Blog Posts

Our Adoption Journey Has Come to An End. (ie. Adoption is not for the Weak)

I'm not really sure of what the etiquette in this situation is. I've never adopted before and I certainly have never had a failed adoption before.

So, what to say? How to proceed?

The Rules.

Here are the rules if you choose to read this blog post.

1. I will explain what happened.

2. I will also still be mama bear and will protect my girl.

So, please, if you choose to comment, understand this –

  • Latvia is a beautiful country of proud, hard-working people. The language, food, and scenery are all amazing and wonderful. Their history is inspiring. Yes, their economy is suffering, but it is a country with rich culture and I love it.
  • Our girl lives in a safe Children's Home. (The words Children's Home translates to “Bernu Nams” if you're curious). It's in a VERY small town west of Riga.
  • She's smart, beautiful, strong, and also a bit stubborn. 🙂 I love her dearly and always will.
  • Any comments that don't support her in every way will be deleted.

The Background Story.

Last December, we hosted a 15 year old girl from Latvia through a mission organization New Horizons for Children.

The purpose of New Horizons is this…

We are a Christian based, international hosting program, which brings over orphaned children from Eastern Europe twice each year to share with them the love of God and the love of a family. NHFC is the largest, faith-based host program, facilitating orphan hosting nationwide.

The Sad Facts…

Without intervention, upon leaving the orphanage, 60% of girls will end up in prostitution, 70% of boys will be on the streets or in jail, and 15% will commit suicide within the first two years on their own.

One person can revolutionize the life of an abandoned child.

My friend, Steph, introduced me to NHFC.

It was getting close to the deadline for Winter Hosting and there were many kids left who had not been claimed yet. Always so many kids, and the little ones always get chosen first. So, I printed out the list of available children (several pages long) and handed it to my husband and said “pick one”.  I didn't ask if he wanted to host a child. I just gave him the papers and asked him to choose. That's how we roll. 😉

I sat down with the papers myself after he went to work. I was going through the photos of one amazingly beautiful delightful child after another, and my heart stopped when I saw her. It was like I already knew her. If you can believe in such things.

Joe came home, and I asked while holding my breath “Which one?” He pointed right to her.

So, we started on this journey to host a child and nothing more. We looked at it as just having a guest for a bit. A fun adventure for her. A fun adventure for us and the kids.

We'd always been open to adoption, but weren't by any stretch actively pursuing it. Plus, we didn't even think it was an option as she was so close to 16 – so we thought that window was closed.

That is, until in walks this sweet, funny, brave girl right into our hearts. And everything changed.

Four Weeks in our Home. (Dec. 2011 – Jan. 2012)

We knew we were in trouble the second night. My Joe was a little afraid to talk to her as he is as he says “big and scary” at 6'3″ and didn't know what her history was. We assumed there was probably some trauma with all of these kids or they wouldn't be in the Children's Home in the first place.

So, he wasn't really talking to her much or making direct eye contact. He'd talk through me (like I speak Latvian or something???) lol.

Anyway, Ivita was in her jammies and socks and she was at the other end of the hallway. Joe asked me to ask her something. I said “no, ask her yourself”.

Ivita said “what?” and I said “Joe wants to say something but he's scared of you.”

She ran dow the hallway, slid on her sockie feet up to the island, looked him straight in the face and said “what you want to say with me?”

Joe laughed, but then he turned and looked right into my soul and I saw it in his eyes “Nik, holy shit, we are in serious trouble… ”

He knew. We both knew at that moment she just fit. We were in for a bigger adventure than we realized.

There are so many amazing memories from those four weeks that she was in our  home. Too many to recount here.

I took over 400 pictures and it was easily the best Christmas of my life to date.

Here is one of my favorite pictures from that month together…

She said she was afraid of dogs. But, that didn't last long when she met my wrinkly Luke. 🙂

And, here's a pretty picture of her at the beach.

My favorite memories are too many to count.

I adored watching her English improve so quickly – simply because it allowed us to talk, and talk, and talk.

It was really thousands of tiny moments that added together. For instance, I remembering hearing her giggle and yell “In my pants, I has sand!” when we were at the beach.  It still makes me laugh.

We all enjoyed our time together, but the departure date was looming like a dark cloud in the distance.

As we got closer, Joe and I started to panic. “What if we never see her again? What are we sending her back to? How can we just let her go? Will she be safe? What about when she is sick? Will she be cared for? Will she be warm? Where will she live when she ages out of the Children's Home?”

It's also the time we both started to hear the whisper in our ears louder. “Mine”.

She felt like she was ours and we were absolutely in love with this child.

Legally of course, we couldn't just keep her. Charges of International Kidnapping were not on our wish list.

The day came. I won't tell you how horrible that day was for Joe and I. We'll just say we managed to keep our stuff together to get her on the plane but not a second longer. We drove 5 hours back home in total silence.

To Adopt or Not? That Was the Question.

So at this point, we had to very quickly decide whether to pursue adoption or not.

The problem was threefold.

  1. We didn't know if she even wanted to be adopted.
  2. We didn't know if she could be.
  3. Even if she did and she could be, we had only 3 months until she turned 16 – which was the date she would no longer be able to be referred to us for adoption. We were told that it would be next to impossible to get the referral from Latvia in time to even be ABLE to adopt her unless we moved some serious mountains.

We asked her if she wanted to be part of our family, and while it was a difficult decision to leave her friends and her language and culture behind, she said “Yes”.

We started pushing mountains – I had Congressmen and Senators on standby, I begged and cried at the Biometrics Office in New Orleans to please let us in early (they did not). Joe grayed. A lot.

Those of you who saw me at the February 2012 NAMS, I apologize. I was a mess. We were in the middle of our  home study and I was tears on feet. So, if you were at NAMS and walked by me in tears more than once, this was why.

BUT… with a whole lot of massive action and mountains of paperwork overnighted all over the place, we got her referral just 2 days before her birthday.

Our Trip to Latvia. (June 2012)

When adopting from Latvia, you go on three trips overseas. Our first trip started June 3rd and was a few weeks long. We brought our kids with us, so the four of us headed off on our adventure.

When we showed up at the Children's Home, Ivita squealed and jumped into our arms. We're not sure if she was that happy to see us or shocked that we actually came. Either way, we were thrilled to see her again. We scooped her up and took her to our apartment in Riga.

But she looked skinny. Too skinny. The stress of being in limbo – stuck between two worlds was a lot on her. Heck, the stress was a lot on us. And we weren't the ones uprooting our lives. So, we were concerned. For her. For the odds of our success of bringing her home and being a family. For all of it.

Here are the kiddos in front of the Latvian Freedom Monument. It's basically their Statue of Liberty. (Look at how blue the sky is!)

Joe and I agreed to push down our worries and focus on the time we had together.

We quickly got back into family mode and we had the best little translator in Latvia showing us around.

Funny side note. We went into a shop to get Ivita's Visa pictures taken. I watched Ivita and the lady talking and Ivita was looking frustrated. I was confused, so I just waited. We turned and walked out with no pictures. I said “What happened? Can she do the pictures?” Ivita looked at me with exacerbation and said “I don't know. She speak Russian!” lol. I almost fell over, I was laughing so hard. I just thought she had a really weird angry Latvian accent. Ivita does speak some Russian, but apparently the two were not in sync.

During our time in Latvia, we did a ton of stuff. One of my favorite things to do was to hop on the train and go to Jurmala – which is an adorable beach town near Riga. Jurmala is on the Bay of Riga, which is part of the Baltic Sea. On one of my favorite days, we rented bikes and rode all over town.

Here's a picture from Old Riga that I just love.

Oh, and a picture of the infamous “Cat House” building. The builder designed it to point the catt's butt at the building behind it to prove a point.

Anyway, suffice it to say, the three weeks in Latvia were life altering in many ways, and Ivita was a huge part of the best summer of our lives. We fell even more in love with our girl.

The last day we went to “Orphan Court”, where Ivita signed the papers stating that she did, indeed, want to be adopted.

The entire time we were there, we kept saying “we will see you in a few weeks”. That was, we thought, the plan. A few weeks. She could make it a few weeks. And then we'd be back.

But — on the drive to take Ivita back, the adoption coordinator mentioned that our  next court date in Latvia was scheduled for October 5th. FOUR MONTHS.

It was like an episode of Quantum Leap. When the adoption coordinator said that, Joe and I locked eyes in the back seat of the car and we both knew to make this good-bye a good one. The odds were shrinking rapidly that we'd finish the adoption, let alone see her again. I saw Joe's eyes fill with tears, and I was holding back my own. I just kept reminding myself that this was 1000 times harder on her than it was on us. And it was So. Damned. Hard.

The Wait.

So, basically, we had nearly four months between trips. This is obviously not good when dealing with a teen who can let fear and doubt build in her mind.

And, that's exactly what happened.

To protect Ivita's privacy, I won't get into details here, but at this point, we knew that she was having serious doubts about coming. It wasn't because of us. We know she loves us dearly. It is the whole picture of leaving what's safe and small and known – for a big city, big schools, and a difficult path.

While we were waiting to hear what was going on, I was posting in a private Facebook group that I have for our closest family and friends.

Here are a few things that my Joe and I had posted as we were waiting to hear…

And, my husband posted.

As we were going through the waiting stage, several friends told us that it would happen as it was meant to be. Which to be fair, is a saying that I despise, especially when I'm hurting. Because I think it's a pretty crappy thing to say to someone who is hurting.

But my husband is more gracious.

This was his response.

August 2012.

We found out for sure that our adoption is over.

My opinion is this.

  1. She is in a safe place now and has a good life… now.
  2. If she had come here, she would have had to struggle now, but would have probably had an easier life as an adult – with a much bigger safety net, having a large family behind her.

She's 16. She chose now over later.

Regardless, the adoption process was over.

The Aftermath.

We are ok.

The Positives:

  • She's not dead. She's just 5000 miles away in Latvia.
  • She loves us. We know that for sure.
  • She wants to still have a relationship with us.
  • It gives us an excuse to go to Latvia and see her – and see her older brother and sister who we have come to love dearly, too.

Negatives (There are Too many to count.):

  • No keeping her safe.
  • No making sure she has pineapple juice in the fridge. (Her favorite.)
  • No big big hugs.
  • No cooking and baking together.
  • No painting her ticklish “feet fingernails” (There's no word for “toes” in Latvian, if you didn't know. There are just hand fingers and feet fingers.)
  • No watching her swim in the pool when it's too freaking cold for me to think of getting in.
  • No taking care of her when she's sick. I can't make her soup or bring her a blanket or sockies if she's cold.
  • No Christmas morning together by the tree.
  • No Birthdays or Latvian “Name Days” spent together.
  • I don't get to bring her up to Wisconsin and introduce her to all of the people who have been waiting to meet our girl and who already love her.
  • I really really wanted to be Mother of the Bride at her wedding and to be Gramma to her beautiful Latvian babies someday.

ok. Well, that all sucks, but I guess it's good. I just love my girl so darned much. Part of what I adore about her, though, is her bravery, optimism, and stubbornness… which is part of what's put us in this position. She's optimistic about her future and she loves Latvia.

The good things to come of this is because we chose to host her and pursue the adoption…

  1. she got to come to the United States, see the ocean, fly on an airplane, try new foods, and experience tons of new things. Her world view has expanded.
  2. her english is ROCKING. Lots and lots of practice.
  3. she was “chosen” to come and got to feel special when she went back.
  4. she knows she's loved because some crazy Americans spent months doing paperwork and got on an airplane to see her.

The gifts through this process were…

  • I met many incredibly remarkable friends through the adoptions groups who inspire me to be a better person.
  • I am a completely different person than I was earlier this year. I have a new-found sense of peace, learning through this experience to let go of things outside of my control.
  • I am so thankful that I didn't do fundraising so it's only our money that we're losing. I would feel awful if others had contributed to our adoption. Thankfully no one else had.
  • This experience has brought my husband and I closer together. He has jumped through hoops, sweated blood, and done everything asked of him to bring our girl home.  He is my personal hero. And he is our glue.

And, most importantly…

  • If she hadn't said yes, we would have missed out on the BEST summer vacation of our lives – with the best little translator in Latvia.

Regardless, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

ok. Enough rambling. I'd better get to work and let you, as well.

I would also like to personally thank  everyone who prayed for us and sent lots of love to us. (Please direct those prayers to the 178 million orphans on the planet. They need the prayers more than I do.)

Thank you for reading.


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Anita Hampl

    Uhh, I don’t know Joe but something tells me he’s intending to be the Daddy of a beautiful Latvian bride someday. (Gee, I wonder what kind of leiderhosen they’ll make him wear?)

    Nicole, thank you for your transparency with so many people through this whole process. You won’t know till Heaven how many lives have been touched, tears have been shed, and lives have been saved through Ivita’s relationship with the Deans.

    Sending love to a selfless Mother of Three,

  • Elaine

    Thanks for this post. It triggered a number of emotions for me (sadness and joy). I subscribe to your letters because you give great information. Now, I will continue to subscribe because you are also a GREAT person. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to see you as a person.

  • Susanne

    Nicole… you are such a wonderful and amazing person and it shows in this blog post. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I’m proud to call you my friend and am sure you’ll have a long and loving relationship with your Latvian daughter no matter what the paperwork says.



  • Kimberly Castleberry

    You and Joseph and Ivita are all so incredibly blessed to have someone halfway around the world that loves you. You’ve moved mountains FOR each other and you now have a child of your heart that loves you as well. You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers since I had a chance to find out what was going on. I appreciate the courage it has taken to share your story with everyone. Hugs to all three of you!

  • Cindy

    Oh, damn but this made me cry. I’m so sad for you that Ivita won’t be coming home, but so happy for her that she found an amazing American family who will always call her daughter, no matter what her pasport says.

    The grace with which your family handled the entire journey is inspiring. The world (my world, anyway) is truly a better place with you and Joe in it.

    Many, many hugs to you and your family.

  • Kelly

    I will never stop praying for Ivita and I will never be un-mindful of the orphans of the world again. Thank you Nicole and Joe for opening my eyes and heart.

    • Nicole

      Oh, Kel. That in itself helps so much that you said that.

      While I may not be able to tuck Ivita safely into bed every night, maybe someone else will read this and be inspired to help others of the 178 million orphans out there.

      Thank you…

  • Laurie Neumann


    I”m sorry that it may not have ended as you would have hoped, but you have an amazing attitude. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

    • Nicole

      Thank you, Laurie, for sharing in my adventure. I definitely feel more grown up than I was a year ago. Ivita and going through this process made me a better person. That’s for sure.

  • David Perdew

    Nicole – you’ve got a lotta love coming your way. And I don’t know Joe, but that’s a seriously good guy just from the couple of tweets you posted…

    I saw two short sentences that I want to comment on:

    “She’s 16. She chose now over later.”

    Kids do that. Heck, I do that. Choosing “Now” over “Later” can be a really good thing unless you’re afraid of “Later” – I have grown children. I’ve watched them all go from Now-thinking to Later-thinking and then have to learn how to add the Now back in appropriately and in healthy ways. A 16-year old has no concept of what it’s like to be 30. (I remember thinking I’d have to be dead by that age because it was so old…) That short sentence explains her state of mind exactly. It’s tough to let kids make their own choices.

    “No keeping her safe.”

    When I was worried about one of my kids who was going through something (could have been yesterday or 10 years ago, doesn’t matter), someone told me: “They’re not your kids anyway. God’s just letting you borrow them for a while.”

    That’s true. We do our best to give them our great values and hide the really ugly attributes that we all possess. We hope they remember the good things and the love. And then we let them be who they were meant to be, to create the life they’re going to live. Whether they live in the next room or in another country, it’s never easy.

    You and your family are amazing role models. That’s what’s important.

  • The Mom

    Thank you, Nik, for sharing your thoughts and feelings here. As you know, Papa and I will always love our beautiful, brave, and delightfully silly Latvian granddaughter. We are heartsick that we may never be able to hug her again, but she will always be ‘ours.’ I’m also heartbroken about not being able to introduce her to our Wisconsin family. I know they would have loved getting to know her. I have a strange feeling that we all have the same blood coursing through our veins. Maybe that’s just what happens when you fall in love.

    That’s all I can say. Ivita is now, and will always, be our Latvian granddaughter. I pray she finds peace in her heart and happiness in her days, now and forever.

  • Kelli Claypool

    Nicole, what an amazing and inspiring journey you’ve shared with us. Despite reading your story through teary eyes, I can feel your pain as well as your deep love for your Ivita. While the adoption process may be over, God’s not done yet. You’ve moved all of the mountains that you can do, now it’s His turn to move the rest of them. There’s no doubt in my heart that your lovely daughter will be here in the States with you & Joe.

    You are truly a remarkable woman and I will continue to pray for God’s provision and grace over this situation and your precious daughter.

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate story with us!

    Be Blessed,

  • Loretta

    Well now that I’ve cried in my coffee, I’m going to cry some more because I can’t reach through my computer screen and hug you. You are amazing in every way. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey with all of us.

  • Beelissa

    Your story breaks my heart but you sure seem to have a good attitude about it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rich Avery

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story, which will challenge and encourage many! While you cannot provide a physical home for her right now, you’ve made a home for her in your heart!

  • Lisa WElls

    Oh Nicole that really sucks. I’ve been following your posts about this journey and I’m sorry it didn’t turn out as you hoped.

    My friend tells me all the time that “parenting isn’t for sissies” and she’s so right!

  • Ellen Britt

    Oh Nicole…my heart aches for you! I was so hopeful that her lovely 16 year old brain would be able to see that a little bit of adjusting now would be best for the long run, but now not to be.

    My prayers will continue for this young woman and for you and your family and for orphans everywhere, for as you know, they have a very special place in my heart.

  • Marya

    Nicole, I am so sorry it didn’t end as you’d hoped and I know how excruciatingly huge things like not being able to put pineapple juice in her fridge and no baking and cooking together — right up there emotionally with not being able to keep her safe. (It’s the “small” things that break hearts.)

    But you have changed her life in the best ways, and opened doors for her to step through with confidence.

    And she’ll always be your daughter.

    You’ll see her again. It’s not goodbye. I am sure of that.

    BIIIIIG hugs from Marya

  • Jeanette Cates

    I’m crying right along with the rest of the readers. What a beautifully told story – although it didn’t turn out as we had hoped for you. We don’t always understand at the time, but everything is as it is meant to be. No telling what Ivita needs to do in her country!

    Thank you for including us in this journey, Nicole. You have been so open and sharing – we all care!

  • Linda T

    I both gasped and got goosebumps as I read the headline on FB…and tears came to my eyes as I read your post here. My heart goes out to your whole family as you have ALL gone through this process. In God’s economy, we know there has been and continues to be a purpose, and the last chapter of this story hasn’t been written yet… As I’ve prayed as you have gone through the steps up til now, I will keep on doing that… I appreciate your transparency as you have followed your heart and God’s leading, and I am looking forward to seeing how the tale unfolds from here… You are forever connected to Ivita and her beautiful country, in spite of the distance now. Your lives have been changed and your faith strengthened, along with many others of us who have been following your journey.

  • Tishia Lee

    Wow…it’s hard to type through all my tears. I don’t have much more to say than what’s already been said. Just know that you, Ivita and the rest of your family are in my prayers.

  • Corrie

    Oh Nicole, I’m so sorry this didn’t work out. She’ll always be in your heart and like you said, you’ll see her again. Who knows, she might even come back to see you when she turns 18. Keep smiling and as my grandma always says, keep on the sunny side. Hugs!!

  • Paul B. Taubman, II

    Nicole –

    Add me to the list of tear makers! I not sure if the tears are for sadness or becuase of you and Mr. Nik’s positive outlook. Such an emotional roller coaster! You are simply amazing!

    As the saying goes, “There is a reason for all this.” It certainly does not help your feelings in this moment, but as you pointed out, it is Now vs. Later. Now feels not so good. Later – well who knows how you will feel later!

    You went so far ahead of where others simply would have stopped.”Pick One!” Talk about opening your heart and giving! Heck, I don’t even have a dog!!!

    You are all in my thoughts!

    Be Well, my friend!

  • Celene Harrelson | The Happypreneur

    Wow! I am so sorry that this didn’t happen for you and Joe. You are amazing, my friend! It’s funny how some would look at something like this as a failure heaped with disappointment and regret, but you are able to see the blessings with gratitude instead of regret. I love you Nicole.

  • Alice Seba

    Your email to this post said your adoption journey is over, but the journey itself isn’t over. Good luck to Ivita in whatever she chooses for her future. I’m sure you and your family will be right there to guide wherever she needs it.

  • Tracy

    What an incredible journey you have been on, and a huge emotional rollercoaster. I’m so sorry the story didn’t have the ending you had planned, but I guess there was no right or wrong ending. Your lovely girl chose to live in the moment, that’s all, and she has her siblings near her so it’s understandable. What happened to you, happened for a reason, if nothing else to learn a big lesson from life.

    My heart is with you, and I’m sure you have a already made a big difference touching Ivita’s life.

  • Graeme Nichol

    Wow, Nicole that is an amazing story!

    The world needs more of this and less of all the cruddy stuff.

    As Mark said – awesome post, really sharing.

    Thank you


  • Janelle

    I can’t even begin to imagine what a difficult decision this was for your girl. I’m sure she truly agonized over it for months. She obviously loves you very much, you could see that in the pictures. But she is still one of the lucky ones because she has a family who loves her as their own blood and will be there for her whenever she needs them.

    Nik, you’re in my thoughts and prayers, in this time of sorrow, and missing, and wishing. May God continue to protect your girl, and send healing balm from heaven to cover your hearts through this mourning process.

    Love always,
    Janelle (Nell)

  • Mike Lamb

    Hi Nicole. I just glanced at your post and it drew me in. A testament to your writing and storytelling. What an adventure this girl took you on. I felt like I was watching a documentary.

    My heart bleeds for you. An amazing journey to be sure, but what an amazing person you’ve connected with. Her life will be better because of you and Joe. Even though the adoption process didn’t complete, you have a new member of your family. A young girl who will blossom into a beautiful young woman who will be making many decisions about her life based on your guidance and love.

    Peering into the future you may find her wanting to move to the US and live her life here. Your wisdom and influence will no doubt be with Ivita for the rest of her life.

    Congratulations for having the strength and love to even try and save one girl from the plight millions will have to endure. You are truly one of God’s chosen. I’m glad I know you.

  • Alicia Jay


    Thank you for being so open and honest in sharing this personal story with your readers. It has obviously reached so many–but it may reach the one person who needs to read it right now. You never know who just really “needed” to read these words.

  • Felicia Slattery

    Oh Nicole-
    This just breaks my heart – I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.

    But, as I was reading your post, what struck me most is the fact that you & Joe have already adopted Ivita into your hearts forever. That means this is honestly just a temporary setback with a long distance in between hugs.

    Who’s to say she doesn’t get out into the world as a legal adult and then regrets not being adopted? There’s nothing to stop her from reaching out to you, and while it’s another process, there’d be no reason why she couldn’t come here to stay with you and to be an part of your daily lives as she gets older.

    It’s a terribly tough road to be on right now. I pray for healing for your family – all of them, close and far as well as for the orphans who need good homes with loving families.

    Hugs my friend,

  • Christina

    Nicole, I’m so sorry this didn’t work out the way you had hoped and planned. I admire your still-positive attitude and I sure hope that with the powers of the internet you’re able to keep in touch with your darling Latvian daughter.

  • Dan R Morris

    Our travel plans next summer are either Iceland OR the triumvarate (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia). If we shall do the latter, I would be more than happy to bring her as much pineapple juice as allowed. 🙂


  • Richard Goutal

    Thank you so much for sharing this journey. While it is sharing your heart, it is filled with valuable lessons for the rest of us.

    All the best,

  • Mark Mason

    Hey Nicole;

    I wish I had something really intelligent and helpful to say. I don’t.

    I can tell you some things that strike me about this experience, however. Here is the biggest one — you are really a wonderful, beautiful woman. I know everyone always stays that about you, but I cannot imagine anyone setting out to do something more noble and generous and then handling the outcome more gracefully.

    You are an inspiration to me, your readers and most importantly, to Ivita.

    I am so proud to be your friend — I just want to shout out to the world and tell them how awesome you are and how lucky I am to know you.

    All my love,

    P.S. — Speaking technically, this is a KICK ASS blog post. 🙂

  • Bob

    Nicole…I get your emails, and if I see something interesting there I look at your PLR offers…and that’s it. I never read your blog. Never.

    Until now.

    If I had to pick a post to begin reading your stuff, I couldn’t have picked a better one. Thank you for chronicling a story that reminds me how well I and everyone I know has it…and reminding me of the many children who desperately need out prayers.

  • Sharon

    You’re a special person Nicole Dean and thanks to social media and your own tremendous network of friends your actions will go far and wide in terms of getting other people to take action and to do whatever they can do to adopt a child in need or to help someone else…simply because they “can.”

  • Lynne

    That is a beautiful story…. And certainly shows what caring people you and your family are. Even though you would all be very disappointed, it will be wonderful to have that ‘extended’ Latvian family…

    You have already made a life-changing impression on her, despite the outcome, and who knows where that will lead.

    Ivita looks like a beautiful girl, and it must be reassuring for her to know she has you all as her ‘family’, even though from a distance.


  • Alice Coaxum

    I’m really sorry it didn’t work out the way you hoped but it sounds like you and your husband are at peace with what has happened and that you still have a strong connection with Ivita. This is a wonderful thing you tried to do for her and you never know how things may work out later on when she is older. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  • Holly Ralston Oyler


    This was not a failed adoption. Maybe on paper, but you and your family have touched this young woman’s heart and soul forever. She will be forever changed for having known and loved you. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and her.

  • Marilyn Fisher

    Nicole, you all have been truely blessed to have been able to connect in a way that most miss. My prayers continue to be with you all. Hugs

  • Debi J


    I’ve been reading your posts since you started on the Christmas visit journey and am sad to hear that you didn’t get to bring your daughter back home with you.

    I have no doubt that the love and caring she’s learned from you will allow her to pass that same love and care to her siblings who may pass it on as well. That alone will have allowed you to “save” more than just your daughter’s future well-being, especially given the statistics offered by the home she’s in.

    I see very heartwarming Latvian trips in your future and U.S. trips for your daughter as well.

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us and opening so many eyes to what’s possible for orphans once we make the decision.

    Hugs, prayers and healing thoughts headed your way as you work thru the grief…in spite of the joyous memories!

    Debi J

  • Jeanne Kolenda

    Well, darlin’ you know I’d love to wrap my arms around you and pray for you just like I did in February. I am praying that one day she’ll have the miracle of immigration on her side, and that as one who is “of age” she can still come here. I have friends who now have their 2nd Ukrainian teenager, and are working on the third. It has, indeed, been an outrageous ride – I’ve watched it close up.
    Bunches of hugs!

  • Jenny

    Awwww Nicole, thank you for sharing this story!!! I’m sorry it did not work out as you would have hoped, thinking of you and praying for you all!!!

  • Allegra

    There isn’t a lot that I can add to the uber-elegant feedback you have already received. I just want to pile on and add more love! The strength, courage, and grace you have shown through this unbelievable time are incredible. Blessing on your entire family, here and in Latvia.

  • Mary Gallagher

    Oh, Nicole and Joe, As Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, is what matters, whether it’s expressed through tears, laughter, stubbornness or frustration, it’s all love. It will carry everyone touched by your experience, especially Ivita. Thank you so very much for doing what you knew in your heart to be the only path.

    Much love and gratitude,


  • Sarah Arrow

    Oh Nicole, am so sorry things didn’t work out the way you had hoped.

    I’ve followed the incredible journey you’ve undertook by email, and I truly hoped that you got the outcome you wanted.

    I know you can make things work, it’s just a little pond and not a huge ocean that separates you. You’ve made a huge difference in Ivita’s life and its not over yet, it’s just took a different fork in the road.

    Sending virtual hugs.

  • Debra Marrs

    You are ALL so brave! Your ability to release what you can’t control is equally amazing. I don’t believe this is the end of the story at all. Just the closing of the most recent chapter. Sending all of you hugs <3

  • Lisa Rae Preston

    Nicole, I can’t imagine all the pain and disappointment you all have endured. What amazing parents you are! I’m glad your precious Ivita is safe. Sounds like God knitted your hearts together forever. What tremendous blessings you’ve listed! May He hold you close during the ache. Thank you for sharing your personal journey!

  • Kristen Eckstein


    You’ve touched my heart with your story & given me inspiration into some of my own dreams. You will never know the impact you’ve had on me. I love you, sister, and send virtual hugs your way.


  • Lori

    Wow…what a wonderful story, full of God’s provision and love. Thank you for sharing. I know Ivita has been so blessed by your love and care for her, and it just has to mold the rest of her life! This has to have spoken so loudly and beautifully for your children also. God Bless….

  • Maureen McInnis

    I only know of you from being at NAMS in Feb and the web. You spoke of the adoption then.
    My sister in Alaska works with children in the foster care system. She told me once that from her experience talking with the adult/children from the foster care system that a child who has ONE adult in their life that they could trust or believed in them made the difference between their personal success getting to be an adult.
    You and your husband’s and children’s interaction with this young lady maybe all it takes to propell her past the statistics of her homeland.
    Bless you for your giving heart and taking the risk on another human.
    Maureen McInnis

  • Cindy Brock

    Ditto a thousand times to what everyone else has said!

    Cindy :}

    P.S. It was nice meeting you (finally) at NAMS a few weeks ago!

  • Peggy Baron

    I’m so so sorry things didn’t work out how you intended. My heart breaks for you. But you were set on this journey for a reason and it’s bigger than you can imagine right now.

    {{{Big Hugs}}}

  • Angie

    Cried tears for you today. I’m sorry to hear about the adoption but she will always know that you care. Your family made a huge impact on Ivita and those memories will forever be with her. Hugs to your family!

  • Steve


    This is such a very sad story you have told all of us.

    I know nothing about adopting so don`t know what this must have felt like for you and your husband.

    But the one thing that I would say is this, Dont give up, can there be a way that in the near future, be it a year or so, that yourselves and Ivita can get together permanently, I am trying to read between the lines of your story, and I would say that there is hope that can happen, I wish you tons of luck, but dont give up,

    keep positive !

    Love Steve.

  • Ingrid Dinter

    Dear Nicole,
    I don’t even know what to say… . This must be the most beautiful blogpost I have read – ever…
    Knowing and following your story, and keeping you and all your family in my heart and prayers, I can’t even imagine what you are going through right now. I have always admired you knowing exactly what you want, and getting it. I know that you want the best for Ivita, and you were willing to do whatever it takes to assure that she has what she needs. Accepting this outcome and sharing it with us with so much grace, depth and honesty is something only few people would be able to do. You all continue to be in my prayers during these difficult times. Please count me in for help – whatever I can do. Sending you much Love, appreciation, respect and courage. Ingrid

  • Sharyn Sheldon

    Oh Nicole, I’m so sorry this didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. I know you mentioned some of the issues at NAMS. Teenagers. You just never know what they’ll decide. They’re so close to being adults and yet they need our guidance more than ever. Now that your girl has a couple of warm, loving “parents” to guide her, even if it’s from afar, she has far more advantages than she would have had if you hadn’t embarked on this journey. Of course, it would have been easier to give that love and guidance if she’d been in the same time zone ;), but I can tell that you’ll overcome that flimsy barrier. The world isn’t that huge, after all, and you’re certainly strong enough to conquer any obstacles with all those big hugs!

    Good luck with the next stage in your journey. It hasn’t ended. It’s just changed course.

    — Sharyn

  • Jo Ann

    Nicole, like many others, I have been following you on this journey (through your emails) and I’ll have to admit it was exciting waiting to see how it all was going to end for you when the adoption finally went through.

    But as sad as the outcome is for you and your family, perhaps the love you have shown Ivita was just the confidence boost she needed to help her later on to reach out to countless other children who are in the same or similar circumstances as herself, even if you had to let her go in order to make that happen.

    My prayers go out to you. A mother’s broken heart can be almost unbearable at times, but you never know how far-reaching a selfless act of kindness can go.

  • Marilyn aka G-Ma

    The Lord puts us together with others for a season and a reason. You and your daughter had a wonderful experience. One that none of you will forget. As you said you met new wonderful friends.


  • Donna

    Thanks Nicole for sharing your journey. I can imagine the hoops that you all have jumped through and the mixture of emotions, now….I have been there. Similar, but very different.

    Adoption is an amazing process of love and commitment and part of it is being open to whatever happens… That’s what unconditional love really is, being there, being present for whatever happens.

    I know for us, having made this journey three times the thing that really stood out was that it was about love. I was amazed how deeply in love we were from thousands of miles away. Despite loss, the love we had was tremendous.

    It sounds like you are family already and have formed a strong bond that while different from your first imaginings can still be a wonderful one.

    You are amazing, in your openness and sharing of your journey. I love your lists of the wonderful things that came out of the journey… how great to see that through your disappointment!! I applaud you.

    All the best,

  • Lalitha Brahma

    Hi Nicole

    I really appreciate the way you have described the entire process, despite what you may be going through. By sharing it in depth, especially the positives/negatives and the blessings, you have helped me and all the readers realize that regardless of the outcome, you have enjoyed every moment, learned the lessons and always felt grateful.


  • Cheryl Miller

    Nicole – I read your story with relish, anticipation, joy, and sadness. I second the comments that your husband is amazing. I can see why you adore him. It looks like your journey was destined…and still is because it doesn’t feel “over” yet. This is a journey that keeps on giving in ways that will unfold as it does. Still it feels like a heart breaker. I’m glad you have a great spiritual perspective because it will truly help you through this. I was really touched by your journey and feel so glad to have read a bit about it. Letting people see a bit of our souls is what makes life wonderful. Sending love, Cheryl

  • Susan Laurino

    Thank you for sharing your story. You have a great attitude about the whole journey. We can rest in the fact that God is in total control. You gave this girl the gift of love and a taste of family. I’m sure she will always be in your heart and you in hers. Who know, she may even decide to come to USA in the near future. Only God knows.

    I feel a connection with you because we just adopted our 3 school age foster kids. There are soooo many kids here who need a family too.

    My prayers are with all the kids.

  • Haggard Ryder

    What a grand post. Thanks for sharing and caring for Father’s little ones. Those who need folks like you to care and love and give them security when they need it most of all.

    Like Cindy, there is not much more to be said that has not already been said. I concur with them and say, God bless you for all the love in your heart you want to share with His children.

  • Ute Goldkuhle

    Nicole, this is one of the most heart-warming and powerful post I have ever read! You demonstrate the power of your story, giving of yourself, your strength, joy and disappointment by opening your heart and soul.
    We talked at NAMS a few weeks ago and your true love for Ivita was so evident. But you equally had such an understanding of her situation and her young mind. There is no question that you and your family have implanted a strength and your love in her that she may grow up to be an amazing young woman, even knocking on your doorstep one day.
    Nicole, thank you for showing us the power of genuine sharing. You and your family are amazing! You have inspired us and we all search our souls a bit differently now.
    My Love and admiration to you and your family!

  • Adrian

    Nicole, One thing I can say for sure i.e. the world needs people like you! it is very difficult to find such persons who know the real love for someone ,it may be a daughter ,son or anyone ! I can feel , how much you are missing her in every minute of your day and night! It is clearly seen from your writing filled with feelings and care! Ivita is lucky to have a mom like you!

  • Ronnie Nijmeh

    My wife and my prayers are with you and Ivita as well.

    Your family is such an outstanding model of charity!

    God Bless you all!

  • Carol Smith

    I wrote this yesterday but somehow it got dumped. Must have done wrong. Just had to come back and add on to what I had said.

    Your journey has been one that will stay with you. You were able to allow your heart to open wide and some might say got hurt. Although this can and has been the case with you, your heart has resolved to remain open.

    I am a “single mother by choice” of a wonderful adopted son. He is grown now but is still the light of my eyes. I consider myself so fortunate that God brought him into my life. Many say he was lucky because he was in such bad shape but I know without doubt that I am the lucky one.

    I got him when he was 6 weeks old. He weight 5 lbs. 3 oz. and was a failure to thrive baby who had been severely neglected. All I can say is that he was worth every struggle. To become a single mother was almost unheard of back then but he fit into my life as a teacher instantly. What a lucky peerson I have been.

  • carol

    Oh I am so sorry. I read through tears this touching turn in your story. There isn’t much more to say that hasn’t already been commented. You are a strong family and are very blessed to have had the opportunity to share your love with Ivita and to receive her love in return.

    I keep you in my prayers, hoping you will have many opportunities to visit with each other.

  • David Frey -

    Nicole, this story is NOT over!!!!

    It’s just beginning.

  • Nina Knox

    Oh Nicole! I am so sorry. I know I don’t know you well, but just from the little I know of you and your mother, your little girl would have had (has) and wonderful mother and grandmother. I can agree with David – this story is NOT over! I would imagine that maybe at 18 she can make her own decisions about where to live, etc.? I don’t have any idea how these things work, but I bet anything, the story is NOT over! I’m just so sorry for your disappointment – I can’t even imagine!

  • Sherry Frewerd

    Well, I’m crying at work; good thing I work at a church and no one cares…lolol. What a beautiful story and experience, Nicole. Your perspective in the end is remarkable and one that I can’t say I’d come away with. It’s a blessing that you can share with others who may be going through the same experience. Thank you for sharing.


  • Kelly Black


    I share sentiments with all those who have posted here. I would just like to add that what you have written here is such a testimony to what it means to be a human being living in a broken world, leaning not on your own understanding but rather trusting in God. You have demonstrated the meaning of faith in the face of pain, struggle, fear, disappointment and just about every heart wrenching emotion/experience there is. You have demonstrated gratitude in the toughest of trials. You have demonstrated trust and hope in the face of hopelessness. Please know that your journey, your pain, your struggle is not in vain. You have touched, blessed, awakened, moved and inspired the myriad of people who have commented here and those who may have read and didn’t or couldn’t comment as well as all those we will share this with in our own circles. You have been faithful in allowing God to use this trial for good in that sense and I’m sure others. For that I thank you and know you will be blessed. And it goes without saying that Ivita has been blessed as well. Prayers for you, your family, Ivita and every orphan everywhere.

  • Karen Batchelor

    Dear Nicole –

    My heart just aches for you. My niece and brother are adopted so I’ve been watching your journey from afar with high hopes that everything would work out. I’m very sorry they didn’t.

    Thanks so much for sharing what happened as painful as I’m sure it was to tell the story. I hope it brings some small comfort to know that people like me who have never even met you are holding you up in prayer. With a big hug on top!!

  • Tiffany Dow

    Nicole I just got your email about it. I am so sorry, sweet lady. I love that you made a young lady feel loved in this world. What a wonderful gift you gave her! I’m sorry your heart is breaking, but I know it will heal and that you will benefit from that connection the rest of your life.


  • Danielle

    Sorry it didn’t work out and that Ivita didn’t get to home to you. It is great how you can bring all the positives of the situation out to light. Very touching story!

  • Dacia Stuckey

    As I was reading this post I was almost in tears but at the same time this made me smile. She is very fortunate to meet wonderful people like you and your husband. Don’t think of this as an end to the adoption. This will most likely blossom into a wonderful relationship.

    Even though things didn’t work out as planned I wouldn’t rule out the wedding and the children just yet. I hope you stay the beautiful person you are inside and out.

  • Nick

    What love you and your husband have to share.
    The world is fortunate that the two of you are here.
    To be able to go thru this experience and to have such
    love to give is inspiring to us all.
    May you both find continued peace and happiness.
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    May the Blessings Be
    Nick H.

  • Brad Spencer

    Good lord Nicole…what an amazing story.

    I am tearing here a little bit because this is one of the most sad and yet very happy stories I’ve read in a long time. While I’m not married and don’t have kids, I’m dating the girl I will marry and this made me really appreciate the future we have together.

    I’m not sure if that’s the proper reaction but it’s so very touching to see unconditional love for someone who doesn’t have a lot of cards in their favor. It takes a STRONG spirit to be able to write, share, and be so open with your admittedly raw feelings.

    I’m touched…I don’t have a lot of “words” (there isn’t a word in English to convey this so it’s just “touched” 🙂 ) to show what I mean…but from one master soul to another…your beauty and loving spirit are noticed and you “made a dent” in my life.

    I’m sooooo glad I read this blog post tonight 🙂

    Have a wonderful day and know that there are many many people in the world who you reached with this…which is absolutely priceless.



  • Tom

    Wow, that struck a chord in me… My wife is from eastern Europe (Poland, not Lavtia) and her name is Iveta (so close!)…

    Iveta is an exceptional, dynamic woman, and while she was quite a bit older when she decided to leave home and marry me (24), it was still very difficult. While I’m certain there are some cultural differences between Latvia and Poland, there are also lots of similarities and I can only imagine the decision this young lady had to make.

    Prayers for your family and Ivita, Nicole. But I somehow suspect that this story is far from being finished.

    Best regards,

  • Avril

    You know, the story isn’t over, it’s just on ‘pause’.

    We’ve immigrated twice in the past 17 years. It’s seriously HARD to leave behind that which you know and those that you cherish. I would NEVER suggest immigrating to anybody, it’s a hugely personal journey that will takes you all the way to hell and back. So, I understand your child’s reluctance to leave her world – at this time.

    She’ll mature and over time she’ll miss you more and more. You have planted a seed of love in her heart and she knows where to find you when she reassesses her choice later in life.

    Would that there were more wonderful people willing and open to sharing their lives (and their hearts) with the rest of the world. You’ve done a wonderful thing. The universe will return it to you tenfold.

    Wishing you love, light and perfect joy in your lives.

  • Leslie Cardinal

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Nicole! It is a wonderful blessing to be able to read your story. I am so sorry for this difficult turn of events and for the heartache you are feeling. All of you are in my prayers for comfort now, and for a happy outcome in the days and months ahead. I pray that it will happen in perfectly wonderful ways that bring great joy to your hearts!



  • Christine Holroyd

    You and your amazing hubby (you are amazing, too) are in my thoughts. So many wonderful comments here to take solace in.

    Hugs from the other side of the world in Oz.


  • Jane

    Hi Nicole,

    How good of you to share such a personal story with the rest of us. I’m sorry it didn’t work out as planned, but I’m sure all of you will have a lifelong connection for possibly a greater purpose in time.

  • Gina Parris

    Oh Nicole! I can’t believe anything is “over” in this story. You have created so much hope and beauty and brought healing that will ripple through a whole village. Here’s to a future that is brighter than you can all imagine. Indeed, my prayers continue for the orphans everywhere.

  • Greg Darter

    Thanks so much for sharing this. My wife and I are going through similar issues, and I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to me that you were so open with your struggles. I really do appreciate it.

    Greg Darter

  • Stephanie Watson


    I just wanted to say that your story is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I’m sorry for all that it turned out this way, but none of us knows what the future holds. The love you have for her, and your family,shines through.


  • Tammy

    Hi Nicole,

    That was such an inspiring post, and thanks for sharing it! I’m so very sorry it didn’t work out. However, it sounds like you will still have a relationship with her. She is a lovely young woman. Both you and her had an amazing experience and you both will hold memories! Both laughter and tears.

    Again, I’m so sorry and I will keep (all of you) in my daily prayers.

    I’m posting this link on my Grandparenting blog

    God Bless and keep the faith! 🙂

    You probably don’t remember who I am, I’m Tammy Embrich (one of your affiliates)


  • Sharon Gibson

    I’m sorry to hear this and for the loss for you and your husband and for her. I understand the disappointment of a teenager’s decision in adoption. I experienced it too in a couple of my seven adoptions.
    Your wisdom in handling the situation is inspiring. You didn’t deny the grief and the pain and you were honest about sharing it. At the same time, you shared all the beauty which remains, the love and care and commitment to the relationship. You are forever changed for the better and so is she and so are all those touched by your story.

  • George Nieves

    I’m so sorry to hear your story. You are one of the few class acts on the web today. I wish you & your family the best. My prayers are with you.


  • Therese


    Your story touches my heart and demonstrates how magnificent you are.

    I would love to add a positive to your list that I noticed felt like a missing for me:-)

    Positive: She KNOWS that she is is unconditionally loved!

    There is nothing in this world that remains unchanged when it is touched by unconditional love. You have given THE MOST powerful gift to Ivita, the gift of experiencing what it is like to be loved without condition….

    No Rules of, I will love you if you come to the US, If you let us adopt you, if you choose what I want you to…. Just simply unconditional love. That is a miraculous gift to give a young girl and it will transform her life forever. There are so many people in this world that will go their whole lives without ever having that experience, but not Ivita! And the impact of that unconditional love is EXPONENTIAL… in her life and the lives of everyone she touches.

    Thank you for your heart, your commitment, and allowing yourself to be shaped by such a humbling and powerful experience.

    Below is an excerpt from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘The Oversoul’ That we use as a tool in Radical Leadership… and as I read your post you made me think of this:

    “What we commonly call man,
    The eating, drinking, planting, counting man,
    Does not, as we know him, represent himself,
    But misrepresents himself.
    Him we do not respect.

    But the Soul, whose organ he is,
    Would he let it appear through his action,
    Would make our knees bend.
    When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius.
    When it breathes through his will it is virtue.
    When it flows through his affection it is love.”

    Nicole, You make my knees bend.

    Love and Prayers,


  • Your Loving Husband

    You *are* an adventure Nicole Dean.

    I am truly one lucky man, and… Still madly in love with you!

  • Christine Holroyd

    Awww! You two are so blessed to have one another by the sounds of it. How lovely of your hubby to share his feelings with the world.

    xx Christine

  • Dina Giolitto

    Nicole, what a beautiful and touching story. I cried reading it. Even if the adoption didn’t go through, your lovely Latvian daughter’s life will be changed for the better, forever, by knowing you (just as she’s changed yours). I know you’re going to stay in touch and be her guardian angels from across the ocean. Much love to you and yours.

  • Kim Phoenix

    My heart aches for what you and your family must be feeling. All of your lives will be enriched by meeting and spending time with one another though.

  • Teddi Barnes

    I’m a mom of 5 and a grandma of 10. You and your husband are just as much parents, as my husband and I are. You love her unconditionally. You let her be her own person, good decision or bad. You’ll be there for her if and when she needs you. This is what moms and dads do and you’ve done that. God bless all three of you!

  • MJ Schrader

    oh this made me cry… you are very very special… thank you for having the courage to show her love..

  • Tulisa

    I’m so sorry to hear your story. You are one of the few class acts on the web today. I wish you & your family the best. My prayers are with you.


  • Tulisa

    you and your amazing hubby (you are amazing, too) are in my thoughts. So many wonderful comments here to take solace in.

  • Shawna

    Awe thank you for sharing such a vulnerable time in ya’lls lives and being so real and authentic. Damn, I knew I liked you – but now I really love you. <3 Hugs
    I'm sorry ya'll had to go through that, but hope that ya'll still stay in touch and continue connecting in this Earthly plane – sounds like ya'll have had some past lives together. 😉

    This gave me an aha in my life for how I'm feeling – am I choosing my NOW (this comfortable uncomfortable place that really doesn't give me much of a future in the corporate world, but it feels safe) for a possible better LATER (that has much uncertainty, but is going to push me out of my comfort zone and make me expand – by building my own online coaching business) and if I don't do something NOW will I regret it LATER?! Hmm…deep thoughts there

    • Nicole

      Wow, Shawna. My deciding factor is always “will I regret (doing this / not doing this) in 5 years”? It really helps me to weight the pros and cons and kick my own butt if needed (and frequently it is needed). lol.
      Big hugs. You’ve got this.

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