Bigger love: Declo family enriched by adopted children

5 May 2010

Bigger love: Declo family enriched by adopted children

 Photos by ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News Debbie Mazur tickles her daughter Becca while her other children Naomi, center, and Abby look on at their Declo home. Steve and Debbie Mazur have adopted 10 children and are working to finalize the adoption of two more into the family.

By Laurie Welch

Times-News writer


DECLO - Twelve voices singing in harmony is only one manifestation of the "Amazing Grace" transpiring in Steve and Debbie Mazurs' Declo home.

The Mazurs, who have six grown children of their own, have found a place in their hearts and their home to adopt a dozen more.

Ten of the couple's younger children have already been adopted. Luc, 12, Elizabeth, 11, Marie, 10, Nicholas, 10, Matthew, 10, Rachel 10, Hannah, 8, John, 6, Naomi, 6 and Abby, 5, have been home-schooled and home-raised since each arrived in Declo.

The newest additions - Sean, 11, and Becca, 9, - who came from an adoptive family in Ohio - will have their adoptions finalized soon.

"You help the ones you can and pray for the ones you can't because you can't save them all," Debbie said as she hugged a small daughter tightly to her chest.

While the Mazurs' story is that of big love, it is also a story of big effort. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of Children's Issues, the proper adoption of one international child can take up to four years and $30,000 to complete.

Those figures, while daunting, aren't a hard-and-fast rule, as the length and cost of adoption cases can vary greatly by a child's home country, in which the adoptions are handled.

And international children are being adopted by U.S. families. According to the office, 12,753 children from other countries - including 74 who came to Idaho - were adopted by U.S. families from Oct. 1, 2008 to Sept. 30, 2009.

Due to a variety of factors including tighter restrictions - or outright bans - by some countries on international adoptions, the number of international children adopted into the U.S. has steadily decreased since 2004, when 22,990 came to new families.

Some of the Mazurs' children were adopted from Haiti or Africa. Others were born in Ghana or Liberia and were first adopted by U.S. parents who later relinquished them.

Debbie said adoptions of Haitian children used to take between four to six months, but now take more than a year. She said Liberia has banned adoptions to the U.S., and she knows other families who have waited more than three years to adopt a Liberian child.

• • •

Many of the Mazurs' adoptive children have missing hands, a cleft lip, or came from the kind of poverty that makes words stick in Debbie's throat when she talks about it.

They came from hardscrabble landscapes where babies are born into tin sheds and children drink out of puddles. Or maybe even worse, Debbie said, they somehow survived in stark, lonely orphanages where there was never enough food or hugs to go around.

Some of the children with physical deformities were abandoned by their parents and later ostracized by other orphanage children.

But each time the Mazurs were shown pictures of a child destined to become part of their family, they looked past the imperfections, to the heart of each child, they said.

Before a few of the children came to live with the Mazurs, they were adopted by U.S. families unprepared for the challenges of raising children torn from their former lives, however meager.

Such adoptions are often held privately between the two adoptive families, with the help of attorneys on both sides. The lack of an adoption service's involvement can cut the time and cost of such adoptions, though they can be wrought with emotional pitfalls. Children can be left reeling when torn from their homeland, only to move to an unsteady destination before facing another move to unfamiliar territory.

It's a common thread that runs through the children, Debbie said. They are scared and hurting.

When the Mazurs picked up two Liberian girls from their previous adoptive family in Texas, they found the little girls' bedroom stripped clean of soft furnishings such as carpeting. The girls had destroyed everything.

"You can't take a child from a third-world county and expect them to be grateful to you for ripping them from everything they've ever known," Debbie said.

The Mazurs keep new arrivals close to their bed and their hearts until they are fully integrated into the family. The girls' destructive behaviors never resurfaced in their new home, the Mazurs said.

"There are a lot of bonding issues that you go through," Steve said. "You do a lot of the same bonding with these older kids that you do with infants."

But, they are just people, Steve said. And people have problems.

"This is what we do - we raise children." said Steve. "We've always just loved children."

The Mazurs have also arranged free medical care in Idaho for several children outside their adopted family, although for some the red tape was just too long, and some children died before receiving needed treatment.

• • •


Debbie said growing up as an only child, she always wanted to be a wife and mother.

Her wish has manifested in the 4,000 square-foot, six-bedroom home that now sports four sets of triple bunk beds and a multistory closet in the boys' room that will soon include a fireman's pole and climbing wall.

Steve, who holds an electrical contractor's license, was a manager at the Dell call center in Twin Falls before he was laid off during the center's recent closure. Now in between jobs, to make ends meet he runs an Internet business that sells electrician training. Sometimes the older children, who he said are paid handsomely, help him with market research or go on calls with him and act as his apprentice, handing him tools.

All of the Mazurs' children are polite and quick to jump up and take care of chores.

"I like to feed the chickens," said Elizabeth, who delights in caring for the family's other animals on the farm as well.

On a typical day, Debbie, who has a teaching degree, gives the children their school lessons at home. They gather around tables pushed together in their dining room.

Studying world history, they have made papier-maché knight's armor, which remains proudly displayed on the kitchen counter. Just a few years before, some of the children had never held a pencil and knew no English.

Sean is one of the newest members of the family and is waiting for his adoption to finalize. He recently made a card for Debbie that reveals his feelings about joining their family better than his words could. In the picture, drawn with childlike finesse, he stands beside her with his head tellingly cocked to the side and resting on his new mother.

"I really like my new family," Sean said.

Although they don't wear designer clothes and Debbie saves money by making her own laundry soap, the Mazurs take trips and enjoy outings like any other family.

Once, at a mall they stopped and had special teddy bears made for all the children. While paying for their purchases, the clerk asked Steve if he would like to donate a dollar to "save the children."

He smiled at her and said, "Ma'am, I already am."

During one trip, they stopped at a McDonald's and bought a homeless man a meal, the Mazurs recall. Harmonizing, the children sang "Amazing Grace" for him. The combination of the children and their music caused tears to spill from the man's eyes.

At home, every once in a while, someone accidentally sets out one too many plates at the dinner table, and the Mazurs stop and look at one another. It's happened before - and it could be an omen.

"We're open to whatever God brings us," Debbie said.

Laurie Welch may be reached at or 677-5025.