In the book of James, God commands us to look after orphans and widows in their distress. For Rich and Jody, this verse is a direct call to pursue adoption, bringing orphaned children into their family. Today they will share about the emotional, spiritual, and legal journey they went on in obedience to God’s call on their life.
So Rich and Jody, why don’t we start by you telling us about your family!
Rich & Jody: Sure! We are known as The Hagen Nation. We’ve been married for 18 years and together for 21. We have four precious arrows that we are raising and aiming for God’s Kingdom.
Joshua, our oldest son is 10 and God brought him to our family through adoption as well when he was a baby. Our next sons are Jaedon and Josiah, 8 and 6.
And our adorable daughter, Yangmei Eva Grace is 4 years old. She is from Yingshang County, in Anhui province. She has Down Syndrome, is full of joy and a complete blessing to our family.
I bet she is! So what led you to the decision to adopt? Did you always know you would adopt in China?
Jody: I grew up knowing that my father was adopted so I suppose it was always in the back of my mind as a possibility. Rich and I married in 2001 and after we had been married for 8 years, we had never conceived. We never sought out infertility treatments but were content to trust God for growing our family, however He saw fit.
We were already very involved in ministry with an organization whose mission was to connect foster children with adoptive families. During that time, we completed our training to become a foster family with the hope of adoption.
God had a different plan and brought Joshua to us in a pretty incredible way. When our friend, his biological grandmother, called and asked us if we would consider adopting Joshua, both our hearts leapt for joy and immediately we said “yes”!
In 2011 and 2012, God surprised us with the births of two additional sons. So apparently, I wasn’t barren, He just had a far more creative and wonderful plan for growing our family.
Fast forward to early 2015, we were preparing to leave the USA for China in obedience to God’s call. We were certainly open to the idea of adopting in China, but we had no idea how quickly God would bring a precious little girl into our lives. We are eternally grateful for His timing and His provision.
What an amazing story of how God grew your family! Can you share with us about the journey you went through to adopt her? When did you know God intended for her to be a part of your family?
Rich & Jody: We met Yangmei in September 2015, just one month after moving to this beautiful country. We only knew one other foreign family and they were asked to bring Yangmei and another little boy into their home for foster care. Because our families fellowshipped together in weekly meetings, we spent a lot of time with Yangmei. That family entered in a season of great tribulation and stress, so we often took the babies into our home in order to provide respite for them. We submitted our application to adopt Yangmei in November 2015.
The most significant problem we faced was that we did not meet the income requirement China has for couples adopting children. The agency did not outright refuse to approve us, but they would not say yes either. Our family’s file sat on the director’s desk for one year!
In November 2016, the medical foster home gave us permission to become her full-time foster family! We were overjoyed!
There were three times that her government orphanage threatened to take her back. We spent a lot of time on our knees in prayer throughout the entire process and God orchestrated many miracles to keep Yangmei safe and hidden.
When it became clear that Yangmei would become our daughter, we simply made the announcement and God spoke to people’s hearts. The entire adoption was provided for financially which was an incredible miracle!
As we loved on precious Yangmei, God just put a deep love in our hearts for her. When we would look into her eyes, we could just hear His voice whisper “she’s yours.” Even our sons developed a deep and sweet affection for her. All we could do was move forward, in faith, and trust that God would make it a reality. Her adoption was finally approved in May 2018!
Amazing! What a beautiful testimony of faith. You mentioned about some requirements and procedures involved in adoption. Can you explain more about the legal side of the process? What do potential adoptive parents need to know before getting started?
Rich & Jody: When you adopt a child from China, you have to use a Hague Convention Accredited Adoption Agency. This is whether you reside in the USA or as an expat in China.
Once a family chooses an adoption agency, they submit an application. If the agency accepts the family into their international adoption program, then they begin the process of completing the necessary paperwork and interviews for the home study.
Once the home study is complete, documentation is submitted to the CCCWA in China (the government agency that handles adoptions). The documentation gets translated, reviewed, and finally, the family either receives approval to adopt or not.
If approved, the family is matched to a child. In our case, we were pursuing a specific child and requesting to be matched to Yangmei.
The total time from application to bringing your child home can range dramatically. Sometimes there are cases that are expedited because of severe health needs or because the child is about to “age out” of the system, at 14 year old. Generally, the process takes around 18 months.
Wow! I imagine the entire process can be very stressful and trying. How did you cope through it? And how did your boys handle it?
Rich & Jody: Truly, for both of us, we coped through prayer, fasting and finding promise and solace in God’s Word. Without the financial blessing from God, the sovereign protection over Yangmei and His great love and mercy in allowing us to hold her and love her, we never would have made it through all the ups and downs and the waiting.
Our sons love Yangmei very much. They didn’t understand why we had to wait to find out if we would “get Yangmei forever.”. We chose not to share all those specifics, because some things are too heavy for little hearts.
We remember the day we found out for sure that she would be our daughter and nothing could jeopardize it again. Our sons rejoiced greatly with us! They never struggled with jealousy and even today express a desire to adopt again!
Well, Yangmei is blessed to have such wonderful older brothers looking out for her! What practical advice can you offer those who are considering adoption and already have children at home?
Rich & Jody: Talk with your children before you even submit an application. Be sure they are involved in the process and understand the motives.
Second, we would encourage others to not adopt out of birth order. We have learned through our community that if the adopted child is older than the siblings already in the home, this can often cause problems.
Lastly, a family needs to know their limits in regard to adopting a child with special needs. Every child available for adoption in China will have some type of special need and those needs will range from mild to severe.
On top of everything, as beautiful and God-honoring it is, for the child, adoption is intertwined with trauma, grief and loss. Be prepared and be armed with great love, mercy and patience.
Oh, and don’t let the cost of international adoption frighten you away. If God puts it on your heart, He will absolutely make a way. Adoption is near to His heart as we are all His adopted sons and daughters.
Sometimes when we are not familiar with a situation, we end up saying or doing the wrong thing and without meaning to, we hurt others. I bet adoptive families encounter these moments quite often. Are there questions or comments that you wish people would just stop saying?
Rich & Jody: We often hear people ask, “why would you adopt her?”. We already have three healthy sons and in China, our dear Yangmei is viewed as inferior because she is a girl and has Down Syndrome.
While we don’t especially like this question, we actually don’t want it to stop because it opens the door for an incredible conversation about God, how we are adopted by Him, the great love He put in our hearts for Yangmei, and how perfectly made she is! Although, we do wish Chinese people would be a bit more discreet because Yangmei is very smart and understands just about everything.
Recently foster homes and orphanages in Beijing went through some major changes. How has the process of fostering or adopting in China been affected through all this?
Jody: Those changes seen in the foster homes and orphanages in Beijing were experienced nationwide. In early 2017, thousands of precious children were removed from loving and safe foster homes and returned to government orphanages. Fostering by foreigners is rarer now as a result of those changes.
Also, partnerships were pretty much eliminated, which means families are not able to identify a child prior to going through the entire process and seeking “pre-approval”. Rather, all the children are on what is called “the shared list”, which means getting matched will take longer.
Finally, additional changes were made stipulating that a family cannot adopt a child from China if they already have five children living at home under the age of 18.
I had no idea that the changes had such drastic consequences. Finally, I am sure that throughout this journey, God has imparted a lot of wisdom on you. Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
Rich & Jody: We want to encourage Christians to do something to help fulfill James 1:27. We don’t really feel that we have a “special calling” on our lives to adoption. We are just disciples of Christ trying by His grace to obey all that He has commanded.
Adopt if you can. For those of you in the USA reading this, the orphans of your own community are living within your state’s foster care system and need a family. Adopting locally still takes time, preparation, courage, love, and commitment, but it is definitely possible with God. If you are empty-nesters, consider adopting an older son or daughter.
If for whatever reason you cannot adopt, then help provide financial support to those who are. Consider becoming foster parents for the children in your community and serve them during their time of sorrow and transition. If you can’t become foster parents, then perhaps you can get trained and certified to provide respite for full-time foster families.
And if you cannot adopt, become foster parents, or provide financial assistance, then pray that God can set the lonely in families. Pray for the protection of all children in foster care and orphanages throughout the world. Do something!
Amen! Well, Rich and Jody, thank you so much for sharing with us today! What an encouraging testimony of God’s faithfulness and your obedience to Him.
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