Fostering Hope Out of Heartbreak

A Story of Adoption

by jen molk

Kirk and Nancy Porter were quite content in life with one another – married in their mid-20s and nurturing ambitious career goals, Kirk would become an information technology consultant and Nancy a physical therapist for Billings Clinic.

Their spare time was precious and spent backpacking, hiking, mountain biking and snowshoeing. At home it was all about good wine, movies and walking their dogs. “We were living a good life with no kids and a double income and hadn’t given much thought to having children,” Nancy admitted.

In fact, Nancy firmly believed at a young age that she would have no children. “My friends growing up would always say ‘I can’t wait to get married and have kids or all I want to do is get married and have kids,’ she shared. “I just never really pictured myself with kids.”

In fact, Kirk’s desire to have a family one day was profound enough to cause the still-dating couple to end their relationship for a short period before they agreed to get married nonetheless.

But about five years into the marriage, Nancy began having a bizarre series of dreams about a baby boy. “I finally told Kirk about the dreams and we discussed adoption,” she explained.

Why adoption? Nancy was impassioned about the fact that in America alone, there are half a million children in foster care and approximately 120,000 of those children are waiting to be adopted.

“This is why we chose to adopt our son through the foster care system,” she said. “We did not choose to adopt children because we cannot have our own biological children. For us, adoption was the only plan.”

After adopting their son Haan as an infant six years ago through the Billings foster care system, the Porters thought their family was complete. “After all, we had our own plans for our life,” Nancy said. “I wanted to keep our family easy, manageable, portable, comfortable, and simple. But God once again had other plans--plans that would take me way outside my safety zone.”

The Porters would next travel across the world in search of another child to add to their family. “We began the process in December 2007 and immediately narrowed our choice down to Africa,” Nancy began. “We had been involved with and supported the ONE campaign for years and had always had an interest in the continent. We began to investigate the options for adoption from Africa, and found out there are only a couple countries in Africa where adoption is legal.”

The process was smooth for the most part. After much paperwork, background checks and fingerprints, and fulfilling immigration requirements, the Porters received their “referral,” an industry term referring to the baby the agency chooses for prospective parents.

“We originally had requested a baby aged nine to 15 months old at the time of referral,” Nancy explains, “but we received a referral for a two-month old baby girl. We could have turned down the referral for any reason, but of course we were in love at that point and didn’t care that she was a young baby.”

When Nancy and Kirk first laid eyes on Eden, they were overcome with emotion. “Mostly joy, but also a flood of others,” Nancy says. “She was a real person in a faraway place that did not have anyone to care for her.”

Also weighing heavily on the Porters’ emotional toll were the alarming statistics coming out of Ethiopia:

One in ten children die before their first birthday, something Nancy witnessed while she was there

One in six children die before their fifth birthday

The average Ethiopian makes $110 per year

60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition

The median age in Ethiopia is 17.8 years

1.5 million people are infected with AIDS (6th highest in the world)

720,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS alone, and there are 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia.

Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school.

88% will never attend secondary school.

Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa

In Ethiopia, there is one physician for every 40,000 people and one nurse for every 14,000 people

“Two of my friends from the same agency experienced the pain of hearing that their referred infant children had passed away while they waited to travel,” Nancy said. “It made the wait from time of referral to time of travel excruciating, more painful than waiting for a referral.”

After a few bumps along the way, such as their case not passing through the courts right away in Ethiopia and having to await for a slew of existing investigations to be resolved ahead of theirs, little Eden became the final Porter completing the family once and for all.

“She really is such a delight,” Nancy said proudly. “I can’t believe how quickly she is overcoming her growth and developmental delays. We just celebrated her one year birthday. She is such a bright baby and adapted so quickly to her new environment.”

The experience of international adoption has been equally gratifying for Kirk. “Surreal, really, I cannot begin to explain the rush of emotions and cultural differences experienced,” he said. “All the work was worth the beautiful life that is now a part of our family.”

Do the Porters recommend international adoption? “There are still millions of children in Ethiopia crying out for the hope of a family and permanent love,” Nancy said. “We know adoption is not an option for everyone nor do we think every orphan should be or can be adopted, but every orphan should be loved and cared for.”

She continued, “People can be divided into four groups: Those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; those who wonder what happened; and those who didn’t realize anything happened,” she summed up. “We want to be in the first group!”

To learn more about the Kirk and Nancy’s journey through adoption visit their blog at www.heartforethiopia.blogspot.com.

Kirk and Nancy Porter are planning to start an Ethiopian adoption support ministry at Faith Chapel in Billings. There they will guide families through the process from agency choice all the way to homecoming and beyond.  The Porters urge anyone interested to contact them at barkleysmom@gmail.com.

ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization supported by over 2 million people dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. To learn more about ONE, visit www.one.org

Jennifer Molk is a freelance writer in Billings. She enjoys writing about topics and issues she herself seeks the answers to. She is a mother of two.