CENTRAL POINT — While most parents would consider nine children a full house, Central Point residents Mike and Marti Hill say they've got room for any kid who needs someone to love him.
The Hills, who've adopted two children to add to their brood of nine, are among 180 adoptive parents in the nation named "Angels in Adoption" by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute this year.
Their willingness to provide homes for children in need and to encourage other families to do the same made them a logical choice to nominate for the award, said Oregon Department of Human Services adoption certifier Deborah Collins.
"I think because of their big hearts for helping children and the variety of ways that they reach out to other people to promote adoption made them deserving of the award," Collins said.
"They have a real desire to help raise awareness for foster and adoptive families and they set a good example about all the other ways for helping children."
The Hills, married 17 years, had long wanted to look into foster care or adoption, but had little knowledge of the process until a few years ago.
A child in their extended family was taken into the child welfare system as a toddler. The couple quickly learned the ins and outs of the local system and became certified to foster, then adopt, the now 4-year-old boy.
Once certified, they became aware of the need in the local area for foster and adoptive homes and began looking through binders of available children, Mike Hill said.
"It was incredible how much need there was," he said.
"We know other couples here, and friends through church, who are going to China and these other countries to adopt. We were like, 'Why not adopt right here in our own community?'"
Not long after adopting the young boy, Marti, 35, an avid language buff who has taught sign language and other skills, found a 6-month-old with special hearing needs in one of the many binders displaying adoptable children.
"It was a perfect fit for us and it just felt like it was meant to be," she said.
Now just one smiling face shy of a dozen busy children, the couple say they rely on Marti's strong organizational skills and enjoy the "controlled chaos" that fills each day.
Marti stays home with the kids during the day while Mike works at a local timber company. Evenings and weekends find the kids learning to cook, playing games together and enjoying movie nights on a projector screen.
The Hills bought "the biggest table we could find," Mike said, and they're the proud owners of a 15-passenger van.
"It's the biggest vehicle you can have without a CDL (commercial driver's license)," Mike said with a laugh.
"We tease each other about going down to trucking school and learning to drive the big buses."
Because of the Hills' full house, they're restricted from adopting children inside the local system for now.
Still wanting to help other children find needed homes, the couple worked with local child welfare advocates to bring the nationally linked Heart Gallery of Oregon, a display of professional photographs of the state's adoptable children, to the Rogue Valley. The exhibit is on display at the Rogue Valley Mall through Nov. 7.
Though the Hills believe other families are more deserving of the Angels in Adoption award, Mike said they hope their story will prompt others to consider fostering or adopting.
"We would love to adopt them all. We just have a heart for kids," he said.
"Since we can't, we want to spread the word and encourage other families in Southern Oregon to adopt and foster. There are so many wonderful children who just need a place to call home."
On the Web: www.ccainstitute.org/angels.php.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.