DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Nigerian government closed the door on an Iowa family's plans to adopt after two years of trying. It was devastating news to the family and the 7-year-old girl.
But, another Iowan stepped in to complete his own family by making her a part of it.
Strangers waited at the Des Moines airport to welcome a little girl to Iowa. Eric Idehen was there to welcome his daughter to her new home.
“The relief, the sense of accomplishment can only be defined by one word: fulfillment. I was fulfilled and from that day, that joy is still there,” he said.
It's what he wishes for all the children at Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage.
Ten years ago, he turned his childhood home in Benin City, Nigeria into a safe haven for children abandoned on the streets.
“She said, I’ve always called you daddy. Now, you're going to be my real daddy. That meant something,” Idehen said.
Devine came close to having another "real" family in 2013. The Hoods fought to bring her home to Iowa.
“She is a true orphan. She has no one else there that has tried to lover her or take her in as their child.”
They traveled back and forth to Nigeria, but in the end, they wound up heartbroken and unable to adopt Devine.
“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,” Joshua Hood said.
For the next two years, home was still the orphanage. This time, the Idehens picked up the fight to make Devine part of their family.
The soft yet outspoken girl is settling into the third grade at Jensen Elementary.
“I was excited to come to a new school,” she said.
She's at the top of her class in math, and playing with her new friends at recess is the best part of the day.
But adjusting to a new school, a new family, a new everything can be overwhelming for anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl.
“Things we take for granted- food, electricity, water, clean environment, paved roads.”
“I think she's trying really to see is this real? Or is this imagined? This life I have right here now, my own this, my own that.”
To really understand, you have to know about the life she left behind.
“When a child lives in the street, there is no hope, there is no future, there is danger and of course, there is abuse,” Eric Idehen said.
When Devine was 2-and-a-half, she was left on the side of the road. The orphanage would become the only home she'd ever known, and she can’t help but feel a bit homesick for the people from her former home.
“She was kind of shy a little. But she's really happy that's she's here,” said Emily Idehen.
After raising three boys, Emily Idehen is happy to have a little girl. The pair has already done the mother- daughter bonding.
“My favorite store is Target,” Devine said.
She watches her favorite shows on the Disney Channel on a static-free TV, and she is already dreaming of the big screen.
“I want to be an actor, an actress,” she said.
Just as her "real daddy" dreams of adding to their already growing family. Eric Idehen wants to adopt another little girl to make them a family of seven.
But for now, the Idehens are content to count their divine blessings.
“I always remind her that she is blessed so that she will give back. I hope she does that,” Eric said.
In the last decade, Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage has found homes for 70 children around the world.