FARMINGTON, N.M. — Some people might think Richard Austin is a hero. Or he's absolutely crazy. Or, maybe, both.

But Austin doesn't know what all the fuss is about.

A local attorney who deals primarily with children, Austin, who is single with one adopted son, adopted six more children Nov. 18, and without a dry eye in the courtroom.

"I don't see what the big deal is," Austin said quietly a few hours after the adoption proceedings, his arms resting on the family's dining room table. "To me it's just business as usual."

Austin knew what he was getting into. He's been the six siblings' foster parent for the last six months, and has known them for more than three years.

"It's not something I really planned," Austin said. "But when I saw how happy they were together, it just seemed like the thing to do."

Austin did not time the adoption to coincide with National Adoption Month, but the proceeding couldn't have come at a more perfect moment.

Nov. 18 was National Adoption Day.

The six children, ranging in age from 1 to 16, are siblings and most have been in the foster care system for the last three years, which is when Austin first made their acquaintance.

"After seeing how happy they were together it was important not to split them up," Austin said. "The likelihood of their being adopted as a group was pretty remote, and would most likely require them moving out of state. This way they get to stay together and be near their biological family."

There is no doubt that the newly created family is a close-knit group.

During the court proceedings, the love and respect between Austin and his children was obvious. They shared jokes, and 3-year-old Daniel kept calling him "Daddy." At one point, while the judge was asking questions, 1-year-old Ezrae Austin decided he was done sitting in Austin's lap.

For the rest of the proceedings, Ezrae explored the courtroom and even tried to visit District Court Judge Sandra Price, who was presiding.

While he answered the court's questions, Austin's attention was focused where any dad's would be: making sure his son wasn't getting into too much mischief.

"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" asked adoption lawyer Patricia Simpson.

"Can I back out now?" Austin joked, looking at the children. "I am sure."

Austin's newfound family was transferred into his care with the blessing of both the children's biological mother and grandmother.

"I think that what Rich is doing is the best thing I have ever seen in my life," said their grandmother Joanne Aguilar, her voice cracking from tears. "Rich is the best dad, and he lets me see them. It's hard for me because they were with me, but this is in the children's best interest. He's a stable person and it's a stable place."

The children's mother agreed.

"I love my children, but this is in their best interest," said their biological mother Brandi Aguilar. "It's very hard for me, but I am grateful that they can all stay together."

She turned to Austin, tears in her eyes. "Thank you for doing this."

Next to offer testimony was Austin's adopted 19-year-old son Michael.

"I have been with him for 12 years," Michael said. "I think I turned out all right so far. He's a good dad and one of the greatest people I've met in my life."

Judge Price agreed.

"I do find, I don't know if you can make a finding like this, that Mr. Austin is one of the bravest, most courageous men I have seen come through this room," Price said.

While it may be business as usual for Austin, the sudden increase in family size means that they will be moving to a larger house in the coming weeks.

Despite what would have many people quaking, Austin doesn't seem fazed by the huge amount of responsibility he shouldered Friday.

"There are a lot of kids that are in need, and it isn't just newborns," Austin said simply. "It's a lot of fun seeing how they adapt to a new home and change."

The eldest of the children, Shayla Aguilar who is 16, thinks Austin is a good parent.

"He is firm but loving," she said. "With the younger kids, if they don't listen, he talks them through what they are doing wrong."

Austin explains his parenting style this way: "A lot of kids in foster care don't have a lot of self-esteem," he said. "They have been going from place to place so much that they often don't feel wanted.

"I don't use negative reinforcement. I try to use a lot of positive encouragement, and really praise them when they get things right."

When Austin says there is a huge need for both foster and adoptive parents, he isn't over-stating the problem.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 100 children that need foster care in San Juan County right now, and only 40 families available to provide the care.

Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com