A Tale of Two Families

Many of you remember the Wilks family. Most of you are probably keeping up with them via my Facebook updates. But for those who are just now viewing our families’ stories through this blog, I wanted to shed some light on their situation. A situation that could have been ours, or the family after the Wilks, or the family after that…

We had been in Nigeria for about 10 days when the director of Morgan Hill Children’s Foundation (now our very good friend, she is an incredible woman) suggested we meet the other American family here with (we didn’t know about them because they were with a different adoption agency stateside). We were excited to meet the Wilks- we weren’t super home sick yet, but contact with the familiar is always nice- and Utibe set up a visit for us. When the Wilks came to see us, they had their three kiddos with them. They were a little shy at first, but you could tell those kids were really growing attached to their mommy and daddy. We continued to grow close together through our shared experience of adopting Nigerian children. Usually, we were only one step ahead of the Wilks in the legal process- so we were able to help guide them through the unknowns. Until we hit the U.S. side of things. And that’s when the difficulties began.

I can only describe our experiences like this: it felt as if we were all on floating ice together, concerned about the unknown future, but at least together. Suddenly, we saw a rescue ship and it put out a rescuing hook that attached to the ice. But as the ship began pulling us to safety, the ice split, and we watched the Wilks family float into more unknown territory. And we could do nothing to help. And here we are, safely home as the Wilks continue to float, with no end in sight.

You see, the Wilks family adopted their kids just one week after we adopted Ruth. But as it took only 9 weeks to get all the Haffs home, it’s taking 33 weeks plus to bring all of the Wilks home. And the answer as to why remains a mystery.

It might be helpful to explain a little about the adoption process with Nigeria when putting into context the plight of the Wilks family. Nigeria is a country in west Africa, made up of 36 states. Each state determines their own adoption policies, and Lagos State is currently the only state that allows international adoption. Because every state will not agree on a common international adoption policy, therefore having no national policy, Nigeria will not be allowed to be a member of the Hague Convention. Being a member of the Hague Convention is a safeguarded way for international adoption programs to thrive. Even though Lagos State conforms to the standards of the Hague Convention, they will never be a member, therefore the adoption process looks a little different, mostly at the visa level.

A non-Hague accredited country’s visa process cannot begin until after the child has been adopted by the family. That is why, in Hague-accredited countries, the adoption takes place even before the family has physically met the child. Most of the leg work, so to speak, is done prior to the family traveling to end the process and bring their new member home.

Many of you might be asking, “Why even adopt from a non-Hague country? Seems like you knew there could be issues.” Yes, and no. There could be issues with any adoption, that’s just a part of this complicated journey. And, unfortunately, there are more problems, per capita, arising from international adoptions with African countries than any other country. This is largely due to the fact that many African countries are still developing. Fluid governments, persisting negative cultural attitudes towards adoption and constantly changing authorities increase the difficulty for those countries to create and implement policies necessary for a structural, healthy international adoption process. So why choose a country like that? To be blunt, a child in need is a child in need. Many families adopt children from their own country, their own state, and sometimes even their own family. And some people choose to adopt internationally, sometimes even from countries who don’t “have it all together.” And that is the type of country the our two families chose to adopt from.

So let’s come back to the how and why the Wilks are still waiting while the Haffs have been home for seven months. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos state is responsible for the visa process post adoption. While we wish we could say what the issue is, the communication between the Consulate and any party inquiring (the Wilks personally, or through Congressmen) has been pathetic. After almost 8 months in “processing,” the consulate decided the Wilks case was “not clearly approvable,” and it has been sent to Ghana for further review. To be clear, I am not against investigating the legitimacy of adoption documents, circumstances etc. for the sake of preventing child trafficking. This is necessary, it’s what is best for every child to insure that governments aren’t allowing this to happen for evil purposes. However, the lack of contact- even the refusal to HAVE contact- with the Lagos ministry points to something else entirely happening within the guarded walls of the consulate.

The Wilks are in a living hell. The Wilks kids are facing the possibility of having to GO BACK to the orphanage because the United States government can’t come to a conclusion on their case, and won’t even disclose why.

So, as legally adopted children, Titus, Mercy and Leslie are separated from their new family, waiting. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos was cold, unfeeling, rude (personal experience) and incompetent when it came to the Wilks family, but it is not the U.S. Consulate that is paying the price. It’s Bryce, Maryl, David, Judah, Titus, Mercy and Leslie. Along with their entire family and friends.

If you can do anything to help, please contact me and I can get you in touch with the Wilks. These children deserve to be with the family that loves them, the family that has already committed to them and will never stop fighting.

We are trusting that, even in this bleak situation, God is working out the Wilks’ future for his glory and their good.