A Peek Into Our Family…

A Little Catching Up With You

A little update on where we are with Mary and Comfort:

I can tell you where I am. I can’t help but feel like our girls Mary and Comfort are victims of circumstance and the lack of proper prioritization along every front and agency within this experience. And honestly, we tried to put them first, but were unsuccessful,  So…yeah. That hurts. Trusting that the tragedies in their lives would be redeemed for His good.

The Good:

  • We have found a great social worker who is very committed to M and C, and who wants the very best for them. I can’t say enough good things about him; he is honest and kind, and Doug knows him from a previous trip to Ghana. They worked well together, and have a mutual respect for one another. I feel blessed to have secured his help.
  • The girls’ mother is living, and is willing to care for them, with some help. She was d.e.v.a.s.t.a.t.e.d. to hear that they weren’t living with us in America for the past couple of years. If there’s anyone on whom this process has been harder than us and the girls, it has to be her. We are going to be sponsoring her business as a pastry baker, and are grateful to hear that she seems to be talented in baking and really wants to try her hand at this in support of her family. We are also looking to get her a cell phone, so that she can better communicate with the outside world.
  • We are eager to sponsor (all of) the children’s education. We hope that they will all be enrolled in school very shortly, so that they can keep up with the other students in their grade levels. Education is of the utmost importance to Doug and me, and we have high hopes that the children will complete their schooling.
  • We are waiting for news about other ways in which we can love on and support this dear family.
  • We may able to Skype with M and C in the near future, with our social worker’s help.

The Hard:

  • It’s all hard.
  • When we Skype with the girls, it will be the first time since they have found out that they’re not coming to America as Hannas. Doug and I have our game-face masks at the ready, and are prepared to be as positive as we can, but we ache for them; I can’t imagine their range of emotions. We hope they’ll feel at least a little bit excited to be reunified with their birth mother, though. It’s rough to be sending them to a home wherein their standard of living will likely plummet for at least a little while. But no one should have to relinquish her children because of poverty, and ultimately, this is their family, from whom they should have never been torn. Supports SHOULD have been in place so that their mother could have kept them without fear of starvation and homelessness, but they weren’t, and here we are.

Gotta wrap this up, but once again, want to thank you all for your prayers and support.

Leaning in to a Father who loves these precious girls more than Doug or I could ever imagine, and trusting Him with the authorship of their stories. And ours.

SDG! xxxooo


A New Normal


Thank you for joining us on this journey to become adoptive parents. A little over 4 years ago, we had it upon our hearts to adopt a preschool daughter, internationally.  Two years after being admitted into the Ethiopia program, we knew that, for all intents and purposes, that country had been shut down to adoption, and heard the news that Ghana was open for adoption. Our heart’s desire now included the thought of adopting older children (anyone over the age of 3), and siblings. And on January of 2013, we were matched with two beautiful little girls who would become our daughters in May of that year–at least they were our daughters according to the law of the land in Ghana. The U.S. wasn’t and isn’t so easily convinced.

The United States Customs and Immigration Services department has determined once more, and likely with finality, that our daughters will not be granted visas to emigrate to the US, because we haven’t sufficiently proved their orphan status to the letter of the law. Our Motion to Reconsider has been denied.

  • It doesn’t matter that the girls were surrendered to an orphanage in 2009.
  • It doesn’t matter that their mother feels she can not care for them, has not seen or had contact with their father in a number of years and doesn’t know where or whether he lives.
  • It doesn’t matter that we sent Doug to Ghana to find the father, to no avail, despite days of searching and interviews with with friends and family members. He just was nowhere to be found.
  • It doesn’t matter that the US Embassy never found him, either.
  • It doesn’t matter that the girls’ mother, and the High Court in Ghana say that the girls should emigrate to the united states and live with us.
  • It doesn’t matter that, without us, the girls have no support in their country. They would be homeless and orphaned. Again. But they’re not really orphans, right? Evidently, they don’t matter–except to us.
  • Justice doesn’t matter, nor does the spirit of the law.

As you can imagine, we tried to prepare ourselves for this eventuality, but that is much easier said than done. Our goals for the near future include: double-checking with our legal team to ensure that no.stone.is.left.unturned (though if we are at the wall of futility, and we think we are, we shall fight no more); figuring out how to best support, nurture and educate our girls from here–maybe going to visit in the near future; and possibly sharing our story with others, so that other families would be spared the 2 years of hell that we have faced. No one should have to go through this as an adoptive family, and CERTAINLY no child, who has already endured trauma beyond what most of us can fathom, should have to go through this. Ever. They are the true victims in this story. Only, they are really the heroes. They soldier on in whatever circumstance they’re dealt and continue to smile and do the best they can. A shout out also to my amazing husband and his selfless, sacrificing, gentleness and perseverance. He has fought harder than anyone will ever know to bring his daughters home. How are David and Jenny? Stunned. Crushed. Their long-suffering, patient wait for little sisters has yielded no fruit. They amaze me every day, though, with the love they have for two little ones they have yet to meet, except over a grainy Skype connection.

Thank you for being our village as we struggle along with our feelings of hurt, loss, failure, anger, disbelief, and all the other feels. Local peeps, we don’t need anything, really, except hugs and prayers. There are no right words. We know that. But please don’t stop talking to us or trying to reach out. But I ask that you bear with us if we’d rather cocoon a bit. Finding a new normal is hard work.

I give thanks for a God who is near to the broken-hearted, because mine is broken.  I give thanks that somehow, what one means for evil, God will use for good. And I give thanks that the same God who allows this suffering is the One with an easy burden and gentle yoke, because I am weary and burdened for these children, for I am their (second) mother.


Under Review


After several hiccups along the way (what is new?), we have been told that our request for expedite has been received and our case has been assigned an adjudicator for review. That’s the news we have been waiting for.

What does this mean in lay terms?

It means that someone is finally looking at our Motion to Reconsider, which was submitted right before Christmas.

I am beyond grateful that there is some progress; but either means we are weeks out from regrouping for another fight, the costliest one yet, or it’s actually a yes.  Honestly chat, here: I don’t have a lot of emotional energy reserves for daring to hope for the the latter, simply because we have been burned so many times.  So, I’m asking for “a little help from my friends”. You all have been so good to us. Please pray for strength and hope, no matter which way this goes. We are so weary of running this race. If I sound bitter, I’m not. I’m just tired. Doug is tired. Jenny and David are tired. The girls are tired. Not that I’ve ever run a marathon, but I feel like I’m just about to come around the corner of mile 1  mile 25, and don’t know how to do the rest.

Soli Deo Gloria!

xxxooo gretchen


Cross Post: For My Valentine


I love you, Doug.  Shouting it from the rooftop.

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Bring Them Home – A Friend’s Post


My friend, Shannon, wrote this post in support of our family.  Shannon is a mom of six young babes, four of whom joined her family through international adoption. Busy is her middle name, and yet, she advocates tirelessly, not only for her own children and children with disabilities, but for our girls.  In this post, she compares her adoption to ours and gives a call to action.

Take a look by clicking this link.

Thank you all for your prayers and offers to help and friendship and love.  The waiting is pure torture, but it has been made bearable by all who love us.  And thank you, Shannon. ❤



Any Advocacy Would Be Great. Really.


Just want to give a quick catch up to those of you following our journey to #bringthemhome. Just in case this is TL;DR (too long, didn’t read), the upshot is that the girls are still in Ghana, and we’re still fighting to loosen the ties that bind with USCIS.

But here’s the longer version for those interested.

  •  On 11/17/14, we received word that the Administrative Appeals Office of the United States Customs and Immigration Services  (AAO USCIS) had denied our appeal for visas for Mary and Comfort. The content of their response contained several legal inaccuracies. Also, we and #legalteamHanna believe that it is beyond a travesty of justice that two United States citizens are locked in ridiculous red tape in bringing home legally adopted children. So, we decided to move forward with what is called “A Motion to Reconsider” with the AAO. We also asked (again) for an expedited ruling, primarily because of the outbreak of Ebola in West African countries.
  • We had 30 or 33 days to complete our motion, and it was received on 12/16/14.
  • Other than receiving a receipt number, we have heard NOTHING in one month.
  • I have contacted people in Senator Cantwell’s office and Representative Del Bene’s office to no avail.  Both assistants said that they would inquire about our case, and neither have reported anything.  In fact, I’m disappointed with how sluggish their responses have been.  I suppose it’s too much to ask for them to really care and advocate.  Bigger fish to fry, I guess. But it makes me frustrated and angry.
  • I’ve tweeted Congress, Representative Del Bene, Senator Cantwell, USCIS, and everyone else I can think of.  No response.  There are several sweet souls who have retweeted my messages to try to make some noise, but I think it comes down to the fact that Mary and Comfort are little girls in another country, who can’t vote, can’t pay taxes, and who aren’t desperate enough to come over our borders for asylum.  Our story is not a sexy, volatile, or loud enough blip on the radar screen for intervention beyond ourselves and our team.  My questions for USCIS are these, though:
    • From what or whom are you protecting these girls?  They would be homeless without our intervention.
    • What do you think would happen to these children if we are forced to relinquish them (as it is neither feasible, nor should it be mandated that we would move to Ghana to raise them)?
    • They have been waiting for a family since 2009. How much longer shall they wait?
  •  And my question for Congress is:  Whom are our immigration laws supposed to serve and protect?
  • So, that’s where we’re at.  Waiting. I am a woman of faith, and will wait upon the Lord for His timing.  But, I also feel responsible, as these girls’ adoptive mother, to do my utmost to fight the injustice that our girls have faced with this protracted wait between adoption and homecoming.
  • To end on a positive note, I want to share pictures of the girls enjoying their Christmas party.  Don’t you love their braids and their cheery, bright, new dresses?  They look happy and healthy, which makes me happy for them.  Also, the incredible Ghana Facebook group has yielded so many sweet relationships and offers of help.  Today, one of my friends is carrying a care package over to the girls from us.  Being able to do such a small thing feels so big to us, right now.

Thank you so much for coming along for the ride, and if you have any other ideas regarding how to light a fire under anyone for advocacy, please let me know.  Meanwhile, prayers and support are so uplifting to us. xxxooo Soli Deo Gloria



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So, What the Heck, Hannas?

I should probably have this blog sent someplace to be bound into a book, because it sure has been the best of times and the worst of times in trying to add to our family through adoption. What the heck?

On Monday (has it only been since Monday?), we received notice that our appeal to the United States Customs and Immigration Services Administrative Appeals Office (USCIS AAO) had been denied. I can’t adequately explain our shock and sadness at the thought that this decision would mean that our girls would remain in Ghana after nearly two years of loving, caring for, and fighting for them. Was this the end? Sure seemed so. And, to be entirely honest, it could be.


Doug and I and our team have a BIG PROBLEM with the fact that two U.S. citizens cannot bring home their LEGALLY ADOPTED children to live with them in the United States. Our attorneys feel that the AAO has failed to correctly interpret and apply the immigration laws to our case, and as such, feel confident that we have several legal arguments for a reconsideration of our case. Further, they have unanimously agreed that we have every right to see these laws interpreted correctly and applied justly to our case. Our team is in a tricky spot, because they’re impassioned about what they’re ready to do on our behalf and yet, don’t want to offer false hope. However, we trust them. So, we are moving forward with asking them to file a motion for a reconsideration of our case.  

A long time ago, Doug and I decided to treat Mary and Comfort as if they were living here, and fight for them as hard as we’d fight for David and Jenny in any sort of crisis. We decided to fight, with everything in us, until we were literally told that we must stop as nothing, NOTHING else could be done. According to Ghanaian law they’ve been our children for 18 months. We won’t give up on our children. Any of them.

Thank you for your prayers and support. As I’ve said before, this has been our oxygen during this terribly emotional week.

As always, I’ll keep you posted. Much love to you. SDG!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.  ~Micah 6:8, NIV


It’s Not Polite To Shout

Unless, of course, you’re shouting for joy!

Which I am.

Because…I received this from Senator Cantwell’s office this morning:

Regarding the status of the case from the (Administrative Appeals Office) AAO:  The expedite request has been approved by Management and the file is currently in the process for adjudications.  A decision will be made within the next few weeks.

They heard our letters, our emails, and our pleas over the TV to #bringthemhome.

It’s not a “yes”, yet; so I ask you to join with me and continue to fervently pray for a YES!!! But we are SO grateful to know we can count on a decision very soon.

Many thanks to all, with specific shout outs to Senator Maria Cantwell and Staff, and to Eric Wilkinson, King 5 News. This is the first good news we’ve had in regards to our girls’ case in over a year. We still have hurdles and hoops ahead, but for today, I’m just going to be thankful.

xxxooo Gretchen

Soli Deo Gloria!

P.S.  I also would be remiss if I didn’t thank my friends Rick and Robin C for helping get our story personally to some of Cantwell’s immediate staff.


An Update and Overwhelming Gratitude

Dear Framily (Friends and Family),

I have to say that Doug and I are overwhelmed at your rally cry on behalf of us as we try to bring Mary and Comfort home, where they belong.  I’ve been flat-out brought to tears as I’ve seen every signature and read your comments on our petition to #bringthemhome.  Thank you isn’t enough, but it’s all we have, so thank you.

We have heard from several of your senators, as well as our own, and we’ve been happy to give them information and sign away our privacy rights.  But here’s what we now know from our senator’s staffer, based on some of her legwork:

  • The Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS will likely take the entire 6 months allotted to them to read and respond to our appeal.  Why we have a 30 day deadline on submitting our appeal and they get 6 months to evaluate is beyond me, but that’s the way it is.  Doug and I knew that the 6 months was a possibility, but couldn’t imagine why it would take that long, because our case shouldn’t have even needed to go there.  But oh, well.
  • We’ve been advised that we can now submit a case for and expedited response.  However, knowing that these folks are people, first and professionals, second, if we do this, we’ll have to tread carefully to avoid angering/pestering them.  We want our appeal read with openness and fairness, not resentment and overly critical/biased-against-us eyes.
  • She advised us that our “case is not unusual.”  This horrifies me beyond belief, but alas, “you will really have to document your case for expedite with facts…”
  • So, the long and the short of it is, unless someone big advocates for us at an extremely high level, or we find someone compassionate to expedite our case, we won’t hear until around 10 March 2015.

At this point, we feel like the petition has run its course of effectiveness, so we are taking it down.  From what we’ve heard from our senator’s office (so far) and some others, it seems like the USCIS AAO is fairly untouchable, and their offices can make the same inquiry as our own senator, but can’t seem to get any further.  Thus, continuing to urge other senators to bark up the same tree seems burdensome and a waste of their time, since they are getting the same result as Senator Cantwell’s office.

We’re not giving up hope, and are definitely considering an argument for expedition; however, we’re also prepared to wait some more.  Sigh.  Was sure hoping to have them home this fall.  Comfort turns 8 next month.  But I guess it’s not to be.

We love you and are grateful for each of you.  Also, to end on a happy note:  Mary and Comfort are starting school on Monday.  They are so excited, and we are excited for them.  Seems like their new foster home is a good environment for them, which is so important to us.  Hopefully, we’ll be talking to them each Sunday evening before they go to bed.

Thanks again.  Soli Deo Gloria!



Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have asked us what you can do to help us bring home Mary and Comfort.  We think our case is dire enough to beseech our senators on behalf of the girls.  If you are interested in supporting this cause via our Senators Murray and Cantwell, please click here, and you will be directed to our petition. We ask that you sign and share with as many people as you would like, who might be interested in supporting our family.  Let’s #bringthemhome.

When you are directed to the site, you will see our letter to the Senators.  Please feel free to add the following to the beginning of the letter if you like.

“Please see below for a letter from our friends, Doug and Gretchen Hanna, concerning their daughters, Mary and Comfort, who are stuck in Ghana. We would appreciate your support in bringing their daughters home.”

We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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