South Korea Adoption Update

Korea Phase One: Complete

We are happy to report that our home study is complete, our initial immigration application has been submitted, and our first round of paperwork is on it’s way to South Korea! These last few months have been busy with social worker visits and paperwork, but we are finally in the stage where we are waiting for a referral. Due to COVID-19, the process is moving more slowly, but it’s a relief to finally have completed these major milestones.

Home Study: Complete

If you are familiar with adoption at all, you probably have heard the term “home study.” A home study is a report written by a social worker that verifies our home is suitable for adopting another child. This seems simple enough, but depending on the type of adoption can be extremely complex and time consuming. For Korea, we needed background checks, fingerprinting, psychological evaluations, adoption training, multiple social worker visits to our home, interviews, personal profiles, and more. We have been working on all this since last fall – Korea requires a bit more from the home study than Nigeria did, and we had some delays due to COVID, so it is nice to have complete.

Pre-Dossier Paperwork: Complete

The “dossier” required in international adoptions varies greatly from country to country, and thankfully, Korea is quite simple compared to Nigeria. For Olivia’s adoption, we had a huge stack of paperwork that we had to send over initially and keep updated throughout the process. For Korea, the list was much shorter and did not require nearly as much time. This paperwork, including the home study, has been sent to Korea to assist them in matching us with a child that will be a good fit for our family. We have been told to expect a wait time of 5-8 months for a referral and an additional year before we travel – this is significantly longer than the timeframe estimate prior to COVID. Despite our joy in submitting this paperwork, this news of the slow down was definitely a downer for us.

I-600A: Submitted

The I-600A is an application through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows for “advanced processing” of our adoption. This simply means that they can start the process of verifying our eligibility to adopt, reviewing our home study, more background checks, fingerprinting, and starting a file for us rather than waiting to do everything when our child is identified and ready to be adopted. We will file the I-600 near the end of the process, which actually will give approval from USCIS for us to adopt our specific child. The I-600A/I-600 part of the process is the same as it was for Nigeria, so it brought back memories of Olivia’s adoption. This initial approval is likely about 90 days out, delayed a bit again due to COVID.

Prayer Requests

While we are extremely excited to get through these steps in the process, the news of delays is disheartening to us. We strongly desire to bring home our second child soon, so we would love prayer for patience and peace in the Lord’s timing. You would think we would have learned patience over the last few years! 🙂

Please also pray that our paperwork would find favor in Korea and the wait would be shorter than we think, and that the wait between accepting a referral and traveling would be shorter than expected as well.

Thank you all so much for your love and support. We cannot express how much it means to us.

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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