SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Seth and his little sister, Grace, cruise up and down the dirt road on their blue and pink battery-powered four-wheelers.
Parents Paul and Amber Van Dyke watch them play in the distance, the evening sun beaming across the wooden porch in front of their house, on a ranch nestled at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, near Banner.
Grace pauses, smiling back at her parents with a grin bigger than her body.
The Van Dykes adopted Seth, 4, and Grace, 3, from different regions of the state. They are now preparing to adopt two more, a boy and girl from Russia, through the Wyoming Children's Society. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Wyoming Children's Society, a private, nonprofit, statewide adoption agency, which has found homes for more than 6,000 children.
Seth and Grace play amid the mountain vistas, elegant homestead — rooted in its Western heritage — and the orderly atmosphere, all of which make the ranch home to the Van Dykes. Paul Van Dyke, 33, and Amber Van Dyke, 32, have long marveled at the idea of two new and foreign additions to the family.
"Adoption, it's not cheap," Mrs. Van Dyke says. "It's a step of faith for us."
While foreign adoption fees are significantly higher than the domestic equivalent, many people are finding that adoption outside the United States is the right choice for their family. For the Van Dykes, they chose to do both.
"As Christians, we want to take care of children," Van Dyke says. With two completely foreign counterparts — a boy and a girl from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, soon joining the Van Dyke family — the eagerness is palpable.
"Are you excited to have a little sister?" Mrs. Van Dyke asks Grace.
"Yes," Grace replies, with another huge smile. "I'm going to share my clothes with her," she adds.
These moments serve as moments of grace for a family rooted in faith. In addition to the adoption fees, traveling halfway around the world to bring the children home adds significantly to the overall cost.
"We're excited to have an opportunity to rescue a couple of orphans," Van Dyke says. "To give a couple kids a chance at a life with normalcy and stability in it."
Van Dyke moved to Wyoming from Michigan in the late '90s and owns Van Dyke Saddlery & Stock Horses LLC. His wife hails from the Sheridan area and is a caseworker for the Wyoming Children's Society in Sheridan, Buffalo and Story.
Seth and Grace keep the Van Dyke house full of energy. The two more additions to the family?
"It'll get a little cozier here," Mrs. Van Dyke says with a smile.
The Van Dyke's Russian adoption process started in February, and their first trip, with fingers crossed, will be in August, following their referral from the adoption agency. The couple will spend about two weeks in Russia on their first trip, meeting their new children, but they will have to return stateside without them.
About two months and stacks of paperwork later, the Van Dykes will make a second trip, spending three weeks in Russia and, finally, getting to bring their new son and daughter home to Wyoming.
The Van Dykes requested one child to be under 24 months and the other to be under 12 months, but they're not sure which one will be older.
The couple already has names picked out: The boy will be Asher and the girl will be Faith.
"God is the builder of families," Mrs. Van Dyke says. "He knows these two orphans in Russia are meant to be in our family."
"It's a good feeling that God has led us to do this," her husband adds.
Before Seth and Grace, the Van Dykes were foster parents for nearly three years, until realizing the difficulties of becoming attached to kids who were ultimately whisked away by an adoptive family. They then decided to adopt Seth through the Wyoming Children's Society.
The Wyoming Children's Society was founded in 1911 to serve orphaned and homeless children as well as young pregnant women. The statewide board of directors eventually located a receiving home in Cheyenne for Wyoming children who were orphaned, abandoned or abused.
Although the orphanage is now closed, the Wyoming Children's Society is one of the oldest child welfare organizations in the Equality State.
"The Wyoming Children's Society, they've got this process down," Van Dyke says. "They're so helpful and supportive. They're just fantastic. They go the extra mile."
The agency has been licensed by the Russian Ministry of Education since 2001 to place orphaned children with American families — one of only 38 agencies to hold this accreditation in the nation. As a result, the organization has worked with families throughout the country and has placed almost 700 Russian orphans with adoptive parents.
Each year the Wyoming Children's Society has celebrated its long history of caring for children in Wyoming by holding a gala featuring food, both live and silent auctions, and a program to support the organization.
This summer's event will be Aug. 13 at Little America in Cheyenne and is open to the public. Oftentimes, adoptions can be a Plan B for parents struggling to have children of their own, but that's not the case for the Van Dykes. "It's not a second choice. It's not a backup plan," Van Dyke says.
Van Dyke leans back in his chair on the lawn in front of their house, the spurs on his cowboy boots brushing the grass. Seth, sporting a pair of cowboy boots of his own, picks bugs for his jar in the flowerbed in front of the house with an unbridled curiousness. Grace, her long blond hair held together in a ponytail and ocean-blue eyes gazing at her mom, wraps her arms around Mrs. Van Dyke's legs.
"People can do a variety of things with adoption," Mrs. Van Dyke says. "For us, it's being a mom and a dad."
Information from: The Sheridan Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/