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Published May 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

Big family, big bond

The Hoffman family in Killdeer is large, but not your typical large family.

By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press

The Hoffman family in Killdeer is large, but not your typical large family.

Lil and Warren Hoffman have opened their home to about 36 foster children over the 10 years they were foster parents.

They have three biological children, six adopted and one who was under their guardianship until she turned 18. Their children range in age from 26 to 10.

While a family this size may seem huge by today’s standards, the Hoffmans say they’re just like any other family.

“We have good days, we have bad days,” Lil Hoffman said.

They adopted the three children who are at home now in 2005.

“Everybody asks us ‘How many brothers and sisters do you have?’” daughter Gwen Hoffman said.

Despite dozens of children coming and going and six becoming a permanent part of the family, Jessie Muir, 26, said she felt she had a pretty normal life.

“I don’t think it really changed what any other kids in my class would have went through with their siblings,” Muir said. “I consider them all brothers and sisters, but I just have a few more than some people.”

Warren Hoffman said he and Lil became a foster family when he learned there was a shortage of foster parents in Dunn County. After talking it over with Lil and their three biological children, they decided to do it.

“Our biological kids, when you look at the whole picture, they probably sacrificed more than we as parents did because they were the ones that had to share their rooms and toys and clothes,” Lil Hoffman said. “It was life-changing for them and they’ve given up a lot.”

The Hoffmans made the adoption process a family decision.

“Once you have as many kids as we had, it’s like a few more makes it just a little more stressful,” Warren Hoffman said, adding the foster children weren’t much different from their biological children. “When it comes to behavioral stuff they all go through the same things. Teenagers are teenagers.”

After 18 months being in foster care, the child is up for adoption and the parents’ rights get terminated, Lil Hoffman said, adding then there’s a choice of either adopting them or sending them to another foster home, or to be adopted by other families.

They also asked the kids who were going to be adopted whether or not it was something they wanted to do. The adopted children also had the choice of whether or not to change their last names, which all six of them did.

“They have already become part of your family,” Lil Hoffman said.

As children, everybody seemed to get along, Lil Hoffman said. As they grew older, tensions grew.

“We lean on God a lot for our strength and the peace of mind, because how else could you do it?” Lil Hoffman said.

Then there is sibling rivalry.

“I have to be really careful that if I do something with one of them, that I do it with the rest of them,” she said. “That’s a real challenge, and if you have a special nickname for one, you better find something for the other.”

Muir said her parents treated all of the children equally.

“Just because we’re biological children, they don’t try to give us more than the ones that they’ve adopted,” Muir said.

Some of the siblings who are now adults aren’t as close as they were as children.

“We do the best we can trying to keep them together,” Warren Hoffman said. “We as parents are always trying to let them know the number one factor is your family. If you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”

They plan family events to get everyone together as much as possible, including camping and fishing and boating.

Lil Hoffman said her children try to do nice things for her on special occasions.

“In the past when they would ask what I wanted for Mother’s Day I would say, ‘Can we just get along for one day?’” she said with a laugh.

The Hoffmans are no longer foster parents, but say they are happy for the experiences it has brought them.

“It’s the hardest thing we’ve done in our lives,” Lil said. “It’s all worth it. You love the kids and it’s all worth it.”

The Hoffmans have three children left at home now, but their parental duties are far from over.

They now have nine grandchildren.