Jennifer and Brandon Pratt found their four new sons in a Christian orphanage on the outskirts of Recife. Aged 2 to 6, Leandro, Cristiano, Enzo, and William had received no education after their mother abandoned them. The eldest, Leandro, had already learned to beg in the streets. But everything changed when an American couple 8,000 km away came into their lives.
The couple knew they wanted to adopt, and from Brazil. Jennifer’s sister married a professional football player from Brazil, and they wanted their kids to share a common Brazilian-American culture. However, the couple soon realized just how hard international adoption can be.
After three years of working through international bureaucracy, the Pratts found their four adoptive sons. They knew they wanted to adopt siblings, although they never imagined adopting four at once. But when the four brothers came across their radar, they accepted immediately. Brandon Pratt called his new sons “a God-centered miracle.” For Jennifer, she knew they would adopt the brothers “the first time we saw their photo.”
Of course, adopting four young boys whose language you don’t speak isn’t easy. Moreover, the Pratts had to stay in Brazil to finalize bureaucratic paperwork for another three months. So they rented a condo and started to get to know their new sons. In the first week, all four got terribly sick but couldn’t speak a word of English to tell their new parents what they were feeling. Meanwhile, the Pratts understood practically no Portuguese.
“We couldn’t communicate with the doctors, couldn’t even drive, and you’ve got public transportation with about 400 people on a bus,” said Brandon Pratt. “We tried to cook meals in the tiny kitchen we had, but we couldn’t even read the labels on anything.”
Jennifer says they were terrified the young boys would try to run away. But slowly, the Pratts began to learn basic Portuguese, and the kids started to understand English too. Soon enough, the boys were calling Jennifer and Brandon “mamãe” and “papai”.
The family also encountered much local support, and were able to raise $2,000 for donations to the boys’ orphanage in bedding and clothes.
Finally, the family returned to Iowa with their new sons in tow. Back home, snow covered the ground – a sight the four boys from northeastern Brazil had never seen. They ran out in flip-flops before realizing how cold it was.
Now, two of the other brothers are attending elementary school, the third is in pre-school, and the youngest, 2-year-old William, is at home with Jennifer.