My biggest fear going on the journey of international adoption was always the amount of in-country time that agencies required of adoptive parents. We have a good size family at home, and the thought of leaving them for six to eight weeks was almost more than I could stomach.
So, six children later. Three biological and three domestic adoptions, we were introduced to Ghana adoption by friends who had adopted two children from there. After much soul searching and prayer, we began our international adoption journey with Ghana, Africa.
We were using a power of attorney in Ghana to identify an adoptable orphan; we were doing it independently here in the U.S. Our friends helped us to know what documents to acquire in the states to prepare for an I600 (a petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative). It is one of the many steps the U.S. requires of adoptive parents to obtain a visa for the child being adopted. If we had been using an agency, they would have taken care of this step for us.
Our timeline was given to us: we could expect to have our daughter home to our family in around six to nine months. After identifying the daughter we would be adopting, my husband traveled to go to an in-country court. We were told he would need to travel twice. The first trip would be to go to court, which would be a two-week trip. The other trip would be to go to the U.S. Embassy to obtain her visa and bring her home: another two-week trip.
The first trip over to Ghana was an amazing experience for my husband when he was able to spend some quality time with our almost 3-year-old. This trip was in June, we were told to expect to travel for pickup by August at the latest.
Well, August came and went, the country of Ghana suspended adoptions in their country to investigate child trafficking. We waited five long months with no end in sight and no word from Ghana. In our country, we were the adoptive parents of our child. However, we didn’t have a visa for her to travel to the U.S. During these months, I traveled to Ghana for a two-weekThanksgiving break to finally meet our daughter. It was a great trip and a lot of learning took place for both of us as she spoke a village language, not English.
In February the following year, paperwork started to move forward very slowly as the Ghanian government was investigating every adoption case. One of the families we associated with here in the U.S. received their children’s visas and asked me to travel with them to bring their 5-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter home. I was able to spend another precious two weeks with our little girl in Ghana. By this time, she was 3.
Another few quiet months slowly dragged on, by June our in-country Power of Attorney let me know that he expected to pick up our daughter’s passport and visa on a particular day so I should come to Ghana. I needed to be available to meet with the U.S. Embassy for visa pickup.
So travel I did, expecting to be in the country another two weeks and come home with our daughter. As I arrived in Ghana, I learned that the government had not paid their passport booklet bill and so the manufacturer of booklets was not releasing them to the passport office for print. This meant a two-week wait for me. After receiving the proper documentation, I extended my trip because the embassy only received visa interviews on specific days of the week and I could only go with an appointment and invitation.
At my appointment with the embassy, I learned a document my POA had acquired a year before had expired and I needed to travel two hours south to a small town and go back to court to get the document renewed. Long story short, I was in country six weeks by the time I had the visa approval. This appointment happens on a Monday, then we are given an invitation to come back to the embassy on Thursday for pickup.
I had everything packed and ready to go pick up my daughter’s visa. I had a driver waiting outside the embassy to take us to the airport and we would leave that very night. Upon entry into the embassy, I learned that the visa print system worldwide had been hacked. This meant that every time their computers were turned on to print someone’s visa, their computers would crash. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had spent my entire summer away from my six children and husband, I was ready to travel home that very night and the embassy told me that this problem would take at least another ten days.
I ended up taking our daughter back to the orphanage that day. She had been with me exclusively for six weeks. She was even learning English. Our time together had been one of necessity for us to bond, and now I was taking her back to the orphanage. It was crushing to my soul. I cried my entire trip to Germany. The fight was not over, and luckily I left our adoption in the hands of the U.S.
I was home ten days before traveling back to Ghana with my husband to pick up our daughter. Thirty hours over, six hours in Ghana, and thirty hours home. Many, many lessons learned. Hearts bound together through turmoil and strife, and a happy little lady that became our baby of seven.