Longs family opens their heart and home to orphans

Every family is unique. But one Horry County family is special in a way that others may consider to be overwhelming.

Shane and Cassidy Robertson have opened their home and hearts to four orphaned children, two of them from the other side of the world.

The Robertsons say they adopted the children because their household has something the kids needed.

"We don't have a lot, but we do have a family and we are moms and dads and brothers and sisters, so if they need families, we can give them that. Why not?" said Shane Robertson.

Ayano Robertson, 13, is from Ethiopia. Sasha, a 7-year-old Down Syndrome child, was born in Ukraine.

William, 8, and Jenny, 11, are from South Carolina.

Add the Robertsons' two biological children, Shane, 6, and 19-month-old Owen, and this is one family with a full house and a busy backyard and they wouldn't have it any other way.

"The rewards far outweigh the challenges of these guys being our children and having a large family," said Robertson.

Shane Robertson is a pastor at Carolina Bays Community Church. Cassidy works as a home-based teacher for Horry County Schools.

The Robertsons are not wealthy, but that hasn't held them back. They say many couples may investigate adopting a foreign child, but when they see the cost - up to $24,000 - they dismiss it.

But the Robertsons say adoption is much more doable than most people think.

"We've never had $24,000 ever just lying around. There's always a way, there's always a way. And step by step, little steps, little steps, little steps, and before you know it, you're there," said Cassidy Robertson.

The Robertsons say they and their children take pride in the fact that their family is diverse. Sasha is one example.

A documentary from the BBC, "Ukraine's Forgotten Children", shows his amazing progress.

Ten months ago, when the Robertsons found him, Sasha weighed just ten pounds and was still being bottle-fed at age six.

He was born with club feet. The Robertsons say his Ukrainian mother abandoned Sasha as a baby.

"In his particular orphanage, they didn't know how to help him," said Shane Robertson. "They didn't have the means to help him."

They say doctors in the U.S. think Sasha was lonely, giving up and close to dying.

Today, 10 months after his adoption, Sasha is a happy, healthy 7-year-old, who recently underwent surgery that will allow him to walk for the first time. He's also taking speech therapy to help him learn to talk.

The other Robertson children have taken Sasha to heart. They've shown the ability to teach their parents and the rest of us a thing or two about humanity.

"They're so compassionate and empathetic. Every night they're praying for the orphan, the widow, the lonely, for each other," said Cassidy.

Of their six children, Cassidy Robertson says four are from her heart and two from her belly. It's a philosophy that has become ingrained in each of their children.

"Mommy and Daddy adopted me by heart," said 8-year-old William Robertson.

Added Ayano Robertson, "I like having Mom and Dad and having brothers and sisters. It's good, I like it."

The Robertsons say they know adoption is not a perfect fit for every family. But during this National Adoption Month, the Robertsons encourage other families to do whatever they can for the world's 163 million orphans, because every family can do something.

"Sponsoring is a great one, and then helping people who adopt," said Cassidy Robertson.

"Take that one step and see where it takes you," added her husband.

Adopting foreign children has made their family more interesting, more fun and more filled with love, the Robertsons say.

With so many kids in need around the world, the Robertsons say there's no reason why millions of orphans should be without a home.

"The orphan would be cared for four times over if every Christian would do something for the orphan," said Cassidy Robertson. "There would be none, it would be eliminated completely."

Last year in South Carolina, there were more than 1,600 foster children in need of adoption, according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children. The average adoptable child in the state spent more than three years waiting to find a home.