateful."
The Kausers encourage people be open to adoption.
"There are children, whether domestic or internationally. We encourage people to think about it," he said.
Mrs. Kauser said it's already hard to imagine their lives without the children.
"In the end, we have these amazing, beautiful souls," Mr. Kauser. "Who knows what would have happened to them? Our family has embraced them."
Hand In Hand has been actively working in Brazil since 2015 to find loving families for children in the United States, Gomes said.
A video about Hand in Hand International Adoptions can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/ 251368335.
For more information, visit www.handinhandinternationaladoptions.org.