“It’s just unbelievable”: Family fights to bring home adopted daughter from Nigerian orphanage

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — A Lake County family is fighting to bring home their daughter, who was adopted from an orphanage in Nigeria.

“They live in an orphanage, don’t get out much, everything over there is secluded in the sense that it’s like 10-foot walls, so when you get to the orphanage it’s like a 10-foot wall, so they can’t see over the walls,” said Ian Lord as he described his daughter, Ivy’s, living conditions.

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Ian and Lisa Lord said they went through the lengthy process to legally adopt the child, but when they applied for a visa to get her to the United States, it was denied.

“It’s just unbelievable, it shouldn’t happen, there’s no excuse,” Lisa said, fighting back tears.

The couple told Channel 9 they’ve already spent more than $50,000 during the process, but it’s about more than the money. Two previous adoptions through Bulgaria also failed.

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Their three-and-a-half year process this time around is documented inside stacks of envelopes. They’ve been working with a U.S. adoption agency, the Nigerian government, and an orphanage.

Seventeen months ago, the adoption was deemed legal. They flew to Nigeria to visit Ivy before COVID-19 raced through the U.S. and then they told us the pandemic initially stalled their process to get her home.

“We’ve just kept hoping, ‘certainly her visa will be approved within a few months, before her birthday in June’ and then it was before Thanksgiving, and then before Christmas, and then all of that passes,” Lisa said.

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And then, the family received this letter from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services Office.

“[It stated] your form I-600 petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative, that you filed on March 23, 2020, will be denied,” Lisa said.

Without that approval, they can’t obtain an immigration visa for Ivy. The USCIS claimed she hadn’t provided the child’s original birth certificate, and one with an official seal from the Nigerian government wasn’t sufficient.

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Further, the USCIS told the family that they needed more evidence that the child was an orphan and approval from her biological parents, though the family’s documentation shows she had been in the care of the Nigerian government as an orphan for 8 years, and counting.

“She was born in the streets and abandoned, and somebody brought her into a police station, and there’s all the documentation. She was a newborn when this happened and no one knows who her biological parents are,” Lisa said.

Last year, the USCIS approved more than 278,000 international adoptions.

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Data Channel 9 reviewed from the federal agency shows an overwhelming majority of the children are from China, Ethiopia and Guatemala.

Nigerian children make just about 0.7%. The family has less than 30 days to appeal the denied I-600, in hopes of getting her visa approved. In the meantime, they’re working on a backup plan for their daughter who has a room waiting for her in the U.S.

“If we are denied, we’re going to have to do what we have to as a family and move overseas,” Ian said.

Channel 9 reached out to the USCIS, but so far have not heard back. The family had a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio’s office staff last week, hoping he can intervene. They have hired an attorney who has worked on similar cases.