Happy endings: America family Nick and Lori LeRoy fight bureaucracy to bring their son home

An American family fights the broken international adoption system and is reunited Photo: Lori LeRoy

INDIANAPOLIS, April 23, 2012 — An American family fights the broken international adoption system and is reunited.  

After more than four years, Nick and Lori LeRoy of Indianapolis, Indiana, finally brought their son home in December 2011.

Nate and Nick at home in the USA/Image Lori LeRoy

What’s unimaginable to a birth parent, being forced to wait years to take your baby home, became the nightmare that the LeRoys—and hundreds of other adoptive families—have endured in recent years.

The LeRoys began their adoption application process in January of 2007 and received their referral for a little boy in Vietnam in July of 2008.

They were one of several families who received referrals for children in the Bac Lieu, a remote province in southern Vietnam.  When they received the first photo of Nate, they fell in love. “He had a shock of black hair standing straight up on his head and a light in his eyes that was as bright as anything I had ever seen,” says Lori.  “I knew I was meant to be his mom.”

The LeRoys slogged their way through the process, completing all required paperwork and following prescribed protocol for both countries.  It appeared everything was on track and the LeRoys awaited word on what day they would travel to pick up Nate. And they waited.  And waited.

In 2009 Vietnam announced that it was uncertain which, if any children, who had been matched with American families would be permitted to leave the country.  The Vietnam government cited its interest in cleaning up its intercountry adoption as the reason for its slowdown –and ultimate cessation—of intercountry adoptions.

Together with other families with children languishing in the Bac Lieu orphanage, the LeRoys began to make visits to Nate and the other children, bringing books, toys, clean clothing and fresh food.  The orphanage, which was a former prison camp, was terribly underfunded with minimal staff and limited educational and medical supplies.

As difficult as it was on parents making the round-the-world trek to visit their children, who were often ill and undernourished, they were dealt an even more serious blow in January 2011 when Vietnam announced that parents could not longer visit their children.

The LeRoys, together with several other families, hired an attorney, Kelly Ensslin, who not only helped negotiate the tricky waters of international adoption, but who also assisted them in working with the U.S. government.  For two years, the U.S. Department of State declined to intervene on behalf of the American parents and their children.

The LeRoys credit the actions of Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, who brought attention to the plight of these American families.  Ultimately, Lugar held up the approval of the United States Ambassador to Vietnam as a way to protest to the way families were being treated in the adoption process and asked the U.S. State Department to get involved.

After much pressure, in late 2011 the LeRoys and seven other families with children in Bac Lieu orphanage were told that Vietnam would now allow them to visit the children, although they were cautioned that they would not be able to bring their children home.   Investigations into the orphan status of these children—most of them now four years old—would be ongoing.

The families traveled to Bac Lieu in the winter of 2011. Although the LeRoys had last seen Nate when he was 22 months, and didn’t see him again until 25 months later, they were restricted to eleven hours over six days.

“Words can’t adequately describe that reunion.  He recognized me when I saw him again, which I really didn’t expect,” says Lori.  “It still makes me tear up and catch my breath to think about it.  I have never given birth, but it must be the same feeling that a mother has when the doctor shows her, her infant for the first time.  Pure joy and bliss.”

After this brief reunion, the LeRoys were resigned to having to leave him and return again.  But an unexpected piece of good news came their way while they were still in Vietnam.  Nate’s paperwork was cleared.  They would be allowed to process their adoption and Nate could fly home to become a U.S. citizen. 

By January, the LeRoys—all three of them—were home at last.

In the end, the adoption cost over $45,000 and took four years to complete.

Despite all the complications and the lengthy wait in poor conditions, Nate is doing remarkably well.  Although his teeth had rotted out while in the orphanage, which has necessitated extensive dental work, totaling more than $6,000 now, he’s otherwise adjusting well. He is learning English, goes to pre-school and has already made friends.

Nate’s teeth at the orphanage/Image by Lori LeRoy


Although their family is together at last after the four-year ordeal, the LeRoys remain concerned about the children who weren’t so fortunate, who have families waiting for them in the States, but who are being denied the right to join them.

Being prepared for the difficulties is one way adoptive parents can begin to cope.  “International adoptions to the United States have decreased by 50 percent over the last five years.  But, the number of children who need homes only continues to increase. Be prepared to deal with governments, who will put barriers, both covert and overt in your way, “ says Nick.  “Once you hold your child in your arms you will know it’s worth the fight.”

The LeRoys are the lucky ones.  Their son is home.  Far more children who have been matched with parents in the United States are stuck in orphanages as they wait for the international community to find a sense of urgency and make their futures a priority.  Until then, orphans and abandoned children suffer without families thanks to political agendas and bureaucratic red tape that has created this broken system.

“ For those families currently fighting with their own or other governments to adoption your child, never give up,” Nick says.  “Love will always win over bureaucracy.” 

The LeRoys–Nick, Lori and Nate—are living proof.


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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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