Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sandi and Hannah Come Home

Below is an article from today's Lansing State Journal:

Red tape cut, Lansing mom to return home with daughter
Adoption complicated by husband's death in China

Mike Hughes
Lansing State Journal

A Lansing woman's bureaucratic tangle has been resolved.

Sandi Sheldon is expected home from China today with her new daughter, Hannah, and the cremated remains of her husband, Dennis.

U.S. officials held up Hannah's visa for several days after Dennis Sheldon died while in China. But pressure from the public and congressional leaders forced the government to expedite the process.

"Everyone has been on the phone to make this happen," said Darlene Hill, Sandi Sheldon's mother.

That included the adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, and the offices of U.S. representatives Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids.

"We've dealt with a number of complicated issues involving immigration," said Sylvia Warner, Rogers' spokeswoman. "But never one this complicated - or this heart-rending."

Dennis Sheldon, 46, was head custodian at Pleasant View Elementary Magnet School in Lansing and was a natural for parenthood, said the school's principal, Madeline Shanahan.

"There were a number of children ... he went to extra trouble to bond with," she said. "He was absolutely thrilled when the adoption came through."

The school staff surprised him shortly before the couple left for China with a breakfast and an all-diapers baby shower. On Oct. 30, the Sheldons went to Guangzhou (formerly Canton), finalizing their adoption of Hannah, who is about 18 months old.

Dennis Sheldon died there. Hill said he died Nov. 12 apparently from heart failure, possibly aggravated by diabetes.

The complication that delayed Sandi Sheldon's return to the United States came from the U.S. Citizen Immigration Service, said John VanValkenburg of Bethany.

Hannah's papers were no longer accurate, he said, because they listed both Sandi and Dennis. "In a situation where circumstances change, that requires a change in everything else."

Friends and other adoptive parents flooded officials with phone calls. Rogers' office worked with the Immigration Service.

"We were able to persuade them to expedite the process," Warner said.

Late Thursday night, there was word that it soon would be worked out. Hill received news shortly after midnight that her daughter was coming home; Rogers received an official fax at about 4 a.m.

During that time, Hill said, false rumors developed. There were no complications from Chinese officials, and the cremation was not required.

"That was something that Dennis and Sandi always said they wanted," Hill said.

Dennis and Sandi Sheldon were married for 19 years, and Hannah is their first child, said Hill, who lives in Lansing with her husband, Herbert, and is now the grandmother of 13 children.

Sandi, 42, works part time at a Wal-Mart store, and Hill granted that money could be tight. Donations may be sent by check to Hope For Hannah, Fifth Third Bank, 6446 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI 48911.


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