Family embraces hearing-impaired adoptionsNovember 30, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
From Reporter Kathleen Koch
ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- At Thanksgiving, everyone in the Martin household pitched in. With more than a dozen children on hand, there were plenty of hands to help.
Linda Martin's household started growing in 1983. She has since adopted 26 children from countries worldwide, including Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, India, China and Russia. But they all speak the same language -- sign language.
Over the years some have gone on to college, but the house is still hopping with 14 youngsters.
"When I got near 40, it became pretty apparent I wasn't going to have my own [children], so one day I asked Lottie how she would feel if I adopted some kids, and she said, 'fine, go ahead,' said Martin, a deaf school counselor. "And so I did."
Lottie Riekehof, 75, is the only hearing member of the household and acts as the children's grandmother. They have come from orphanages, foster homes and deaf schools.
Everyone lives on Linda's salary, stretched by donations of clothing from their church.
Initially skeptical adoption agencies became glad to have somewhere to place the special needs children.
"I don't even think they recognize how very special they are, because they don't focus on that," said Philippa Street of Creative Adoption. "They focus on being a family."
Jennifer, one of the first adopted, agrees her mother is unique.
"Mother, she is a great, wonderful mother to adopt this large family ... she has a big heart."
But Martin insisted it takes more than that.
"You have to have a lot of organization skills, a lot of patience and a lot of love."
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