Pictures of Shayla and Joshua Hood’s children line the walls of their Altoona home. J.T. and Emmie are the eldest.
“Then we experienced three consecutive miscarriages which is heartbreaking. So we wanted to be parents again and we started praying about adoption,” Shayla said.
Their prayers were answered with Zola, who they adopted last year. Then, seven months later, they had Piper.
“There’s no difference between your adopted child and your biological child. They’re your children and you love them all,” Shayla said.
But there is one picture in the hood household that stands alone. Devine – the daughter they know and love, but have yet to bring home.
“It’s hard to explain," said Joshua. "I feel like Devine has always been our daughter just through different circumstances.”
Devine was abandoned along the side of a road around the age of two. She’s lived in this orphanage in Benin City, Nigeria ever since.
“She is a true orphan. She has no one else there that has tried to lover her or take her in as their child. We’re it,” said Joshua.
The hoods began trying to adopt Devine two years ago. Joshua traveled to Nigeria three times and Shayla once. They've signed numerous documents, gone through fingerprinting and had a home study from both countries.
“I think we have overwhelming evidence that shows we did everything Nigeria asked of us,” said Joshua.
Joshua left for his fourth trip to Nigeria two months ago expecting to bring Devine home, but when the family met him at the Des Moines airport the only thing in his arms was his backpack.
The disappointment was overwhelming.
“Nothing short of heartbreak. I left her yesterday with tears streaming down her face. I’ve been telling her for seven weeks that she’s going to come home, meet her brother and sisters. Then I had to put her on my lap and tell her without your visa, you can’t go with me,” Joshua said.
The Hoods aren’t giving up. They’re contacting adoption advocates – even members of congress.
Representative Bruce Braley told Channel 13, “I am working along with Sen. Grassley to make sure there is maximum leverage applied to the U.S. embassy to give this child the best chance for a loving home in Iowa.”
Braley also spoke with a legislative affairs officer with United State Citizenship and Immigration Services Tuesday morning.
“One of the problems the U.S. officials are dealing with is that a magistrate judge in Nigeria had upheld the adoption decree, but a chief judge had written an order rescinding the decree,” Braley explained.
He agrees it is beyond frustrating, “It is heart breaking and as I made clear on the phone, if these types of obstacles are going to be a serious problem in allowing these adoptions to proceed then that has to be something that is clear to these parents at the beginning of the adoption process.”
Braley is asking the consulate to act immediately. Two masses in Devine’s eyes could lead to blindness if left untreated, but there are no guarantees any of this will work.
The Hoods refuse to believe otherwise. They are confident they’ll soon see Devine’s smiling face in more than a picture, even if it takes divine intervention.
"We're supposed to love her," said Joshua. "It's God ordained."