We first committed to R over eight months ago (April 2012). Each day our love for her has grown so exponentially I can't even contain it. We learned about A roughly a month later and agreed to pray about adopting her as well, because we were told it was in the best interest of the girls (who are best friends) to remain together. It took what felt like an eternity (also known as two months) to have wisdom and peace with committing to her as well, which we did in July.
As we worked with our local social worker to update our homestudy for the adoption of these two precious girls, we came to learn a lot of unpleasant truths about the orphanage they were residing in. Stories of neglect and severe abuse. Stories of finding/creating "orphans" for families instead of finding families for the true orphans already in their care. Stories of horror lived by the children in that institution. These are not rumors or exaggerated tales of minor infractions. These are true, accurate, documented accounts of the conditions the children are subjected to within the walls of that facility and the incredulous nature of the orphanage's director. We continued to pray about whether we were to move forward, knowing that we would be dealing directly with the director of the home to complete our adoption. We knew very clearly that God called us to fight for these girls, and so we did. We maintained regular contact with the orphanage director and gathered all the documents needed for our dossier (the collection of paperwork needed to show us as suitable parents for the Ghanaian courts).
We wired money for the girls' medicals to be done and for the proper clearances to be obtained for the girls to be legally cleared for adoption. It took several weeks, but we finally received their medical information and were told that the remaining paperwork (relinquishments & Social Inquiry Reports) would only be done after we submitted our dossier and a significant sum of money. Having been through this process once, we knew that was not the established procedure, but the director kept insisting this is the "new way."
We continued to pray, and very clearly heard God tell us to GO. Drop what we're doing and GO to our girls. We were scared to death because we had no idea what we were supposed to do if we went. We didn't even know if we would be able to afford a trip over...so we prayed "God, we hear you telling us to go, but You must provide so we can"...and He did! As you probably know, we hosted an online auction to benefit our adoption. That auction ended right around the time we heard this call to go. That auction, by God's grace and provision, brought in exactly $4,072. I really didn't think that would even cover our airfare, especially during the holidays (Sam's ticket alone to bring L & C home was more than that a year ago), but God provided. I checked flights with several carriers and itineraries over a course of several days. The tickets hit a major low and I booked them! With the bargain price I got on airfare, plus staying at a very inexpensive guest house as opposed to a nicer hotel, our auction earnings were enough to cover ALL our travel expenses! God provided the means, so we went to Ghana! You can read all about that here.
SIDE NOTE: Many months ago (late spring-early summer), charges were filed against the orphanage based on the issues I mentioned above. In October of this year, after completing their investigation, the government raided the home and removed most of the children, but our girls were among those left behind to continue to endure the nightmare.
Anyway, we arrived in Ghana under the radar so to speak. We kept our trip very quiet, with only immediate family and a few close friends in the know about our journey of faith across the ocean. We had a strong conviction that we needed to do everything in our power to have the girls removed from this awful orphanage. We wanted to move forward to bring them into our forever family, but it was obvious that could not ethically happen while they were under the "care" of that place. Thanks to an amazing friend, we were able to connect with one of the top leaders within the Department of Social Welfare (SW) - the govt agency responsible for overseeing all adoptions in Ghana - about our case. This woman treated me very kindly and was very open about the situation in that home. She explained the the reason R & A had been allowed to stay at the orphanage was because they were each somehow distantly related to the director's family. A is related to the director and R is related to his wife (both by at least 4 degrees of separation...so by no means a "close" relative). Supposedly the children who remain at this facility are all somehow related to the head couple of the institution, so while the facility is legally closed, these poor "relative" children remain to suffer abuse at the hands of those who should love them most!
During our week in Ghana, we met with several members of SW about having the girls removed and placed into a foster home. While there, a case worker was assigned to investigate their specific cases to see if we could also get the ball rolling on their adoption paperwork. What came next was something we could never have anticipated.
The TRUTH about R:
We learned that R's birth mother, M, had NO KNOWLEDGE of her residing in an orphanage!!! An aunt was supposed to be caring for her all these years. A trusted family member had promised to raise R, who had been born to an unwed teen mom, but instead placed her in at least 2 different orphanages over the last 6+ years that we know of. M was understandably furious to learn of this deceit and of the atrocities that her precious daughter had been subjected to all this time. The aunt would periodically remove R from the facility to go visit M at her home in a different village, completing the rouse that she was caring for the child. M is now married with a young daughter, just over a year of age. She is in a place in her life where she is able to care for R and she WANTS to! Therefore, we offered to not only cease our adoption of R, but also to remain her education sponsor so that she can be returned to her birth family and still be able to continue her schooling. M & R have my phone number and we have regular communication. While we are grieving this very real loss of our daughter, we have complete peace that she is in the arms of the mother God planned for her. Had we not gone to Ghana to fight for her, she may never have been returned to her birth family who loves and WANTS her! Of course I want her too...but international adoption is intended ONLY to be a LAST RESORT for orphans who can not otherwise be cared for in their native land. This is not the case for R and our ethical standards kept us from proceeding.
Let me say that this child will ALWAYS be my daughter in my heart. I have been covering her in prayer for roughly a year and have been committed to making her a member of our family for over 8 months. While my first thought is to liken my emotions to a woman having a stillbirth at full term, losing a child you've planned for and loved, my situation is much different. I have a RELATIONSHIP with this child. We have written letters and skyped and now met and snuggled and played together! While she has been instructed (understandably) to no longer call me Mommy, but rather Auntie Christy, I will forever be her America Mommy and I am abundantly thankful that M wants us to remain in their lives.
The TRUTH about A:
A's story is a little murkier. The unfortunate TRUTH about A is that she remains at the orphanage even as I write this. We fought our hardest to have her removed, but hit one stumbling block after another. I will be contacting SW again this week to touch base, but the basic understanding at this point is that A's family can NOT support her, does NOT want to, has relinquished ALL of her siblings, but has been talked out of relinquishing her, which means our adoption of A is going to be a failed adoption as well. It is a devastating situation for our daughter. She has one family that wants her...us...but we can not make her ours because of some alternate anti-adoption agenda pushed on A's birth family. Even as we sat together in the SW office, A's grandmother was flip flopping and changing her story. We know there is another family who has been trying to adopt A out from under us. We can not say for sure if they have any connection to the family not consenting to our adoption now in order that they might get the consent later, but it is certainly in my mind. I do have the word of the SW Director that if A is EVER legally cleared for adoption, we will be given first opportunity because our dossier is logged in and waiting specifically for her, but only time will tell what God's plan is there. We, again, are devastated over the loss of our child. She has been in my daily prayers for seven months and in my heart as my daughter for five. While I will probably always hold onto some small sliver of hope that she could someday be our daughter, the reality is we are not going to be able to adopt her right now or any time in the foreseeable future.
In a moment we lost two of our children.
The book of Job has come alive to me in the last month. To experience such grief and loss and still focus on worshiping God through it all, regardless of circumstances, is something I'm striving to do, but it's unbelievably difficult.
In the coming days, as we enter the new year, I will be chronicling our family's journey through this loss. The entire family is grieving immensely and I hope to share candidly what that looks like...not to exploit the raw emotions of my family, but rather to hopefully help someone else to know that they aren't alone. Maybe even to show the redemption waiting on the other side of choosing ethics in adoption over my own want & desire to bring "my child" home.
"...Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." ~Job 1:21