BILLINGS – November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
Around the world, there are 153 million children without a home.
Two years ago, Q2 introduced you to the Cook family.
They were in the beginning stages of adopting a child from Ethiopia.
“When we walked into the orphanage we expected this big building with lots of room, and instead it’s just a hallway with little kids, that they just put mattresses on the floor, and the kids were just sitting there waiting, and we were just in shock, and then the translator was like ‘this is one of the nicer orphanages that we have in the city,'” said Evan Cook said.
Now, Zara has been home with them for one year.
Fifteen months, $50,000 raised, and over 8,000 miles traveled.
“Disbelief and relief, it just felt like this thing that we would never achieve and then all of a sudden we were ttravelingto Ethiopia and walking out of the orphanage with her,” Larissa Cook said.
“She’s a real human being, and she’s not just a picture anymore, it’s not just a feeling, or a hope, or a dream. We’re bringing home our daughter,” Evan said.
Bringing home a new child has its challenges. Bringing home a child from another country and heritage does too.
“A main challenge that we’ve had is obviously a language barrier. She was three and a half, did not have a ton of language exposure at the orphanage at all,” Larissa said, “She knew how to say candy and bathroom and water, so we pretty much just communicated with her on a one-word basis. We’re trying to communicate that she’s safe and that she’s loved and we can do that with our actions. She couldn’t really understand that at all at first,” Larissa said.
With a little time, love, and patience, they saw her start to feel more at home.
“You could see in her just the security of having a home, where she was like, “This is my home, this is my house. ‘ We got to show her her bed. We got to show her her room and her toys,” Evan said.
“It has not been the easiest journey for us but it has been so rewarding just to see where we’ve come from, coming home and being like, ‘We’re so sleep deprived, does she even like us?’ to how well she fits into our family.”
Ethiopia is no longer allowing adoption. Adoptions through the country are closed indefinitely, and the Cooks were one of the last families to get through.
“Ever since we were engaged, Ethiopia has been on our heart, and just to know that we were able to do it,” Larissa said.
Now Zara is in preschool, loves books and her big brother.
“He’s so patient with her,” Larissa said. “He’s her number one teacher. They are inseparable. He follows her around.”
“There’s still those elements were he wrestles with her too hard, and he’s three times her size, but he just loves her so unconditionally,” Evan said.
The Cooks say that they plan to embrace Zara’s cultural heritage and hope that she will return and be a champion for Ethiopia.
“We want her to know where she’s from, and we want her to be someone who goes back to Ethiopia and advocates for her people,” Evan said. ” And what’s amazing about her circumstances is not only is she from Ethiopia, but she’s just black, and black in Montana is obviously a minority. We’ve already gotten to have really cool conversations with people talking about bridging cultural gaps, and she’s going to get to do that,” Evan said.
“We are woefully underqualified to be parents of a little girl, but we feel like God has uniquely placed us in this situation,” Evan said. “We hope people understand that, even though they feel unqualified it will all work out, and they don’t care where your expertise is at they just want you to love them, and we all have that quality in us.”
“Every single child, no matter where they’re from or what color their skin is deserves to have loving parents and a family that just loves them no matter what,” Larissa said.
Evan and Larissa say that they would love to share guidance and advice with anyone who may be considering adoption.