Features

Far from home

"Far from home" Continued...

Issue: "China's abortion regime," July 26, 2014

Though the Reuters report covered a rare situation affecting a minority of children who are adopted, it was a situation that alarmed authorities in the DRC. In a country with recent memories of colonial exploitation, there is wide skepticism and suspicion about why foreign families are so eager to adopt Congolese orphans. Marianne Stroud says another family who was in the DRC to adopt their child heard radio advertisements claiming that foreigners adopt Congolese children for slave labor and organ harvesting. 

Jackson says part of the problem is a lack of communication. She says that as she meets with Congolese in the adoption system she finds there is “little to no education about our screening or education about our process.” She is doing what she can as an adoption service provider, but believes that is the U.S. Department of State’s role primarily. She says it is important the United States acts in a way that is encouraging and collaborative. “It is a privilege for us to be able to adopt children from Congo.”

Kelly Dempsey is a private-practice attorney and the Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Both Ends Burning, an adoption advocacy organization. Both Ends Burning launched a petition that has gained over 100,000 signatures, calling on Congress to intervene in the DRC adoption halt.

She says the problem is a “fundamental lack of leadership for international adoption” and “a clear and undeniable bias [in the United States] against adoption in non-Hague countries.” The Hague Convention is an international treaty, entered into force in the United States in 2008, that governs how international adoptions take place. In non-Hague countries like the DRC, she says, the United States has enflamed an already fragile relationship by treating the country with suspicion, including extended investigations to ensure DRC processes are correct and allegations of fraud and corruption. 

“Hague is a good idea. A best practice policy. … But as implemented and as it is currently working, it is not protecting the best interest of children.”

Marianne Stroud is torn. “I applaud them that they want to fix their system. In the meantime, these are my children … they can’t stop the rock rolling down the hill and say, ‘Hold on, we’re going to freeze here.’”

Shane Pequignot/Genesis
UNTIL THEY ARE ABLE to bring the children home, the Strouds are responsible for Alima and Masalay’s care. They moved Alima from her orphanage to an American Christian missionary boarding school in December. The school is boarding nine other adopted children stuck in the adoption process. The Strouds had their first Skype call with Alima in late May. She had never seen a working computer. Marianne said she had her hands over her eyes, but kept peeping out.

After months of work, the Strouds were able to get Masalay out of his orphanage in early June. It is a sticky situation because the orphanages are desperate for resources. Marianne says, “The perverse incentive is that the orphanage does not want to release him because I pay for him to be there.” In late May the head of the orphanage signed his release paperwork, and he joined Alima at the boarding school. It was the first time Alima and Masalay met.

A few families have tried to go around the DRC’s restrictions, inciting Congolese authorities to clamp down even harder. A Belgian woman was caught trying to smuggle her child out of the country. An American family forged a date on an official letter in an attempt to get out sooner. Marianne says it is frustrating. “I understand people are desperate. I’m desperate. But you have got to follow the rules.”

But the rules are unclear. The State Department’s recent alert announcing the issuing of 62 exit papers also said that most people in the pipeline would have to wait until “a new law reforming intercountry adoption enters into force.” However, a network of adoption agencies, parents, and in-country experts are saying the DRC will soon release more exit permits. Marianne says she is glued to Facebook and blogs, where some of the quickest news and commentary is released. She says anything she is holding onto now is “part rumor, part hope, part a little bit of firsthand knowledge.”

Shane Pequignot/Genesis
The Strouds joined 55 other families in Washington, D.C. in late June to ask their senators and representatives for engagement in finding a resolution to their stalled adoption cases in Congo. They are still waiting to see if the effort will pay off. They hoped to generate interest in a Department of State and congressional delegation to Congo, and to get support for the Children in Families First Act, a bill currently making its way through congress that would restructure the way the United States handles international adoptions.

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

     

    Phoning it in

    Tests via smartphone may soon challenge traditional methods

    Advertisement