of the congo
Over 350 orphans who have already been legally adopted by American families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are still stuck in orphanages and temporary foster care waiting for their American families to bring them home. Both the Congolese courts and the US Embassy have approved the adoptions. The families have passports and visas all set; yet their children continue to lose the precious development opportunities that only a family can provide.
Why are they stuck?
Citing concerns about the health and well being of previously adopted children, the immigration and emigration office (DGM) of the Congolese government announced that they would no longer issue “exit permits” for adoptions approved on or after September 25, 2013. These permits are necessary for adopted children to leave DRC. The suspension was initially expected to last at least a year. Now however, it seems the suspension will continue until DGM’s Parliament passes new laws regarding adoption. These laws will not even be considered until Parliament reconvenes in the fall. DGM promised to continue processing exit permits for adoption cases approved prior to September 25.
What BEB Has Done
Both Ends Believing has stepped forward to do what the Department of State has failed to do – we have reached out to families and adoption service providers to identify the families in process. We also began a petition calling on Congress to intervene in this tragedy and we began a specific advocacy campaign to right this wrong. Public response was tremendous. In the first 24 hours, our simple petition produced over 50,000 letters that were sent to the President and Members of Congress to draw attention to this human rights crisis. In total more than 116,000 letters were sent.
BEB and the Congolese Government
Both Ends Believing has also met with a high ranking member of the Congolese government to discuss our mutual concern over the crisis. We discussed the needless deaths of Benjamin Dillow and ten other children that we know of. This official was very disturbed by Ben’s needless death, the love of his adoptive family for him, and the anguish and despair they are suffering. He told us that adoption is not well understood in his country and agreed with us that immediate action is required to end the suspension so no more children will perish.
While he does not have the power to resolve this crisis alone, he agreed to advocate for a logical path for all the stuck children, prioritizing those who are medically fragile. He committed to work with us, in honor of Ben, for all the children who are waiting. Our meeting gave us hope. For the first time we have an ally with influence in DRC government who shares a common vision for a resolution to this crisis.
Kelly Ensslin Dempsey
Kelly Ensslin Dempsey, our General Counsel and Director of Outreach and Advocacy testified on our behalf. On July 16, 2014, Both Ends Believing was invited to provide testimony to the Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In her testimony, she asked the Committee to consider structural changes at the Department of State that would make every child’s right to a family a fundamental tenet of US foreign policy.
BEB’s Africa Testimony to Congress
Both Ends Believing charged that the Department was often an impediment to international adoptions and that Members of Congress often have to intercede when the Department has failed to advocate for adoptive children and their families. She charged that the Department’s bias against adoption is damaging children and preventing them from finding permanent loving homes in the United States. Dempsey criticized the Department for viewing its primary role in adoptions as a gatekeeper and premising its actions on mistrust and suspicion.
She stated that the Department had done little to build expertise in child welfare, engage foreign governments on the subject of permanency, and had a poor record of actually helping families who are trying to navigate the complexities of international adoption.
Dempsey also stated that she saw a a similar pattern developing in the Department of State’s conduct in Ethiopia and DRC to the actions she documented in our Paper Chains report on the Department’s actions in closing adoptions from Nepal.