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South Korea Adoption Update

One More Makes Four

Nearly three years have passed since we initially submitted our application to the Nigerian ministry to start Olivia’s adoption. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, especially since Olivia didn’t come home to Minnesota until November 2019.

We would like to thank you all for your love and support through the whole adoption process, and we would love to invite you to once again journey along with our family as we travel—this time to South Korea – to grow our family.

Below is a summary of our news and then much more detail for those who want it.

Short Version:

We are in the “paperwork stage” of adopting from South Korea! While it will be a few months before we have information on the particular child, it will likely be a boy between one and three years old. We are probably between 12 and 18 months before we make the first of two trips to South Korea. We are all so excited!

Why South Korea?

In a previous post we explained that the state of international adoption is not good, and unfortunately this has only gotten worse over the last few years. Since we first started Olivia’s process back in 2017, we have heard and seen first hand multiple agencies cutting back or even eliminating their international adoption programs. One of the major agencies we were looking into when we adopted Olivia no longer is licensed in international adoptions, and the home study agency we used when we adopted Olivia dropped their international accredidation as well.

As we wrote when we were adopting Olivia, there are a lot of rules and regulations each country has for adopting parents. We both are now over age 30, and that opens up some more options of counties to consider. However, changing policies, political unrest, and lengthening wait times in various programs pointed us towards the South Korea program.

Why Not Nigeria?

This decision comes with a mixture of excitement and sadness for us. While we are extremely excited to adopt from South Korea, we are sad that Nigeria is not a viable option for our family at this time. We love Nigeria, and in many ways see it as a second home. We think of the people and the country daily and pray that our governments would work our a way for U.S. families to bring kids home to more forever families. We are saddened by the state of adoptions in Nigeria, and quite frankly all of Africa. When Olivia’s case started moving along with a few others, we were hopeful this would be part of a systemic change in how adoption cases were handled and prioritized. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, and COVID-19 has made things even worse. We currently know families who are still stuck in Africa or separated from their legally adopted child by the U.S. visa process. The main difficulty is the uncertainty – it would be almost impossible for our family to face the high likelihood of months of separation again, particularly now that we have Olivia.

While Nigeria or another country is not a viable
option right now, we are praying that this will not always be the case. We will continue to pray for and advocate for these families, and hope that the process does improve. There are countless children in Nigeria and throughout Africa that are almost certain to grow up in an orphanage unless they are adopted internationally, so it is our hope and prayer that the U.S. can work with these countries to create a clear, predictable process that enables children to safely and confidently be adopted into forever families.

Let the Paperwork Begin!

While we have been told Korea is a simpler process and doesn’t require as much paperwork as Nigeria, we will hold our judgment till the end. Just last weekend Markus and I were finally able to stomach going through and clearing out the two expansion files of old paperwork we had for Olivia and her adoption. Even now we are still waiting for a final document for Olivia.

Here is the current stage we are at in the South Korea process: We have submitted our first application to the agency and are just getting finished with our second. After this comes the home study process. Unfortunately for us, as I previously mentioned our prior agency we worked with is no longer licensed to do international adoptions. That means we much completely start again, pay all new fees, and be assigned another social worker. We have completed the paperwork necessary for the required background check, and now that things are moving we hope that will be processed soon. We do expect quite a back up, since these crucial background check haven’t been processed for months due to not being deemed an essential service during the pandemic.

COVID-19 – The Big Unknown

We have no idea the full implications or the impact that COVID-19 will have on our adoption. One thing we do know is that God has been continually faithful and gracious to our family. We expect the process to be a little slow, at least to start. We have been made aware that just this week Minnesota is finally declaring the processing of adoption-related fingerprints/background checks as an essential service. This is an extremely crucial and necessary component for all foster care and adoptions within the state of Minnesota, and the failure by our governor to consider it essential has resulted in delays for many families. We have completed the paperwork necessary for the required background check, and now that things are moving we hope that will be processed soon.

A Little About South Korea

We have been made aware that families are starting to travel again to South Korea for adoption related trips, and have been told that at the moment they will have to quarantine for two weeks before they can meet their child. We hope and pray that COVID-19 is an unhappy memory and that this restriction will be lifted long before we travel.

Korea and Nigeria are quite different geographically and culturally, so it makes sense that the adoption processes are different too. Unlike Nigeria, which was a relatively new international adoption program for U.S. families, Korea is a long standing program that goes back to the 1980s. Because of this, overall the program and process is quite smooth and predictable. Did you read that closely? PREDICTABLE. This word rings quite sweet in my cautiously optimistic ear. As always, we are reminded that the only thing to expect in international adoption is the unexpected, but it at least appears the overall process and timeline will follow an established pattern.

With Nigeria we waited almost a year and a half for a referral and a picture of Olivia. In contrast, with South Korea, once our paperwork is in country it will only be between one and four months before we have a name and a picture to love. This makes things quite exciting at first, but it will also make the the waiting time until travel quite difficult. With Olivia, we saw her picture and were on the ground in country within two months. For this child, we will likely have to wait eight to twelve months to travel after we get the child’s information.

Unlike the one long trip we took to adopt Olivia, Korea is a two-trip process. These trips are usually between a month and three months apart. Both trips are quite short, but do require both parents for both trips.

Details on the Child

Just like with Olivia, are open to bringing home either a boy or girl and one or two children. As we entered the program, we were quite shocked to find out that it is 99% certain we will be getting a referral for one boy.

As for age, the children that are being referred to adoptive families are quite young. So, more than likely Olivia will soon have a younger brother. Even with this information, we are holding everything loosely. We wouldn’t be completely surprised to be that 1%, especially since all five of Olivia’s cousins are girls 😉.

Prayer Requests

As always, we are asking for prayer during these next steps. We are veterans at filling out adoption paperwork, but it takes a bit longer with a four year old in the house! Please pray that the process would go quickly and smoothly as we continue working on our checklist.

Pray that the Lord would grant us peace as we wait. There are a lot of factors that go into this process, and it can be emotionally and financially stressful. We know that our Father is good and will provide what we need each step of the way. We know both from Scripture and experience that God gives his people what they need no matter the circumstance, and we will confidently rest on that truth throughout the process.

We love you all, and cannot express enough how much we appreciate your prayers and support.

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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6 Months and Counting

Today marks six months since Markus and I first arrived in Nigeria to start the greatest adventure of our lives. When we left, we only had a little bit of an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Although this has been an extremely difficult time in our lives, we can both say beyond any doubt that it is worth it. It is worth every heartache, every missed special event (and there have been many), the financial stress, the lack of sleep etc. Olivia Angel Yager is worth all of that and so much more. The time that we have spent in country has allowed us to better understand her culture and to make many special memories with her. Though it has certainly come with its challenges and frustrations, it is a time that we will forever treasure.

During a season of hardship, it would be easy to become angry and bitter towards God. Though there are many times that we have questioned his timing of things, we praise God that we have never questioned his goodness. One simple song we sing every night before bed is “God is So Good.” We believe that with our whole hearts. While pain obviously does not feel good at the time, we know that God is still good. He is faithful, and he will bring about to completion that which he has already begun. We praise the Lord in all of this, and we pray that through our crazy process of adoption our lives and story would be a testament of God’s faithfulness, what he has done, and how much he loves his children.

I would love to share a few things we love and Olivia and how we have seen her grow. Olivia has a very spunky and sweet personality. She can be shy around people that she first meets, but once you get to know her she is far from quiet. She loves to talk and laugh like crazy. Though speech does not come easy for her yet, she has gained so many new words and surprises us daily with what she can say. Olivia also has a really good sense of humor. She loves to joke around with us and has one of the best belly laughs I have ever heard.

Olivia has come so far in her eating as well. When we first brought her home we were a little worried we would need to buy stock in peanut butter and ramen noodles, as that is all she would eat. Thankfully, this no longer seems necessary, as her palate has dramatically expanded. She LOVES tacos, chicken, spicy Jollaf rice, and pizza. However, someone needs to teach her how to eat pizza, as she insists that she is to eat it crust first and upside down. 🙂 This works here in Nigeria, because by the time it is delivered to our door it is at best lukewarm, so the pizza toppings do not fall off.

A question I get frequently is what we do here all day long as we wait. To start, we do very little sitting around! Every Sunday I try my best to plan the week and get our outings all set up. We have a few different restaurants and coffee shops we like to visit for croissants and to use their play place. These are cheap ways to stay entertained and have a delicious snack. I have also gotten over my hatred of grocery shopping that I had back in the U.S. We quite enjoy wandering the aisle of the grocery stores wondering if they will have new or exciting things, or if we will be disappointed and find out that our favorite milk is not in stock. We spend lots of time in the swimming pool, which is always a fun time filler. Besides that we do typical stuff any three year old would love to do, such color, blow bubbles, play babies, do crafts, and read stories. Oh yeah, she also still naps! Finally, we spend a good amount of time on FaceTime with daddy and other family members.

A few things that made me realize I have lived here for a “long” time…

  • We have become regulars at the coffee shop on Saturday mornings. We walk in, they smile and say “the usual?”
  • I literally jump for joy when our supper delivery is actually delivered to my door in under an hour!
  • I have completely tuned out the noise of traffic in the big city and laugh when my family members mimic the cars though FaceTime.
  • I have learned to tell what time it is by listening to the “Call to Prayer” coming from the mosque nearby.
  • The loss of power multiple times a day does not even phase us anymore.
  • I’ve learned that If you find something you like at the grocery store it’s best to buy as much as you can, especially if it’s imported, because you never know if or when you will see it again.
  • Cockroaches, while still unpleasant, are not the horror they once were.
  • I cheer when the stoplight is working because we can actually cross the street! Still, we know that in Lagos, one must never trust that cars or motor bikes with indeed stop. Crossing with a Nigerian is always a good idea!

We are so thankful to the Lord for our family, church family, and friends. Your continued prayers and support mean the world to us – we could not do this without you. Most of all, we are thankful to the Lord for his grace, as his mercies are indeed new every morning. It is grace beyond measure to know that Christ has secured for us an unfading inheritance, and that the suffering in this life is nothing compared to the joys he has in store for his people. It is this hope that enables us to endure day after day, even as we pray that our family is reunited back home before we reach seven months.

We love you all!

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One Year & Waiting

Our God is Gracious

As we mark our year anniversary from the date we first sent our “letter of intent to adopt” to the Nigerian government, we continue to wait and trust in God’s perfect and sovereign timing.

We want to let you know how grateful we are to the Lord for everyone who has been praying with us and has supported us financially in our adoption expenses. Thank you again to everyone who participate in our t-shirt fundraiser as well as other ways of giving. If you didn’t have a chance to get in on the first t-shirt order and would still like to do so, we will be opening up another round of orders likely around the end of August/early September. If you want to get put on the list to be reminded when the time comes, let us know!

We are very thankful to have family and friends who ask us regularly how we’re are doing and if we have any news yet. Even though our answer is “No, nothing new, just waiting!”- it is so encouraging to know that people care.

Waiting with Patience & Anticipation

This waiting stage has been one of the hardest stages yet of the adoption process, probably because there is not a lot we can do. We do not even have a name or a face of the children we are waiting for, but our thoughts are on them continually and we are praying for news soon. We are thankful to our agency, who has reassured us that they are diligently working towards the right referral for our future family.

Since November, we have been excited and honored to watch three other families from our agency go through the adoption finalization process in Nigeria. Following these families has been a good “distraction” for us, and it was a blessing to closely follow along in their journeys and to learn more about what we can expect and some of the potential challenges we may face while in Nigeria. Now, with no one that we know to follow along with we are growing more and more eager for it to be our turn to travel and meet our kids for the first time.

The Lord has been so gracious and given us a huge sense of peace in our waiting thus far. However, as time passes by we long each day to see the faces of our sweet children and to hold them in our arms. Our hearts ache to welcome them into our family and to begin a new life with them. We know our wait time for a referral is relatively short compared to so many adoptions, both international and domestic. And we also know that receiving a referral is just the start of a very crazy process in which so much could happen, both ups and downs. Ultimately we trust that God, the author and creator of all things, has his good and perfect plan and in that we find our hope and rest – even if our adoption process is not anything like what we imagine or planned.

Prayer Requests

Please pray with us for a quick referral of two children and a smooth process to follow. Please pray for continued funds to come in for our adoption expenses, and for the process in Nigeria to be swift so that Markus is able to stay the entire time with us. Pray for the other families that are waiting, especially those who have referrals and are waiting to travel.

Waiting and trusting in the one who holds the whole world in the palm of his hand,

Markus & Sarah

 

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Why We Are Adopting From Nigeria

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get when people find out we are adopting is: Where are you adopting from? When we reply with Nigeria, we quickly get asked the follow up questions: Why Nigeria? Did you pick that country? Have you ever been there?

The aim of this post is two-fold: to share with you how we came to join the Nigeria program and to share a little bit with you about a country that has been growing in our hearts for the past seven months.

I know that there are many of you reading this who have heard our story, so for some of you portions of this post may be a little repetitive. For that, I apologize.

Once we chose Nightlight Christian Adoptions to be our placing agency, we were quickly connected with a representative at the agency who gave us a small list of counties which they thought could be a good match for us. By small, I mean two. 🙂 As we looked further at these two countries we arranged to speak by phone with a representative from the agency to learn more about these programs. Our first phone call was with a representative about the India program. At the conclusion of that conversation I was fairly confident that we did not need to have the next conversation because that program seemed right to me. However, that first conversation was soon followed by another phone call about the Nigeria program. As the phone conversation continued both Markus and I grew excited for this program. Though there was no lightning bolt from heaven or an audible voice telling us that this was the right program, we both came to the conclusion that we wanted to proceed with the Nigeria program. There were and are so many scary things about adopting from Nigeria, but we both felt a peace about moving forward with this program.

I know that there are some of you reading this post and you are wondering why our list of countries was limited to just two. For those of you who are not very familiar with the current state of international adoption, you may find it interesting to note that, many countries have closed their international adoption programs for one reason or another. Countries that use to be open to United States citizens adopting their children such as Romania, Russia and Ethiopia, and many more no longer allow these inter-country adoptions to take place, and not necessarily because they don’t want them too. International adoptions are down 80% since 2004, and if this trend continues these adoptions will cease entirely by 2022. This is rightfully described as a crisis, and there is currently a petition for the White House to look into this issue and prioritize reversing this trend. (You can sign here – we have! If you do, make sure to watch for the confirmation email to ensure your signature is counted.)

Another interesting thing we ran in to when looking at different international programs was the fact that the countries that remain open have quite a few restrictions, such as how old both adopting parents must be in order to adopt, how many years the couple must be married, the age difference between parents and children, the birth order of children, as well as the number of children you have. These policies can all play a role as to whether or not you are eligible to adopt. It was some of these restrictions that further limited our country options.

If you are like us and didn’t know or don’t know a lot about Nigeria we would like to share with you a few facts (taken from the CIA World Factbook) about the birth country of our future kid(s).

  • Nigeria is located in Western Africa and shares borders with Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad.
  • It has an area that is about six times the size of Georgia and is a little bit bigger than two times the size of California.
  • The country of Nigeria is the most populous country in all of Africa, with approximately 191 million people living there. It is made up more than 250 ethnic groups.
  • The Lagos metropolitan area (where we will be living) is 21 million people, which is slightly more popular than the New York City metro area.
  • Though there are over 500 indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria, you may be surprised to know that English is the official language. This will make things much easier for us while we stay in country and communicate with government officials and judges. It also eliminated the need for all of our documents to be translated into another language.
  • Nigeria is 50% Muslim and 40% Christian. The remaining 10% is a mix of indigenous religions.

Prayer Requests

  • That the matching process would go smoothly, and that it would be clear if we are to accept the match when it is presented to us.
  • That God would continue to provide more funding for our adoption expenses.
  • For the Langdon family. They are the second family from our agency and they in Nigeria with their two daughters waiting to get their U.S. visas to come home – pray for this process to go quickly – it can take quite a while!

So thankful to all of you for your prayers and support!

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Adoption Update: Waiting for a Match

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Here’s a quick update of where we are in the process of adoption: 

All our paper work has been sent from our agency in the U.S. to Nigeria!  Now we are in the “real” waiting process. During this phase of our adoption we are waiting for Nigeria to match us with a child – or two – that they believe will be a good fit for us. This process could (and likely will) take months. It’s hard to believe we sent our initial paperwork off seven months ago!  If all goes well, we are still thinking we will be traveling in late summer or early fall.

As we wait on the Lord’s perfect timing, we have been very busy looking and applying for as many adoption grants as possible. A few weeks ago I sorted through 100 grants online! I was able to narrow it down to just the dozen or so that we are eligible to apply for, and we have been very busy filling out these often lengthy applications. Adoption is very expensive, and any grants that we can get are helpful in minimizing the amount of money that we will have to take out in loans for our adoption. We are also brainstorming and planning some fundraisers – more on this to come!

Until our next update, here are a few prayer requests:

Praise

  • Our paperwork is in the hands of those in Nigeria!  Pray for grace and wisdom as they look for a match for us.
  • We were awarded with our first grant!  Very thankful to Amy’s Legacy for this blessing.

Prayer Requests

  • That the matching process would go smoothly, and that it would be clear if we are to accept the match when it is presented to us.
  • That God would continue to provide more funding for our adoption expenses. 
  • For the Langdon family. They are the second family from our agency and they are now in Nigeria with their two daughters – pray for them tomorrow as they go to court to finalize the adoption!

So thankful to all of you for your prayers and support!

 

Photo Credit: Natika Nichols

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Why International Adoption?

Several people have asked why we chose to adopt internationally instead of domestically, either from Minnesota or elsewhere in the U.S. It is true that there are many children in Minnesota and all across the country that are waiting to be adopted. Some have been born already, others will be born soon, and many are waiting as frozen embryos. My prayer today is that God would be raising up more families to be open to the call of adoption- maybe even yours!

Let me share a little bit with you about our journey to international adoption. When we first seriously entered the process of adoption, we weren’t sure where or how to begin. We had heard the name of several agencies and began to do some internet searches, probing deeper into these agencies and many others. As we dug further, we found one agency nearby that was hosting an informational meeting. Though we didn’t end up using this agency as our own, we are thankful to the agency for the abundance of information that they provided us with. Specifically, they laid out the variety of adoption programs, including foster to adopt, domestic adoption, international adoption, and embryo adoption. The informational meeting exposed us to the beauty of adoption and also the current state of adoption at this present point in Minnesota, in the United States, and globally.

Although we did not have a miraculous sign or audible calling that the international program was the path we should travel down, Markus and I decided that we would begin our adoption story here. There were several factors that contributed to this decision, most notability the shorter wait time and the need in certain countries. Ultimately, we are excited to reflect the family of God – from every tribe, tongue, and nation – in a small way in our own family. We believe that this is the best choice for us.

We do know that international adoptions can be very risky and extremely unpredictable. A country could break out in a civil war, and government elections could occur in either our country or the adopting country that could break down relations for us to complete the adoption. Also, we may not have accurate information on the child/children that we will be adopting. At the same time, domestic adoptions have very real risks too. In truth, any adoption is risky and difficult no matter which path you take. But, as we have been assured by those who have been through this before us, adoption is absolutely worth it.

As we continue to post on the blog we would like to share with you some answers to prayer that we have seen as we have gone throughout the process as well as some prayer requests that we have as we continue on in the process.

Praise:

  • Our dossier is in Missouri and being thoroughly looked over before it gets sent to Nigeria! We are hoping it will be any day now!
  • We have been able to connect with an adoption support system close by and are excited for the opportunities to connect and be involved in a great organization.

Prayer Requests:

  • For our future child/children: that the Lord would, in his divine sovereignty, watch over them and protect them.
  • For the Haff family: the first family from our agency adopting from Nigeria. They are there in Nigeria now just waiting for the visa to be issued so that they can bring back their daughter to the U.S. Pray that this process would go quickly.
  • Adoption costs: this past week we were made aware that the cost of our adoption would be raising just as our dossier payment is due. We are trusting in God’s provision – pray that he would provide and that we would trust him fully.

Waiting with great anticipation and confidence,

Sarah (& Markus)