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I was riding in a van with a television crew who was doing a piece on HONY. The cameraman, Duane, was behind the wheel. At one point he casually remarked on how bad the traffic was in Ethiopia.
"Ethiopia?" I asked. "What story were you working on there?"
"It wasn’t a story," he replied. "We were picking up our daughter.

He then told me the most amazing story. He told me that he and his wife were not able to conceive. “But I’d always resisted the idea of adoption,” he said. “My wife wanted to adopt right away, but I was just never sure if I’d be able to fully love a child that wasn’t my blood.” So time went on, and they remained childless. 

Then one evening Duane was watching a television show with his wife. The show was about aid work in Ethiopia. “They were showing before-and-after photos,” he explained. “I remember this one girl. She was skin and bones. But she still had this amazing smile and spirit in her eyes. The aid workers rehabilitated her, and six months later, she looked like a normal little girl. Right then, I turned to my wife, and said: ‘I’m ready to adopt.’” 

But it wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. “At first I thought we needed an infant,” Duane explained. “I just couldn’t imagine missing out on all those early moments of our child’s life.” But for healthy infants, the waiting list was years. “So then we went we moved up to three or four year olds.” But still, the waiting list was one to two years. “The only children you could get immediately were seven and up, and who had physical handicaps of some sort. I just didn’t think I was ready for it.”

But then Duane and his wife went on vacation. And toward the end of the trip, “after a few drinks,” Duane’s wife brought out a brochure from the adoption agency. One of the pictures showed an unsmiling seven year old girl, standing against the pink wall of an orphanage. She had been blinded in one eye. “That’s our daughter,” Duane said. 

Three years later after the Watkins adopted her, Chaltu has blossomed. She has grown over one foot, is fluent in English, and although blind in one eye, plays soccer, gymnastics, and basketball. She’s doing great at school, and has tons of friends. “She is the greatest daughter in the world,” Duane said.

“That’s an unbelievable story,” I told Duane. “Can I share it on HONY?”

“That’s fine with me,” he answered. Then he sort of stared at the ground for a second, shuffled his feet, and asked: “Would there be any possibility that you could help us raise the adoption fees to get her a brother? We’ve already found him, but aren’t financially ready yet.”

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Barry Farmer’s family is unusual, but not just because he is black and his son is white.

Although, he admits, that is pretty unusual.

“I would have never thought in a million years that I would adopt a white child,” he said with a laugh. He tells his son, Darrell, 10, that their family is unique. “You probably won’t see anybody like us in your lifetime. It’s rare.”

“I have no problem adopting outside of my race,” he said. “Everybody deserves love and deserves a family.”

The heart, he said, knows no color. Farmer’s extended family embraced Darrell with open arms.

“He fits right in. He doesn’t look like he fits in, but he fits in,” Farmer said. “He’s like a little rock star when he goes to my aunt’s house. When they hear he is coming, they get so excited.”

Farmer’s route to becoming an adoptive parent didn’t have many detours. Not only is Farmer single, he is also 25 years old. He started the process to become a foster parent when he was 20.

“I’ve never been the type of guy to party or go to the club,” he said. “I wanted a family. I wanted a child to take care of and to show them different things and share experiences with them before I got too old.”

When he first considered fostering, he didn’t think beyond providing a temporary, loving home to a child in need.

“I just thought foster kids go back to their birth families, or they move along,” he said.

Farmer describes the early stages of the process for him as “going out on a limb.” At the time, he was working in a daycare and knew it was his calling to work with youth. Now Farmer is a behavioral counselor working with children with emotional issues.

“I thought this was the perfect chance to make a difference,” he said. He saw an ad in the newspaper for foster parent training and investigated. Although he was young, he said the social worker with whom he met saw potential in him.

Part of the desire to become a foster parent was his own experience of his grandmother raising him after his birth mother neglected him and his siblings.

“I know the feeling to have nothing, to be hopeless,” he said. “I knew I could relate to these kids on that level and give them hope, some light at the end of the tunnel to show them they can come out of it.”

He credits his grandmother with helping him become the man he is today.

“Living with my grandmother, she taught me independence, to go out into the world,” Farmer said. “She taught me to mingle with different people, to not just stick to one characteristic of people, to broaden your horizons.”

His first foster placement, when Farmer was 21, was a teenager who arrived at Farmer’s apartment on his 16th birthday.

The teen was considered a “high risk placement,” Farmer said, and stayed for eight months.

Farmer said he did well, and formed a tight bond with the youth. Ultimately, however, the teen was moved to a residence that could attend to his special needs.

“I hated to see him go,” Farmer said.

A month later, he received an email about a 7-year-old boy named Darrell.

“I only got to meet him for 30 minutes,” Farmer said. “By the end of the week he was in my home and has never left.”

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