But I know this family. I know their story. I know their integrity. I know their willingness to walk away if this adoption wasn't in the best interests of the girls. And knowing all that, I know it's time to write this post in hopes that it can help draw attention and bring help to their case.
In May 2009, Mary and Comfort entered orphanage care in Ghana, their mother unable to care for them and their father having left years before. In November 2012, the mother terminated her parental rights. And in 2013, Gretchen and Doug Hanna began an adoption. They were matched with Mary and Comfort, who were ages 7.5 and 6 at the time. With the support of their two older children, the Hannas began the process to become Mary's and Comfort's family.
|their referral picture, early 2013|
A couple months later, we found out about three siblings in another African country. They were 6, 4, and almost 2 at the time. While they were waiting for family, they hadn't been living in an orphanage too terribly long. They hadn't been waiting for years like Mary and Comfort had. Like our friends had done a few months prior, we said yes to being their family.
|our referral picture, spring 2013|
Both sibling sets needed a new family. Both sibling sets met the US criteria for being considered an orphan, which are that the child "does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents OR has a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption."
But now our three siblings from Uganda are here with us and have been for 14 months, while Mary and Comfort still wait. Until their denial, every step of Gretchen's and Doug's process was ahead of ours - referral almost three months earlier, court five months earlier, and embassy interviews one month earlier. Then they screeched to a halt, because the USCIS said the girls' biological father needed to give consent. Nevermind that he had left the family long ago, nevermind that their biological mother gave her consent, nevermind that she and others testified that the father had intentionally abandoned them and could not be found, nevermind that USCIS investigators couldn't find him (nor could private investigators hired by the family). Nevermind that the courts in Ghana had declared Mary and Comfort to be legally Hannas and deemed all requirements for adoption to be met. And nevermind that denying these girls a visa wouldn't make their father appear or decide to parent.
No, a refusal to issue a visa just means that Mary and Comfort still wait for a stable family. Meanwhile, our Patience, Philip, and Patricia have been in our home and family to celebrate two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, one Easter, one summer, and one birthday each with second birthdays right around the corner.
In case you're wondering about the adoption ban in Ghana, that doesn't apply to this case. They were finishing the adoption just as the ban took place, so absolutely everything is legal according to the laws of Ghana and the policies of the US. In fact, the Hannas received a letter from Social Welfare of Ghana assuring them that it was fine for the girls to be adopted and asking the US to grant their visas.
Yet, they wait.
I want to issue a call to action here, but I'm not really sure what it should be. As Gretchen said in her last blog post about this, any advocacy can help. So if you're willing, contact elected officials (especially if you already have an established relationship there) or media sources (see here for one media appearance they've already made). Consider sharing this post in hopes that it will catch the attention of someone who can help.
And pray for progress, please. Our children have been home for more than a year while theirs still wait. These girls have been without a family for nearly six years and can't yet join their legal family.
I'm praying and writing this in hopes for some change to bring their wait to an end soon, because it's not right that our family picture looks like this
while theirs looks like this.