I started this blog one year ago. This is a summary post so that new readers can quickly figure out who I am, as well as key players and key themes. This post is a summary of our adoption and where we currently are in the process.
Last Summer, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) issued an adoption decree, making my husband and I the legal parents of a young Congolese girl. Nevertheless, we worried, along with many other parents, that there were signs of diplomatic strain in the adoption program between the U.S. and DRC. We worried that the DRC would follow a pattern of adoption program closures and suspensions over the last decade, leaving our daughter trapped in limbo.
In September of 2013, our fears were realized when DRC effectively froze adoptions.
Parents collectively took a deep breath and trusted the State Department to do its job and find a diplomatic resolution to bring our children home. We waited. And waited. And then, in a teleconference call with the State Department in March, we learned the shocking truth: 6 months after the suspension, the State Department had not even counted how many American families were impacted by the suspension. Without a headcount of these children caught in the “pipeline,” diplomatic discussions could not even begin.
We sprang into action, assisted by the Both Ends Burning Campaign, an organization dedicated to defending every child’s human right to a permanent loving family. You wouldn’t think this right would need to be “defended,” but unfortunately organizations like UNICEF that would seemingly support this right are actually active opponents, due to convoluted, outdated ideologies.
We coordinated to count ourselves. We wrote letters to our members of Congress and the President, and, with the help of tens of thousands of Americans, over 100,000 letters were sent to the Capitol within just one week.
In response to our letters, 169 members of Congress signed on to a letter to the President and Prime Minister of DRC, asking them to lift the suspension.
DRC officials then abruptly cancelled a scheduled trip to the U.S. to meet with adoptive families and their Congolese children, and learn about the U.S. child welfare system.
One week later, the DRC banned American parents from visiting the children we have adopted. I asked the State Department to advocate for me when my travel visa to the DRC was denied. State Department was unresponsive. Senators called upon Secretary Kerry to advocate for stuck American families during his May 4th visit to the DRC.
And yet, the entire situation remained at a standstill for American-adopted children.
Then, on May 26th, Italy sent a plane to escort home Italian-adopted children. The children were in Italy before the U.S. State Department even sent emails to affected families.
Throughout these twists and turns, I have become increasingly enmeshed in defending every child’s right to grow up in a permanent, loving family. As part of this advocacy, I joined the Children In Families First Act (CHIFF) Working Group.
I can’t claim to feel certain about what will happen to our youngest daughter. But I do feel confident that legislative reform is needed to prevent many families like ours from becoming stuck in the process. We also need legislative reform to work toward ensuring all children, everywhere, grow up in families. CHIFF is an important step in the right direction because it would streamline international adoption processing, frame a child’s right to a family as a human right, and work with other countries to develop reliable, transparent child welfare systems.
Our current system is broken: the average international adoption now takes three years to complete, and during that time, children are systematically and permanently debilitated by institutions. I hope you will join me in advocating for the world’s strongest protection for children: the strong arms of loving parents.
Children Deserve Families follows the struggles of stuck families and lets readers know how they can help.