Adopting Can Often be a Long and Arduous Process
Writer / Anna Kate Goshko
Far from the picturesque movie scenes, intercountry adoption is much more than receiving an orphaned baby, signing papers, snapping pictures and off to happily ever after. It’s an emotional and financial trial that many endure.
For the Stanton Family, the idea of adoption began long before they were matched with their adopted daughter, Sara.
“I’ve always felt a pull for adoption. God put this on my heart in high school and it just made sense to adopt. It’s something that has always been in my soul,” Michaela Stanton says.
In 2012, Michaela and Jon Stanton began the long and arduous adoption process. With two biological boys already, the Stanton’s knew adoption was the next step, but their journey hasn’t always been as fluid.
With a deep calling to adopt from Ethiopia, the Stanton’s contacted an international adoption agency.
“We felt like Ethiopia chose us,” Michaela says. “Everywhere we turned it was Ethiopia. It was serendipitous in our surroundings. We looked at other countries but didn’t feel the peace we had when we looked at Ethiopia.”
The Stanton’s were on a waiting list for three years.
“We were trusting in Christ for a resolution to the wait. And we were grateful for the prayers and emotional support of our family, church and our Christian Academy family (where Michaela works),” Michaela says.
Finally, they were matched with an eight-month-old in 2016, but the wait wasn’t over. It would be another 17 months of prayers, doubts and overwhelming financial implications before the family received final approval to adopt their daughter.
During the next 17 months, the Stanton family waited as the hours and days ticked by, and the fees and bills began to pile up. Frustrated with the waiting game, Michaela and Jon reached out to Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, asking him to serve as their advocate and voice over the concerns for the mounting financial stress and lack of communication with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service.
On Feb. 16, 2017, they were approved by the U.S. government to adopt their matched daughter, Sara. Shortly after, the bottom fell out and Ethiopia suspended all international adoptions. Any and all adoptions for Ethiopian children were at a stand-still.
According to a 2018 story published by BBC, the international adoption ban was implemented amid concerns of abuse and neglect of the adopted children.
The suspension meant many parents outside of the country who were named as legal guardians could not bring their children home. Roughly 200 families that had been matched with other Ethiopian children were impacted.
For a couple who so desperately wanted to love and care for another child, the Stanton’s were devastated.
“In our eyes, the bureaucratic red tape is not the way Jesus envisioned orphan care and adoption,” Michaela says. “But in a worldly way, this is the way it has to be in order to protect the children and their welfare.”
During this time, there were so many unanswered questions in which McConnell’s staff was a huge resource for the Stanton’s.
Eventually, Ethiopia re-opened the cases of the 200 families, and 17 months after they were matched with their daughter, the Stanton’s were able to bring Sara home.
“We landed in the U.S. with our daughter on Nov. 30, 2017,” Michaela says, beaming. “My 8-year-old grew up hearing all about adoption, so bringing her home really brought the whole process to life. My 11-year-old was thankful that his sister was home.”
After waiting for five long years, the following days were spent in awe that their little girl was finally home, and they were a family of five.
“We spent a lot of time focusing on bonding and attaching with Sara. We learned her personality, made her feel comfortable, allowed her to show her fears, and comforted her as she adjusted,” Michaela says.
“Sara is an independent, loving and sassy little girl. She has totally turned our household in a different direction. In a house with all boys, it’s a girl in the mix! She has a personality that perseveres. You can tell she knows what she wants,” Michaela says.
In the fall of 2018, the Stanton’s were invited to share their story in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).
The CCAI is an organization dedicated to bringing adoption issues to the attention of congressional leaders and help congressmen support bipartisan legal initiatives to improve the future for orphans and foster children.
During the three-day program in Washington, Michaela and Jon were recognized in CCAI’s Angels in Adoption program, which honors adoption advocates from every state.
The Stanton’s shared their story and met with other families and organizations, such as Jockey Being Family, a resource and support organization for families going through the post-adoption process.
The Stanton’s were also able to thank Senator McConnell and his staff for their assistance with not only their family, but for other families that brave this same journey.
Reflecting on their journey, Michaela says, “This was clearly a demonstration of the love and will of God, using others who intervened and persevered for these young children who needed our help and love. We are grateful for everyone who stepped in, and especially for God’s presence throughout this time.”
In January 2018, Ethiopia officially stopped all international adoptions. The adoption border between the U.S. and Ethiopia remain closed.