Oklahoma Couple Among First To Adopt From Nigeria
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma - An Oklahoma couple becomes one of the first American families to adopt from Nigeria. The African country has a mandatory 12 month waiting period. However, as this family found out, the wait became even longer.
"When I saw her picture, I mean her picture was just adorable," said Beth Haff, Ruth's adoptive mother.
Beth became instantly drawn to a three-year-old Nigerian girl she saw on an adoption website. Known only as Ruth, she was abandoned and living in an orphanage.
"We were basically the first to inquire about her," she said.
Beth and her husband Shane already have a young son, Allen, but wanted to expand their family through adoption.
"We've been working on it for so long, it kind of just feels like one of those things that you just prepare for, but you don't actually get to do," Beth said.
They say Allen calls Ruth "Sissy" and is ready to meet her too.
"He's seen pictures, he's video chatted with her, we talk about flying in an airplane to go get sissy, he's excited about it but I don't think he fully comprehends what's happening," said Shane Haff, Ruth's adoptive father.
Now with Ruth's room all ready for her, the family is all packed for what would be at least a month in Nigeria.
"It's kinda surreal," Shane said.
"Lots of nervous energy but still really exciting," Beth added.
After 30 hours of flying halfway around the world, they finally made it to the city of Lagos in Nigeria to meet Ruth for the first time.
"She was in a pretty poor part of the city," said Beth. "I was trying to prepare myself for her being scared of us all the while really wanting a miracle where she just runs into our arms."
"I was kind of prepared for the worst," Shane admitted.
While sitting in a room at the orphanage they brought her in.
"She was pretty scared, she was clinging to her caregiver," Beth said. "She backed up, hit her head on the door knob and started wailing. So, it was not an ideal first meeting in my mind."
Shane said what finally broke the barrier was food.
"She would come sit on our lap and we would give her food," he said.
After weeks of emotional ups and downs, Ruth started to warm up to her new family, until Shane and Allen had to return to Oklahoma.
"It was really scary because I knew Allen couldn't stay in country that long," she said.
Beth had to stay back waiting on Ruth's visa.
"The hardest part of being there was not knowing when we would get to come home," she said.
Beth spent the next five weeks bonding with Ruth until her visa was ready.
"I can remember taking off from Lagos just feeling like weights had dropped off me," she said.
Finally, home in Oklahoma, Ruth is settling into her new life with her brother Allen right by her side. She even started school and is making friends.
"She's branching out and we're starting to see her just kind of become her own little person now," Beth said.
"The pictures of her before we went over there to the pictures of her and Allen now, the difference in her eyes, her smile, the way that she carries herself," said Shane.
"That was our prayer the whole time that her and Allen would have a special relationship and that he would kind of come out and be a buffer and help her," Beth said. "That has been everything that we've dreamed of and more."
The average cost for an international adoption is around $36,000 and the referral time takes anywhere from several months to several years. For more information on adoptions from Nigeria, click here.