Our Girl and the Adoption that Wasn’t

What I imagine the complaint file looks like at our former agency with my name on it.
(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

As we find ourselves in the season of Lent, one of the things I want to make space for grieving is the adoption of a little girl we were matched with.

It has taken me over a 17 months to find the words for this, and I still am falling short in that. This post will be disconnected at times because it is still an incredibly raw wound. Thank you in advance for the grace while reading and thinking “this doesn’t make sense.” I’m sure we are not the only ones who have gone through something like this, especially at a Christian adoption agency and for that reason I want to share our experience.

Infertility is a club I never wanted to be a card carrying member of. The juxtaposition of being genuinely excited for your friends and their happy news after suffering a recent loss is a space no one should occupy. Recently we announced that my wife is pregnant, which we are excited about, but IVF was never in the plan. Ever since we started dating (some twelve years ago) we had wanted to adopt. One of the ideas being, why would we bring new life into this world when there are so many children that can be loved now.

Every time we had the ball rolling on an adoption, fostering, or foster-to-adopt something came up. Usually a job loss (mine) or having to move for another job. All domestic was the plan, until a Waiting Child Wednesday list was released and we suddenly changed to international adoption.

In January 2019 we contacted an international adoption agency about a little girl who was about to turn two. In March we were officially matched with her. And in August of 2020 we had our referral pulled by the agency.

We were told at the beginning of this journey that she’d be home by her third birthday. On her fourth birthday. My wife found the right words for this:

Today is her 4th birthday. She was supposed to be home, in our arms, with a cake and songs a dollhouse, surrounded by love and family. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. And we are still angry. Our hearts still ache as we grapple with this reality. Even though we will never meet, She will always be our girl. I hope that she is loved and celebrated today. And always.

A screenshot of the painting my wife had commissioned for me for Father’s Day last year.

When we moved to Sylvania in March of 2020, we asked our contact at the agency if that would be an issue, and we asked to continued to be contacted about what was going on. However, in November of 2019 we received the call that things were not going well. Our contact told us that we were at the end of our rope and that there was no seeing through what was next (I’m paraphrasing but the words “end of the rope” are a direct quote). When we started this journey we had known it was going to be an upward battle. After all, President Tr*mp gutted immigration and made our chances to bring her here from the country she is from incredibly difficult. Then came the pandemic, which is still raging.

But in all, our contact at the agency had been feeding what we felt like was false hope. Before we moved, after the conversation of us being at the end of our rope, I very candidly asked our contact what the viability of bringing her home was. The following is a paraphrase of how it went:

Contact: God can do anything and we need to be praying.

Me: I was a pastor. I understand how we think God works, and does not work. It is not your job to tell me what God can and can’t do, it’s your job to tell me whether or not my daughter is coming home.

Contact: (silence)

Things did not look good for a long time. After we had moved to Sylvania, we still hadn’t heard from our contact, so naturally we reached out. This was when we found out that we allegedly told them not to contact us during the move, and that made us a bit angry. It had been over a year since we had received an update from the orphanage on our girl, and we had been asking for updates the entire time but it was still radio silence. We asked our contact for specific growth information, and had heard nothing. Finally, we reached out to our contacts boss with our concerns. It may have been a dick move but in talking with her boss, it was the first time we felt we hadn’t been gaslit in almost a year.

It had been decided we (our contact, my wife, and I) would have a conversation about the state of things. After our contact had complained about how much they were in need of a vacation and how tough things were, we were forced into a position where we had to comfort them. Not quite what we had planned and had been told to expect from this conversation from their boss. Finally, when we pressed our contact on questions like, “what is the viability of the adoption?” or, “have we heard from the orphanage owner?” trying to see if there had been any updates and redirecting the conversation to what we were told to expect, she responded with, “I can always withdrawal your referral.” To say the least, this was not the reaction we had expected. We were pissed.

After things had calmed down, we were instructed we’d have a group phone call with their boss and the one other family in the program. After consent was confirmed, they sent on the information of the other family for contact and we started talking about our experience with the program. A date was determined for our conference call, and we (both families) were all the same page on what we wanted:

  1. Contact within two weeks from the orphanage director
  2. An update on both kids
  3. A viable timeline on the kids coming home

We had found out during that phone call that our contact hadn’t had regular contact with the orphanage director in over six months (closer to a year), which was incredibly worrying, and not ever stated before. Over the next little bit of time, we heard nothing from our contact or her boss, and then we received the date of the call: August 12. There was a lot of anxiety around this. We suspected the outcome but prayed that would not be the case.

The day of the phone call. Quite a bit was a blur, but this stood out:

Contact: At this time, I have not had communication with XXXX at XXXX Orphanage for several weeks… I know that XXXX loves the children in her home and wants the very best for them.

It was after this that the boss said they had not had a successful plan for bringing these kids to the US since 2018, which was news to us. This included people having to live in the country from 6-10 months in hopes that the US consulate would grant an adoption so the kid could go back to the US. Because we (and others through various points of the adoption) were given the option of going over to the country, adopting her, then leaving her at the orphanage to return at an unknown date in hopes we could maybe one day bring her home.

The phone call ended with our contacts boss rescinding the remaining referrals for the orphanage in that country. Sure they partly blamed the pandemic, and the previous presidential administration for gutting immigration policies, but what they didn’t say was they were giving people false hopes. By continuing to promote this program and country as a viable option to prospective parents, they were setting people up for heartbreak and failure. While we expected this to happen, it was one of the most gutting experiences of my life. The shoe had finally dropped, and we were done. There were placations from the boss and our contact, but they fell on deaf ears.

There were a few times where we and the other couple talked, but mainly it was trading angry words with the only other people in our worlds who would understand the hurt.

Lord willing, in less than two months we will welcome our son into the world. I cannot adequately state my excitement to meet him, but this, IVF, was never the plan.

Recently the orphanage posted their first updates on social media in almost a year, and she is still there. Still the girl that had her fingers in my heart, and now I’m just praying someone in country is able to get her home. I’ll never forget that the podcast the Missionary came out as things were really starting to go down hill. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend it, however it is incredibly upsetting.

I’m sure I’ll post a follow up on this in a few weeks, but this is where I’m choosing to end this post. Unlike other areas in my life, it is not easy being vulnerable when it comes to this.

Grace and peace y’all.

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