Bringing Stephen Home

We are Steve and Jennifer Icenogle. We were missionaries in Ghana, West Africa. We need help to get our son, Stephen Karikari, whom we adopted in Ghana here to the U.S.

Stephen has been a part of our family his whole life. His mother was a student who lived with us and attended our mission school. Jennifer was the very first one who got to see or touch him because he was born in our van on the way to the hospital. He and his mother continued to live with us for the next 3 and a half years. Stephen and our other children (Montana, Corban, and Jachin) spent all of their time together.

Then his mother got married. We were sad for them to move out, but happy that Stephen would have a dad. For the next year, things were good. Stephen and his mom came to our house everyday. Stephen came over on Friday nights (family night) and would spend the weekend with us.

Then we moved to Montana and lived for the next 6 years. During that time, life became very difficult for Stephen. His step father decided that he didn’t want him around, forcing his mother to send him to various relatives who also didn’t want him around. Every year, Steve visited Ghana and tried to see Stephen. We continually tried to figure out what we could do to help him.

When Stephen was 10, our family (with the addition of youngest daughter, Indie) returned to Ghana. We immediately sought out his mother, so that we could see Stephen, but he was not even with her at that time. It took a little more than half a year for Stephen to finally be able to come to our house. He stayed with us for a few days and went back to his mother. But he begged and cried to her to let him come live and stay with us. Finally, soon after the school year started, he came to live with us. At Christmas break, we encouraged him to spend the break with his mother. He returned after just a few days. We learned that the home situation with his step father still was not good. We decided that he could stay with us as much as he wanted.

The following spring, we came to the conclusion that we were going to have to leave Ghana. One of the major questions we had when contemplating leaving is “what would happen to Stephen?” When we first left in 2006 we had thought about adopting him then, but we didn’t want to break up what we thought was a family. Now we knew that there wasn’t a family that he was a part of, and we wanted Stephen with us. He was part of our family…and has been for a long time. When we told Stephen that we wanted to adopt him and have him live with us forever, we wish you could have seen the relief on his face. It was after we made the commitment to adopt him that we heard Stephen really laugh for the first time. Not just a laugh because something was supposed to funny, but a real belly laugh that communicated he belonged and felt safe. All we have wanted for Stephen is a family. A family to love him and nurture him. What we realized in our last stay in Ghana is that we are that family.

Working through the Ghanaian government office of Social Services, we found out that we could adopt Stephen, because it was in his best interest.  The paperwork, the timing, how smoothly everything was AMAZING!!   We thought it would be just as easy on the U.S. side of things to get things done.  And that's where things came to a screeching halt.  Sadly, we had to leave Stephen with our good friends and coworkers in Ghana due to visas expiring. We thought this was going to be temporary.  We thought he would be with us by the end of the year.  That was more than two years ago.  

We have already put out a lot of money for the paperwork, homestudy, filing fees, background checks, medical checks, but it didn't get us the result that we wanted so be able to bring Stephen home.  This time we are going to start over and fresh. We are hiring a lawyer to help us bring Stephen home, and that's where you come in...

Here are how the costs break down:
Legal fees $7,200
Filing fees $6,470
Post placement services $2,500
Home study renewal $1,000
Travel expenses (visas, plane tickets) $5,000
Miscellaneous(years of living overseas has taught us that there is much that happens that you don't plan for)  $2,830

Stephen was 12 when we adopted him in Ghana.  That was in August of 2014.  He is now 15, and at a crucial time in his life where he's going to need a family to anchor him and help give him direction and support. This has been a long, exhausting battle.  We really believe that we can get this completed with the help of a knowledgable and capable lawyer.  We believe we've hired the best!!  This year is our BIG PUSH to bring Stephen home.  We would like to have him here BEFORE he turns 16 (Jan 2018).  Would you consider helping reunite our family?   

Your support is HUGE.  Every gift helps lighten our burden, and gets us one step closer to bringing Stephen home. Every gift is a HUGE encouragement to us to keep going on and to keep fighting. Thank you!
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Jennifer Icenogle 
Williston, ND