Head coach Joanne Boyle led the University of Virginia women’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament this year, a feat the Cavaliers had not accomplished since 2010.

But after her team was knocked out in the tournament’s second round, Boyle resigned from her $700,000-a-year coaching job. She had amassed a 333-191 record, including 129-98 at U-Va.

Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle communicates with players during a game. (Sean Rayford/AP)
Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle communicates with players during a game. (Sean Rayford/AP)

She stunned everyone by announcing her retirement at age 54, citing only a “family matter.”

The real story

In a locker room, her team learned what really happened: Boyle has to take her 6-year-old daughter Ngoty back to Senegal — 4,000 miles away — to finalize her adoption, and the U.S. government won’t say when they can come back.

It could be months. Or years.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Boyle, who coached for 25 years, including seven at Virginia, said in a telephone interview from Charlottesville, where she shares a gray-and-yellow Colonial with Ngoty. “I didn’t fathom that would be a part of this journey.”

Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle communicates with players during a timeout. (Sean Rayford/AP)
Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle communicates with players during a timeout. (Sean Rayford/AP)

International adoptions

International adoptions are plunging to their lowest levels since 1973, from more than 22,980 in 2004 to 4,714 adoptions in 2017, according to the National Council for Adoption, a nonprofit that analyzed federal statistics.

The reason? Federal officials point to tighter worldwide controls on adoptions to prevent fraud and human trafficking, and fewer available children from nations such as Russia, China and others that have slowed or curtailed adoptions.

However, advocates say thousands of children still need homes and the U.S. government is creating additional delays by imposing hefty fees.

Boyle says she has spent more than $100,000 in fees, airplane tickets and other costs.

Ngoty

Boyle said she obtained legal guardianship of Ngoty in 2014, two years after the child was born and abandoned at an orphanage in Tambacounda, a dry cotton-farming region in Senegal on Africa’s west coast. As the adoption dragged on, Boyle said Ngoty was severely underweight, with fever, mouth sores and a fungal rash on her scalp. The orphanage cared for the children, but it had spotty electricity and running water, and offered one meal a day, typically rice.

Chronic malnutrition accounts for nearly one in three child deaths in Senegal, according to a federal report.

Joanne Boyle, right, gets a kiss from her adopted daughter Ngoty. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Joanne Boyle, right, gets a kiss from her adopted daughter Ngoty. (Alex Brandon/AP)

She then brought her child to Virginia on a tourist visa, which she overstayed because the child was ill, she said.

Boyle said the consulate knew she was adopting Ngoty when it granted her the visa. She always planned to return for the final checks.

However, overstaying the visa could force Boyle to file additional paperwork that might take years, forcing them to live far from their family and Ngoty’s school.

In Virginia, Ngoty attends kindergarten at the Charlottesville Day School, dances ballet and hip-hop, and plays the violin. She was a fixture at Boyle’s basketball games and speaks English now.

In the United States, Boyle can lean on her 82-year-old mother, four brothers and sisters, and a supportive community at U-Va.

But in Senegal, it would be just her and Ngoty.

“She’s six,” she said. “Putting her on a plane by herself is not an option. Me stepping down from my job was the only option. It’s disruptive, but I’m going to do what I need to do.”

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