Adoption in the Time of COVID-19: One Family’s Story

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

The Argo's
Josh, Andi and their sons River (left) and Judah (right)

Josh and Andi Argo met back in their college days when Josh’s best friend and Andi’s roommate were dating. That relationship didn’t last, but Josh and Andi hit it off right away. They began seeing each other and quickly realized that they shared a desire to someday, when the time was right, adopt a child. Neither one of them knows or remembers where the desire came from.

“It was just always something I knew I wanted to do,” Josh says. “It was just always there.”

The couple, both teachers, got married on May 29, 2010 and settled into life in the rural farming community of Saint Clair County, Alabama. Judah came first in 2014, followed by River in 2017. Then there was the slew of animals, including dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and pigs.

On the day we spoke, Josh and Andi were sitting on their screened-in porch, watching the boys climb on their fort as goats roamed in neighboring fields. The chickens were clucking nearby and Willow, their Australian cattle dog mix, had to be banished from the porch after knocking over the tablet they were using to Zoom.

It’s a happy life. A comfortable life. Compared to having newborns (River didn’t sleep through the night until over a year old), even an easy life.

Although Josh and Andi don’t acknowledge that they’re doing anything special, it’s clear that they have always aspired to more than just being comfortable. Indeed, they are committed to following the call that, somehow, has always been there. They were simply waiting for the right time to take action.

“We were just letting God lead us.” Josh says. “Once we had the two boys, we both were like. ‘Ok we’re ready.’ ”

They talked about fostering a child but knew they didn’t want to put their boys — or themselves — through the pain of losing a child they’d grown to love. “Our oldest child is pretty tender-hearted,” Andi says. “I wanted whatever child we brought into our house to be permanent.”

Although they certainly considered domestic adoption, it seemed like the longest waiting lists were for the prospective parents — not the other way around. They wanted to adopt a child who might not otherwise be adopted if it weren’t for them.

That led the Argos to international adoption. Some countries required months of travel, which they knew they could not do with their two young boys. Others were seeking placement only for teenagers with acute special needs, which they also knew would be too much to handle in their current situation.

“This sounds funny now looking back on it,” Josh says. “But, at the time, China was the easiest country to adopt from.”

So the Argos proceeded with the mountains of paperwork and, when they were finished, were left to “hurry up and wait” to be matched with a child.

China’s policies require that a family’s youngest child be at least 3 years old before a family can be matched. River turned 3 on April 10 — and that should have been their green light to move forward with the adoption process.

But there were a few other notable dates that would put their dreams on hold.

On Jan. 5, the World Health Organization reported a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan, China. On Jan. 17, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began screening incoming airport passengers for symptoms. On Jan. 20, the first recorded U.S. case was reported in Washington state.

And, on Jan. 31, President Donald Trump banned all travel from China.

Anyone who has adopted internationally knows there are almost always unexpected hurdles, delays and problems. It could be lost paperwork, new requirements or even fairly significant changes, like when Latvia changed its policy in 2018 so that only children living in institutions (not foster homes) could be adopted. Or when Russia unexpectedly banned adoptions by U.S. parents in 2012.

But Covid-19 put the brakes — indefinitely — on adoptions worldwide.

The agency the Argos are using, Lifeline Children’s Services, reports that between 40 and 50 of their families have been impacted by the pandemic. Adoption agencies are accustomed to laws that change seemingly overnight and other challenges, but Covid-19 changed everything for everyone — in an instant.

“We’ve seen countries go up and down and close and have delays, but we’ve never seen it be every single country at one time,” Lifeline director of International Adoption Karla Thrasher told WAFF 48 News in Huntsville, Alabama. “We look at ourselves and say, ‘What is happening?’”

The Argos got their first bit of good news in a while this summer when they were matched with a little girl who just turned 7. They are planning on giving her the name Rosa Li, as “Li” is the nickname given to her in China.

“That was a really encouraging thing,” Josh says.

The hard part, now, is not knowing. They don’t know when they will be able to travel to China. They don’t know if Rosa Li even knows she’s being adopted, much less that the adoption has been delayed. And, given how quickly adoption laws can change, they can’t know with absolute certainty that their adoption will go through.

But Josh and Andi also know that God is in control — and both have heard distinct messages that have sustained them during their most difficult times.

For Josh, it happened while sitting in church in May and listening to a sermon delivered by a man who had contracted COVID-19, been put on a ventilator and survived. “His biggest words were that we make an idol our of certainty” Josh says, “and we put that on a pedestal above everything else.”

For Andi, it was a Bible verse that spoke to her:

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

— Psalm 61:2

“I read it a lot in the hardest times right as Covid hit,” she says. “Now, I mostly go back to it when I start to feel overwhelmed or discouraged.”

The Argos are hopeful to be traveling to China in the spring. For that to happen, travel has to reopen between China and the United States. Once that happens, China will begin to process all of the adoptions that have been halted since early this year.

“At this point,” says Andi, “I guess we could be at the very back of a very long line.”

When Rosa Li finally comes home, there will be a room and a doll waiting for her, as well as a family with very open hearts. “I’m so excited to have a girl,” says Andi, who is looking forward to the little things like painting nails, baking and watching princess movies. “It’s definitely always been a long-term desire of my heart.”

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. And, according to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, there are 153 million orphans worldwide. Older children, like Rosa Li, face diminishing odds of being adopted. Many of them end up living on the streets after aging out of orphanages, which happens at only 14 years old in China. There are some 500,000 orphans in China, according to the Gladney Center for Adoption. Many of them will never know the love of a mother or father.

Josh and Andi are hoping, dreaming and praying to make that number one less — and bring Rosa Li home soon.

“You just trust in God and who he is and his plan,” Josh says. “Even in this uncertainty, he is still in control.”

Follow the Argo's adoption journey on Facebook (here).


Colleen Smitek is an award-winning journalist based in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family of four was blessed two years ago with the adoption of an 8-year-old boy from Latvia whom they met through the hosting program Project 143.