Korean Adoption Story

The how & why

Why | Timeline | Process | Welcome Home

Eun Yung Lee at 4.5 months

Why Korea – Why Special Needs

Yes, by God’s grace we’ve done it again! We were settled on adopting again for quite a while. Over the summer of 2003 we researched and prayed over which avenue. Our initial desire was to return to Ukraine, with the boys so they could hopefully see their friends in the Chernivtsi orphanage. There have been many changes in Ukrainian adoption over the last two years however, and it was becoming clear that our desire for a baby girl wasn’t lining up well with those changes. Part of our parental journey involved painful circumstances prior to adopting the boys, but we rejoice that the Lord used that pain to give us a heart for children that were not “in demand”, or would not otherwise have families. In September 2003, we had settled on adopting from Korea this time, as we felt a confluence of the need and the escort option Korea allows (as traveling for weeks with two active, young boys was not a situation we felt at all prepared for). We officially started the process with an agency in Arlington (A.S.I.A.). Though we were excited about adopting, there was something still nagging us. In November we realized what that was when Coleen started exploring the Precious in His Sight waiting child list, and found Eun Yung. This had to be about a child’s need for a family, not our desire for a child. Very quickly the Lord confirmed this path in many obvious ways…(one of which is The Hamster Story).

The Hamster Story

Ralphie the hamster

To celebrate adoption month 2003 with our boys and other adoptive families in our church we had decided to give the boys hamsters. As I entered the pet store one day to buy them, Coleen called me on the cell phone to tell me some exciting news. “I hope you’re not mad honey, but I’ve been looking at waiting children lists on the Internet, and there’s something very exciting I want to tell you about” she said. “Of course I’m not mad, tell me what you saw” I replied. She explained that she had seen a seven-month-old girl from Korea that was waiting for a family, the listing agency had called her right back with lots of information, and was sending us the details. When I asked why the baby was designated a waiting child, she explained that her right eye had not formed properly and she would require an artificial eye. “That doesn’t sound like a big deal, let’s review the detailed information when we get it, and pray through the situation…see where the Lord leads us” I said. After we hung up, I flagged down a salesperson in the store to help me get those hamsters.

Ralphie's at it again

When I had explained the intention to keep them in the same cage, the salesgirl advised me to only get one due to their propensity to either fight or breed when mature. No problem, then she asked what kind of hamster. Well, we wanted the big fluffy kind (Teddy Bear hamsters) instead of the one easily confused with gerbils, and the girl looked through their cages. “Well, there’s just this one, and let me check…I think he’s free”. “Yes, he has a problem with his right eye, and he’s free to be adopted” she said. Someone had returned this hamster to the store because his right eye had been damaged somehow. I had to immediately call Coleen and tell her how God was using circumstances to tell us something! It became so clear: our child was waiting for us, so the “normal” process of waiting for a referral had left us without the appropriate fervor. The Lord continued to show us His plan as we proceeded through Eun Yung’s adoption; through the grant and advocacy of Brittany’s Hope Foundation, and the wonderful staffs of Welcome House and Holt agencies that we worked with. Our first personal association with Welcome house was a young woman named Christianna, the same name we had chosen for our daughter months before.

The Process & Timeline

  • September 2003 – Had decided to pursue Korean adoption through Adoption Service Information Agency, and had first meeting with the social worker.
  • November 7th – Coleen saw Eun Yung on the Precious In His Sight website, and inquired to Welcome House. They express-mailed her background and medical information for us to review and pray about.
  • November 18th – We informed Welcome House that we wanted to pursue adoption of Eun Yung. Within an hour or two we were contacted by their Virginia social worker, and the ball is rolling!
  • The paperwork that had been done through ASIA was transferred to Welcome House, and remaining documents collected, signed, and sent. By 12/10 they had our package, and were able to review the application.
  • December 9th – First home study meeting (in Richmond).
  • January 6th 2004 – Last home study meeting (in Marshall).
  • January 7th – I-600A sent to USCIS
  • January 26th – WH Korea program coordinator traveled to Korea and took our paperwork
  • January 31st – Got finger prints for CIS background checks
  • January 31st – Received another very positive medical report
  • March 2nd – Received word that we were officially matched!
  • March 8th – Met with Brittany’s Hope Foundation, and formalized the grant.
  • May 4th – Began making inquiries into delay at CIS
  • May 12th – Sought intervention from our elected officials
  • June 10th – Received promise of I-171 processing and progress resumes!!
  • July 14th – Got “the call”, Christianna’s coming home July 22nd!
  • July 22nd – Welcome Home!
  • January 2005 – Final post-placement visit and start of finalization…just over one year from first home study visit.
  • April 22, 2006 – Christianna turned three yesterday & we just received her U.S. birth certificate! WOW, finalization took until October 2005, then until now to get her birth certificate…Ever since her Korean passport expired in October 2004, we haven’t had any current documentation for her, so could not obtain a social security number, claim her on our taxes, etc. Immigration allowed her into the country, but never provided her perminent resident card, or returned our original documents included in our application.

The Process Narrative

1/7/04 – First news of 2004, and it comes with pictures! The agency Welcome House Adoption Program has approved us, and our home study is being wrapped up. Our advanced application to adopt an orphan (I-600A) is on it’s way to the USCIS (formerly INS), so – Praise the Lord – everything is on track. More good news from the agency received this week includes the very real possibility that Christianna could be home by her first birthday! Of course there are no guarantees, but since the agency doesn’t require USCIS approval first the paperwork could be sent to Korea next week. Then there will be some paperwork sent back from Korea that we will have to sign, as well as forwarding the USCIS approval when it does come before she can be escorted. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s also the possibility of a grant to help with the adoption expenses. Indeed, we are awash in the Lord’s grace and blessings!

2/5/04 – As of this week CIS has everything they need, so we are in wait (for the I-171H) mode on that end. The agency in Korea (Holt International) has our application and home study, so next will let us know if we’re officially matched with Eun Yung. At that point it’s official, and we complete the paperwork…it all goes to Korea with the I-171, and our baby girl can be escorted home! We are hopeful (and covet your prayers) that she can be placed before her first birthday on April 21st. The January medical report was full of good news! She is 50th percentile in all categories, growing quickly, and is adjusting to the artificial lens very well. We don’t fully understand the diagnosis or ramifications at this point, but it’s looking much better than we expected! Ain't she cute?
2/10/04 – A bit more news, and some great new pictures today from Welcome House! She already has the artificial eye (reports are referring to it as an artificial lens), and is adjusting to it very well. One of the reports made it sound like she perhaps had some capability in her eye, but it was one of those translation things. How about these pictures eh? Thanks Angela!
3/8/04 – We traveled up to PA on Monday to meet with Brittany’s Hope, the foundation offering the grant, and Angela the Welcome House Korea Program Coordinator. What a blessing! Please visit their web site if you have a chance, we’ve been blessed by their efforts, and touched by their mission. In reading the Story of Brittany, we found the words to express our hearts for God’s precious children. Eun Young at 8 months
3/2-3/04 – Received the “official” referral/match paperwork from Welcome House on Tuesday!! It was a few more forms and a bit more work than we expected, but thankfully Chris was able to get Wednesday off to chase it all down and get it done. As of Wednesday the package is on it’s way back to PA for subsequent processing. There are five more steps in the processing before Holt makes flight arrangements for her. The good news from CIS is that we’ve spoken, and they’re aware that she’s a special needs child. Since they’re still processing December applications, we’re not sure if there will be a delay on that end or not. We Praise God for the work He’s done and is doing in this process, and trust His purposes will be served in His timing. We do covet your prayers for a speedy placement!
The story of the delay is a long one, and rather embarrassing for our government, so we won’t give details here…instead we’ll give y’all the Reader’s Digest condensed version: By the time May rolled around, we traded patience for suspicion, and began investigating immigration’s claim that they were just waiting for something they had requested multiple times. Sure enough, no record of any request…unless you count what they had “in the system” back at the end of January (automatically, not requested). When we couldn’t seem to get them interested in following up on what we had discovered, we enlisted the help of our elected officials. Representative Jo Ann Davis’ office (first district VA) seems to have finally gotten to someone that can “shake it loose”, and last week assured us the approval (I-171H) was forthcoming.
6/7/04 – Received a progress report and new pictures today! You can read the report yourself by clicking on the link, but note that you may need to expand the image. It’s pretty easy to figure out. The report ends by saying they hope “she will meet her new adoptive parents as soon as possible”. We sure hope so too! It’s hard to believe it’s been three months since there was an update on the process…something like three weeks would have been more like it! It’s been a tough wait, solely due to a snafu at immigration processing our I-600A. Before I get into that though, let me say that God is good! We’re expecting the logjam to break within the next day or two so the rest of the process can proceed. Everything else that could be done, already has been, so what’s left is her visa approval, then Holt in Korea will get her passport and visa then schedule her escort. There is not a firm timeline, but we expect 4-8 weeks. May Checkup
Dated late April we believe Praise the Lord for progress! 6/10/04 – Immigration promise to issue the visa approval, which is actually the next step or two beyond what we have been waiting for. At this point, Holt in Korea will obtain her passport and visa, then schedule her escort home to us! Praise Him indeed!
6/25/04 – We received a pleasant surprise today when a few new pictures arrived. The foster mother (pictured) sent pictures of them opening the gift package that we sent last month. Isn’t Christianna a cutie? We also got word that Holt was working on the visa, so we are hopeful that means they’re almost ready to send her home!
7/14/04 – We got “the call”!! Christianna arrives at Dulles airport the evening of 7/22. Things that make you say WHOO-HOO!! Turns out Immigration had trouble getting the visa approval through to the consulate…never saw that coming…and it took about a month for them to get the right thing. At that point there was one more obstacle; the consulate needed to see our 2003 tax return (which hadn’t even been filed when the rest of the package was. Fortunately it could be faxed straight over. We’ve got to first thank our Lord Jesus for His strength and peace. We’re still looking for the verse in the bible that says And the Lord spoke to Satan saying, “hereafter you shall be called Bureaucracy.” Thanks also to Lauren Ridenour, (District Representative for the Office of Rep. Jo Ann Davis), and Angela Unjin Ko (Korea Program Coordinator Welcome House Program of Pearl S. Buck International Inc.); both went way above the call of duty in helping us bring our daughter home!!

She’s home!! How about some video?

DSC00006.JPG This is our Gotcha Day – Welcome Home video in the .wmv (Windows Media) format. If you find you have problems viewing, download the latest copy of Windows Media Player. You can watch the video now by clicking on the link, or you can download for viewing later by right-clicking on the link and saving the link target file to your computer.
For low-bandwidth, dial-up connections use this one:
Welcome Home – Low (1.4MB)
For the broadband folks out there here is a larger, high-bandwidth version:
Welcome Home – High (11.874MB)
Christianna enjoying a meal with the boys. This was just a couple of days after she came home, and you can tell how she really took to the boys right away…and they to her! Anna eating rice
Low-bandwidth, dial-up connections use this one:
Let’s Eat – Low (1.1MB)
High-bandwidth version:
Let’s Eat – High (9.3MB)
Anna playing outside Christianna playing outside with the boys. This is a short one…Christianna really enjoys the outdoors, and took to the slide right off. This too, was just one week after coming home.
Low-bandwidth, dial-up connections use this one:
Let’s Play- Low (685KB)
High-bandwidth version:
Let’s Play – High (5.7MB)