Rita Danilo and Hugo Danilo
Interview ID: SFD001451
DescriptionRita Danilo (45) and her husband Hugo Danilo (47) talk about their relationship, growing up together and how they eventually decided to have and adopt a total of 10 children.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Rita Danilo
- Hugo Danilo
Recording LocationsChildren's Bureau: Magnolia Place Family Center
Partnership TypeFee for Service
- adopted children
- adoption programs
- Big Families
- biological children
- Coming to America
- domestic adoption
- first encounters
- High School
- Kinship Center
- Life Changes
- refinancing the house
- Sunday school
- taking action
- writing letters
- youth group competition
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00:05 My name is Rita Danilo and I am 45 at today's date is May 9th 2016. And we're in LA and I am here with you as my husband for almost 20 years.
00:23 And I'm here to go to the Niello and I'm 47 years old.
00:30 Today is May 9th. And we're in Los Angeles, California, and I'm Rita's husband.
00:38 Hugo and Rita, how did you get me?
00:42 I was 10 years old 1980 and I met him in a Sunday school class and South Gate California and we have a picture that commemorates that at that time we were not really friends. We just kind of knew of each other for a long time. And yeah when we were in high school, we became good friends. So I had just come to the US by I came from Nicaragua and I went to a small little Baptist Church and my uncle was a member there.
01:24 And I came and I was in this little Sunday school class and because it was my birthday think it was my birthday that day. Somebody had a little cake for me and and that in that picture. I'm sitting in front of this birthday cake. It was my 12th birthday and there's is very pretty girl behind me.
01:46 That's how I met Rita.
01:49 Remember your first impressions of one another.
01:52 Well, I just remember her long ponytail. She she has beautiful hair at the time but hair was almost down to her waist and she used to braid it and I remember sometimes I'd sit behind her and pull it and then I look the other way. So nobody would know it was me. He was such a troublemaker and he would wear this yellow jacket.
02:27 Hugo what medicine what was your experience like coming from Nicaragua?
02:33 Well, the circumstances for coming was
02:38 Which was not a good reason the country had just been done through a war and I remember being afraid coming to the u.s. Not knowing what was going to happen. But for some reason as an immigrant, I had this idea that
02:56 That the United States was like like a like a shopping mall. All the doors were wide open and there was stuff all over and it was all free and I had a kind of Bob a Disney mix between a Disneyland and a shopping mall idea what the US would be.
03:21 I'm so talk about your high school experiences like you guys started to become good friends, and how did it
03:29 We used to go out with a used to group as friends are the hero has two older brothers and I have older sisters and we were all go out together and that's how we started just hanging out getting to know each other and he was senior year. I was sixteen so I must have been like a sophomore we became good friends with talk on the phone. We would do we did a lot of activities during the summer and we became really good friends. And I remember Hugo had this competition for the youth group that he wanted us to see who would be the person who would write the most letters to him. Now. I'm more of an introvert so letters sounds like a good thing and I did it this because he was my friend and yeah, that's how we got to know each other pretty well.
04:29 Yeah, that that was a good competition that that encouraged I would say maybe like six people to write me and there's some pretty steady conversations. Sometimes we get past the house. What's the weather like over there?
04:45 I had I had to come and stayed in Los Angeles throughout my my younger years and then I chose to attend college in San Luis, Obispo, California. So there was a sense that San Luis Obispo was this far away place. That was so different than what everybody else knew. So there was some element of curiosity about the weather and what things were like, but those are very good years. I still have all of Rita's letters in a box and every letter she hasn't wrote me is is there
05:21 You know, we should read them. I've been friends with Rita for
05:29 For a long time. She's she's my longest friend.
05:35 Yeah, we calculated some time ago that we were friends for 30 some.
05:43 I years. Yeah, so they've been married 20 and so about 15 years probably prior to that with my friends that her mom is so good to me. So almost like my second mom. She's She Loves Me Like a son.
06:03 Yeah, so our families became friends have been friends because of church and and and just knowing each other. So it is has helped us to know where we come from who we belong to and you know, it helps with life in general and we got married and and not 1995 after recording. We didn't call it dating we call it courtship for 4 years.
06:36 While I finished school
06:41 And then as soon as you finish school you were you were still in San Luis at that time after after you finish school is when I proposed that's when we set up a wedding date and we had a pretty short courtship. We I proposed sometime before Christmas and then we were married by July the next the next year.
07:06 And our first daughter was born our first anniversary, July 15th 1996.
07:16 She was our wedding anniversary gift and I we had at three boys after that at Calvin Lucas and Josiah.
07:27 That's right. And the way things worked out they were almost like when one year apart, we had one child every year I think the Wilma skip one year. What year was that? Well there is that little bit longer I guess between Josiah and Lucas, but my idea was that if we had the kids closer together, then I would be able to go back to teaching which was something I have always had dreams about doing when I was younger and I really enjoyed it for the junior said I did it and
08:06 And so that was our plan but plans change during our courtship. I remember having conversations about kids and where to live in different things. We even made this plan remember that how every year how many kids would have by a certain year and and then sometime around years 7 we started talking about or we were planning on adopting at that this morning about how Sasha and Nicole you remember that yes, or how they influenced I think are thinking to Sunshine Eco or these two little kids that were in the Foster system and Rita's mom knows the lady that was their foster parent.
09:02 And when this lady went on a trip, she left them with Rita's mom and that's how we got to know these kids and I think you're right. I think that really influenced our thinking to really get more serious about adoption. I remember I sent you a picture with a stew and Sasha and Nikko on it and that I had written behind it are first kids or something silly like that because we really thought of them a special and we wanted to do that. I remember Sasha I had that curly hair very pretty girl very she had very deep eyes. I remember
09:49 And you're right. I think that did make an impression on us. So after we had our fourth child.
09:56 I remember feeling like we should not have anymore and that it was time for us to to start getting ready for for adoption. And how many years was that if he 5 years after that's when we started earlier, but we started adding to the house and and we decided that when the house we added to the house for that purpose to sell that we would have more room and that was that was what the term did it after we were done with the addition and then we said, okay, let's do it. I remember that call. So what happened was?
10:45 We we needed to refinance the house. So so what we did is because we couldn't afford the dream house. We wanted we we did it in two parts first, we built it back. So then we added a master bedroom. And then we we change the other room a little bit and then the house was kind of into pieces, but it was it look like a normal house, but it was just bigger. And then I remember we were waiting for the bank to do to do the appraisal so that we could
11:20 We could finish the house because we had a plan to add. I think the original loan was 1300 square feet and we were going to make it 3100 and I remember driving to work and I remember having a conversation with god.
11:36 And I said Lord if you help us finish this house.
11:39 We will fill it with your children. Remember that I remember exactly I was at the national natural history museum here in LA. And I remember you called me and you said we've been approved and everything is a go. So, you know, we will let up soon. I remember that. Yeah.
12:03 And then the house was finished all the whole thing. And then our initial plan was to adopt from Nicaragua.
12:12 So we look into that process and we went through this huge paperwork. Remember that I had a picture I took I wish I could find it or I laid out all the paperwork of all the documents and translations and all the stuff that we had to do and it covered the whole the whole family room. The whole floor was covered in paper. Remember that a long process and did a lot of work for it, but there was other plans. So what happened was toward the end of our process the last step was for them to approve Us and Them that matches with with kids. So all along we have thought two little girls one was about 3 and the other six right somewhere there. So our plan was to go back to my original Homeland and take these two girls.
13:05 But what happened was there was a problem with the adoption program and we had our home study done. We had all the paperwork done and then they suspend the program. Yeah, they said they were re-inventing it and making it better.
13:24 And that that really I remember feeling this courage to about that. I remember.
13:30 And that you had made all along. I mean it has taken us how long may be like nine months to go through all those all those steps. So then what happened was we were kind of in this in-between time. So by that by this point we had become very passionate about adoption. We we felt like we needed to do everything we could to encourage other people, especially Christian families to adopt kids to to rescue them from the Foster system and give them at that time. We were not true about the Foster system that and just about if you were mine seminar by family life and there they had the heart Gallery had displayed all this portraits of children in our area Orange County and La that
14:30 Ready for adoption. Do you remember the statistic of how many kids in Orange in LA county? I think it was more than 300,000. Yeah, it's it's huge. So at this conference that read it went to she she heard speakers and and then if she was outside there was a display of these are very beautiful portraits and they were taken by professional photographers and they depicted children that were ready to be adopted.
15:00 And I remember while I wasn't there so why don't you tell that part? Yeah, I was at the end of the day that I finally made it around to go see them and when I saw them the one that stood out was this one portrait of four children and they married mine there was one boy opposite of ours there was one boy and three girls and we had one girl and three voice at home and I thought how can there be for kids out there at this stage? All right, just as ours that have no one to say their mind to answer for them. And so
15:47 So I brought the information home. I downloaded that one from the internet. I went to the heart gallery and I showed you guys and the kids the picture and we printed it out and we started praying for them. So it in our kitchen in our kitchen. We had our new kitchen. We had a in the we have a little shelf and and what Rita did as she stuck the picture of these kids. So every time we were in the kitchen, we'd see them and we didn't even know their names on at that point. No be started. I started talking about them and I remember you said don't get too involved because my thought was okay. There's two little girls in Nicaragua that are ours.
16:37 And these four kids they need a home but it's not going to be your own but there was no that we had not been matched with anyone. So they're worse no one waiting for us. Yeah. So what happened was this was how long maybe a couple months maybe a month at? Yeah. I was not that long. So then I was on a business trip and I was in Wisconsin and I remember in Wisconsin.
17:05 It was a it was a leadership meeting. I work for a pharmaceutical company. And I remember the speaker was he was a he was actually one of the guys from Black Hawk Down the real event. So he was one of these I don't know Rangers or seals. I don't know. It's some kind of super Warrior guy and he was telling the story about how his his experience and how leadership help them get through and it was a motivational talk and I remember during lunch. He you know, he was he was breaking and
17:46 All that we can all that week. I was thinking about these for kids.
17:51 So I'm sitting I'm sitting at lunch and I wasn't even going to have lunch that they in in the in that room. I didn't I didn't feel like being around other people. So I was going to go back to my room but my boss said, hey won't you come and sit next to me? So I remember sitting down and starting my lunch and then I heard the speaker and he says I'm going to do something that you normally don't do. I'm going to play a song for you while you have your lunch and he started singing this song.
18:21 And this song was about what about taking action?
18:27 And in the song, I think it's called here. I am send me.
18:33 And he talked about the song talked about a man that was shaving I think and he looks through the window and and he sees a lady that has kids and she's alone and she needs help and and and the song talks about how he needed to take action and at the end here I am send me.
18:57 And the song was was about that and then you know that the guy who was singing he explained that that was a phrase from the Bible that there was a time when when God needed somebody to step up.
19:11 And in the end in the Bible, he says God says who am I going to send?
19:18 And Isaiah says here. I am send me.
19:24 And when this guy said that it was weird, it was like like lightning hit me.
19:30 I felt.
19:32 I feel like I needed to be that man.
19:36 I needed to be the one that says here. I am send me remember when one of the fears was that if we had adopted in La let's say we would have to go through the foster care system and that really scared us because you hear all the stories and I'm so not knowing better. We just believe all the stories and we didn't want to do it domestically we want to go to International because all the all the strings would be cut and the girls would come home and they will just be ours and everything would be over and we would live happily ever after so we had all these concerns about domestic adoption.
20:29 But what happened that week was it was almost like like my heart just flipped because when I left for the trip, I I I wanted to pray for these kids and and I was asking God to provide a home for them.
20:45 But when I came back, I was convinced that we needed to be that home for them. Remember how that lawyer said on the airplane with you. Yes. So what happened was so so that night after that lunch. Okay. So I I think I have that flip phone with the old texting while I remember that so I sent her a text right now. I kind of wish the one but I'm going to go throw the letters. Okay. Okay, so it took forever to get this message, but I said we have to talk we have to talk so that night we're talkin and
21:21 Rita just shocked. She's like well, maybe you weren't but my heart just flipped but the conversation was you know, how is this going to happen when we don't know the legal system. It was just like a whole can of worms and we didn't know what was going to happen. So
21:40 On the way home.
21:42 I decided to change my flight because we I got to the airport earlier. So I wasn't even supposed to be on this flight and whenever I fly I always make it a point or two to introduce myself to the person next to me. And the reason is because if the plane crashes I'll know if that person is going to save me or I'm going to save them. So I just happened to be sitting next that there was this young young lady there. She didn't want to be bothered I could tell she had earphones. She had like a long sweater. She pulled over her hands. She did not want to be bothered. So I introduced myself. I said I am Hugo I said, I'm I'm an engineer and she introduced herself. And I said, what do you do as she says I'm a lawyer.
22:27 And I said, well, what do you do with your law and she says all she says I work for the state of New York and my job is to help kids from the foster care system become adopted what a coincidence and it was just amazing because we we had all these questions. How does it work? What are the ties all this stuff? And I remember I was able to ask this lady. And I said, do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?
22:56 And I explained to her the whole thing how my heart flipped and how we were so open to do this, but we didn't know anything and to my surprise she was willing to talk to me pretty much for the whole duration of the flight Southwest flight as flying back by Quest. So we were on the air for maybe five hours. So we spoke for most of that time and then it was really cool because at the end she says, you know, she's I don't know you but I think you should do this.
23:27 And in some weird kind of way, it was it was God's answer to to us.
23:34 And that's how things got started. I called the social workers. We proceeded they would not give us any information about the four kids until we had been approved. And so we called the the kinship Center in Orange County because the kids were in Orange County we knew that much and so we went through the process of starting all over again. We had to send letters and apologize for withdrawing from Nicaragua and explaining that we had changed our mind. We had other plans and and then we started the new process we had to redo everything again, but domestically don't forget because we had all this paperwork.
24:24 Many of the documents that were needed for a stupid optimistically they were accepted and that they helped us a lot. I I think according to Amy or one of those social workers. She said I've never seen a case go as fast as yours because you have everything that we had no proof of employment. We have income statements. We have recommendations from bosses. Everything was all together. It was almost like we were a dream cakes for them Faster by I think before the year-end that we start around October and by the end of the year it was done and and then the waiting process started again.
25:09 But there were a few hiccups. Remember how they try to talk us out of it that kids were having trouble so that by that time when you a little bit more about the kids. So there's three three sisters and one brother and we got to just know a little bit of their background and just Basics but we knew we knew that that we need to follow and and persist on and I remember social worker saying there's trouble and maybe you need to consider somebody else. This kids might have more issues than then you want to deal with and Andre said no we were sure.
25:57 And then I realized never forget this. Okay. So the lady who runs this this this adoption and Family Support Center call the kinship Center. She she had all these books. Her name is Sharon and she opened up all these books and they were pictures pictures of kids and and and she was basically offering us option. She says no, you don't want these for kids. Maybe you want these kids send these cats and she opened up what seemed to be like six books.
26:26 And I said no sharing these for kids. They're the ones for us by this time. We were pretty committed because ever since we started thinking about them and we also started praying for them and our children are home had said why not? Why not adopt them. We have the room we have, you know, at that time that we did have the three extra for extra beds. And and that's that made perfect sense to them. And so they were committed also and yeah, we it was it was done. So
27:06 So we convinced what convinced Sharon to let us stay with these for that we that we were in love with already.
27:18 There were a couple of approvals and then we have that one meeting. Remember that when we met them at a park.
27:30 We have pizza. I think we picked up Costco pizza and I remember sitting on the ground and these kids look pretty grimy.
27:40 And then what do you know it was amazing because when I when I I remember thinking that little one is the three-year-old.
27:51 In the middle of one is the six-year-old it was 6 and and for she was. But they matched we matched our original plans even at home. I had bought dresses. I don't know if you remember that. I had bought dresses for the girls and I was all the stuff that we had collected things. They when they came home everything fit perfectly true that two of them except which we had considered what if they had a brother what if they had an older sister and I used to go back and get them to write but this time they came out together. That's why we believe that children who are in the in the foster care system.
28:40 That are siblings or anywhere. They should be adopted together. We don't want them to be split and they moved in with us a week before April. I know we signed papers on April, but they came home before and I remember how excited they were. They all the first day when we were driving home and we stopped at Mimi's to have breakfast at 4, and I remember Michelle asking me if it was okay that they call me Mom and ever since then we have not turned back.
29:19 That's that was the beginning of a new Love Story the four biological kids and the four new kids. They kind of nestle together they fit and you know, what's funny even in portraits. They all look like us. So yeah she does because we to blend
29:49 But it didn't end there. No, that was the first adoption story and the second one was a few years later 2 years later after so all along the kids are saying we want to adopt so they they they even told us right to either have or I have more kids ourselves or adopt again God is the one who gives children and I remember they used to pray that God would give us more kids and I used to think yeah, maybe in the future when they are grown up and you know, we have more but the kids would say, we're not that many we still have room. That's right. And what was amazing was?
30:37 I mean it was have to be from God. There was a family at church that was similar to artists it very large and they had a few foster kids how many for work now they adopted they had a private adoption with the birth of the mom had given birth and they needed someone and they adopted the baby right away. If baby has three older siblings. So after they adopted the little baby in the three other siblings were with them as well. They were not with them, but they were in Foster Authority. The oldest sister was with them and the two younger ones were somewhere else and they asked us at through that the social workers contacted us and asked us if we would consider taking them.
31:31 And we didn't hesitate on bedroom and I know it sounds kind of crazy in her brain, but
31:41 Looking back. I I don't think I would do it any other way. The girls they're just a joy to be with and they love us and it was just such a joy to have a little three year olds again climbing on my lap. And even though it's she's seven years old and she kisses and hugs and you know at random times says I love you mom. I like how she asks for hug therapy. So I have I have the saying that you know, when one of the kids is bratty or when they're they look like they need a hug. I say a looks like you need a good dose of hug therapy. And then what I do is I hold them not tight. I hold them.
32:27 And then I can feel them relax after a few minutes.
32:31 And then they're okay.
32:34 So our family is a special family because we we were blessed. We're blessed with four biological children and six adopted children for siblings that came to us. And then after that adoption was final two years later two other little sisters siblings that came into our and if you were to look at these girls, the youngest one, her name is Kaylee. She's like your Mini-Me. She looks so much like you and I just
33:12 If our kids ever hear this I want them to know that.
33:19 God is the one who puts families together and they and they are put together from Heaven even though they were not born from us that love that has grown and the more we know them the more we love them and we have been bonded together and there's absolutely nothing that they could do or not. Do that would separate us from them.
33:47 Yeah, and in in my heart, there is no difference. I know it sounds kind of weird but I love these kids the same whether they were born to you or they were I told my co-workers. Some kids came One Way others came a different way, but they're all mine. I love my kids and the birth children. I am so proud of all their sacrifice because they loved unconditionally and they have been able to bond together and not regret not have any regrets and they gave up a lot. I remember there was a discussion about where to put these new kids and I remember the kids saying well, I'll give them my bed so they can sleep here.
34:37 And that that sacrifice that's always been there.
34:41 And I hope that when they're 80 years olds, they still have that Bond and that they still are able to to love each other and that they will carry on.
34:54 Future Family session
34:59 So we have 10 kids and the funny thing is they all talk about having big families. So imagine if they each have five we could have 50 descendants who would have known it would be multiplied in this way and you know
35:27 One thing that is at the core of who we are is that we both come from broken families.
35:34 You know, your mom was a single parent. My mom was a single parent. They were both abandoned by their husbands.
35:41 And they raised us and one of the things that is really a main purpose of our family is to provide a home a stable home for these kids where the family is not broken because we want to break the cycle. We want to show them. What complete is we want to show them what a family is.
36:02 And I'm so hopeful for each of them. But God would give them a family of Their Own.
36:09 And that we would have 50 60 70 descendants.
36:16 Yes, and even though with families are not perfect. There's there's always a lot of things to work out but love can work through anything trying.
36:31 You know, I don't think I would trade any experience.
36:36 I mean it's hard sometimes but I love our family and even though sometimes we go places and we stand out because we're so many or we have the biggest car in the whole parking lot. I'm just very thankful for each of our kids and I'm thankful for family. And I know that each one of them is going to make us proud. That's what I think whatever they choose to do. Whatever life they live. They will they will do it for for the what's best.
37:09 I'm so glad we had a chance to talk about this and remember once more.
37:17 I love you. I love you, too.