Yesterday the US Department of state issued the following statement regarding adoptions in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo Immigration Authorities Suspend Issuance of Exit Permits to Adoptees
On April 29, the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration (Direction Generale d’Immigration, DGM) informed the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa that the DGM has temporarily suspended issuance of exit permits to adopted Congolese children seeking to depart the country with their adoptive parents. This suspension is due to an ongoing investigation of an adoption that may not have complied with Congolese law.
The suspension of exit permits for adopted Congolese children applies to all intercountry adoptions and is not limited to adoptions by U.S. citizens. These exit permits are required in addition to U.S. immigrant visas in order for children to travel to the United States.
The DGM does not expect to issue exit permits to any adoptees during the investigation. We will post new information as it becomes available on adoption.state.gov.
I could almost hear a collective gasp from the hundreds of families that are in process to adopt a child from DRC. I know that reading this took my breath away and my kids are all home safe and sound. But I have several dear friends and many lovely acquaintances that are waiting impatiently to bring children home. At the very least this will mean another delay in an already long and bumpy process. At worst, it points us in a direction of DRC closing down adoptions for good or, at best, indefinitely. This is something that a lot of us have feared for a long time.
Early rumors sound fairly optimistic. It sounds like this halt to exit letters is not because of a case of falsified documents or bribe paying or other common adoption corruption issues. It sounds like an adoptive parent (not from the U.S.) who technically should have never qualified to adopt from DRC in the first place, somehow managed to slip through the system. Or not completely slip through, considering this pending investigation. I hope the rumor is true and it is simply a case of one isolated situation. If it is true that means that DGM is doing its job. It is providing the last security check in a very complicated process.
Right away when I read this news alert I thought of a friend who is bringing home a 6 year old girl. She has no parents, no extended family to go to, and she has lived in an orphanage since birth. Since BIRTH to SIX years old. It makes me cry just to type that. If she is not adopted she will NEVER have a family. She will NEVER be able to look into the eyes of another woman and say to herself “This is my mama.” She will be fed; she will have a place to sleep. She will probably go to school until about grade 6. She will live in a building filled with other children just like her. New babies will arrive. Some children will finally rejoin their families. Others will die. Six years will turn into seven and eight and nine….But everyday will look about the same as the last. Just as lonely, just as hopeless, just as empty.
Grace spent her first 9 months in an orphanage and we are still trying to repair that damage. What kind of damage does a life a spent in an orphanage leave behind? Prospects are grim for someone who has never lived in a “normal” family setting. The likelihood that their future might include prostitution, forced labor or early marriage, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicide go through the roof.
I pray that DRC does not follow the same path as Vietnam or Guatemala, or Cambodia. I pray this six year old comes home before she turns seven. I pray that every family involved in international adoption takes a stand against the unethical practices that cause countries to close their doors. I pray every night for all the children in the world who don’t have mamas and daddies.
Maybe you could say a little prayer for them tonight, too.