DORR, Mich. — A family from Allegan County should have been in China this month to meet their adoptive son, but the coronavirus pandemic halted their plans.
Dan and Sheila Zehr officially started the adoption process more than a year ago, dating back to March 2019. They expected the process and paperwork to take about 12 months and initially planned to travel to China this spring.
Over the course of the year, the family fundraised thousands of dollars to make the adoption possible. They have also completed all of the necessary paperwork to adopt a 2-year-old boy with special needs.
"I saw his face, and I was like, 'That's my baby,'" said Sheila. "He has down syndrome. He has heart defects, and he would age [out of the system] at 14 years old and then never be adoptable again. That rips me to my core."
The family decided to name him Brodie. They have pictures of him hanging inside of their home, and they write prayers to him in a journal at their home.
"I had a gut feeling that he was ours, that he was in our family, and thinking about not bringing him home for a few more months is really hard," said Shelia.
If the pandemic had not hit, the Zehr's likely would have met their son this week or last week. They continue to wait for answers to learn when travel could become a possibility.
"We're really at the mercy of each country's government and saying whether they're going to allow travel between borders or not," said Dan. "As soon as it opens, I think that things will happen pretty quickly. Until then, we're we're in standby mode."
While they are waiting, Dan emailed Representative Fred Upton urging him via email to "expedite American Adoption of Chinese children with disabilities and allow adoptions to fall under essential travel exceptions."
"The thing that I asked him... was just that that if he could reach out to President Trump on, on behalf of our family, and really on behalf of all the families, not only in his district but on behalf of all the families in the US," said Dan. "The United States has a massive adoption network of families who are passionate about these children, and many of whom, if not most, are in the same boat as we are, who are so desperate to go get their babies."
The next steps they are waiting on for travel approval and to schedule appointments with the consulate.
"We dream of that day of when we can wrap our arms around him and pick him up and bring him to us forever family. He'll be loved and taken care of."
The Zehr's continue to stay in close contact with their adoption agency to learn more about how they can travel and when. If you would like to follow along with their adoption process, you can find a link here.