If you’ve known us for any amount of time, you know that we are, and have been in the process of adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past 3 years. It has been a long, LONG process.
Last month, the Congolese government has dashed our hopes of completing this adoption in the near timeframe. It is questionable if we will ever be able to complete it.
Three Years Ago
Three years ago, in the fall, Jenny informed me that we were going to adopt again. Our motivations were sound. Jenny wanted a third child, and we felt it would be better for Quinton to have another black family member. What brought much of this on was an article in a publication about a program where some local adoption agencies were working with teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help find forever homes for some of their estimated 5 Million orphans.
So we agreed to pursue this. We got our paperwork in line, updated our home study, paid out many fees, and began working with our agency on getting a referral.
In April of 2013, we were matched with our would-be daughter, Mireille. She was from the East-Central region of the country (which is huge) near Mbuji-Mayi, a mining city. Due to unfortunate circumstances, she was residing in an orphanage there with many other children. She was 6 months old when we were matched.
The expectation at that time was that it took roughly 6-8 months from referral to complete the process of finalizing the adoption in the Congo, getting the appropriate emigrant and immigrant papers in order, and making the trip to finally bring her to her new forever home.
Two Years Ago - September 25, 2013
Not long before we finalized our adoption in the Congo, the Congolese DGM (ministry of migration) ceased issuing emigration documents to children adopted to foreign countries. Their rationale was that these children were not being treated well in their new countries. In fact, there were several instances of “rehoming” they had been made aware of, and certain instances where children were adopted to homosexual couples, something that is not legal by Congolese law. The initial thought was that there would be a twelve month moratorium on exits of adoptions, though the adoption process could continue in the meantime.
Ours did. In October of that year, our adoption was made legal in the Congolese courts and Mireille became our daughter by Congolese law.
In the summer of 2014, anticipating the lifting of the ban on issuing exit documents, and having completed several immigration hurdles in the US, Mireille was moved to a foster home in the capital city of Kinshasa to await the final preparations and to come home to the US. The thought was that she would be there as long as 6 months as the backlog of exit letters cleared. Weighing in at a burly 18 pounds (she was 20 months old at this point), she was definitely in need of some good spoiling!
One Year Ago - September 25, 2014
September 25, 2014 came and went. Nothing happened… The moratorium expired, but the ban continued, if not officially, certainly in practice.
I briefly considered not shaving my beard or even trimming until the DRC allowed us to bring our daughter home. I’m not sure if it would have positively affected things, but I suspect I would most likely not have a job right now and would be chasing bugs and rodents out of my beard by now had I followed through on that line of thinking…
This Year - February, 2015
I finally got to meet Mireille in person! This has been chronicled at length in a past post, which you can find, for now, at the old blogger site. Naively, at one point, I thought I should just stay there and wait for the Congolese to lift the ban, that they were going to let me take her home…
This Year - April, 2015
In April of 2015, President Obama called and talked with President Kabila. I’m not sure what the content of their conversation included, but I do know that at one point our President asked Mr. Kabila to do what he could to put this adoption issue to rest. Almost immediately, the Congolese formed a commission that was tasked with reviewing all of the cases, over 1000 in total, and to sort them into three stacks: those that were valid, those that were not valid, and those that were questionable. Their goal was to get through this exercise by the end of summer, July.
I remember the day well. We were on our way to Walt Disney World for spring break, traveling through Kentucky at the time. We were listening in on a State Department call, then a call with on of our support groups, and it was unanimous, the kids were coming home, and soon!!!
This Year - November 2, 2015
On November 2, 2015, the DRC finally announced that they were issuing exit letters to families that had completed adoptions legally in the Congo. Unfortunately, they had only reviewed 100 cases, and of those cases, 69 of them were being issued exit letters. Of those 69, 14 were to US parents. Of those 14, 0 were us…
At the same time, they announced that they would not be reviewing any more cases at this time and the commission was being dissolved. Not sure how many times I can press the enter key to capture how disappointing that was to hear. Not for the first time, but for the first time in awhile, we have to consider the real possibility that this may never happen…
Not all hope is lost… Our State Department continues to advocate on our behalf at every possible occasion. They give us updates on a biweekly or better basis. Their main tactic is what I like to call a “Pester Campaign.” Apparently it is the first and last thing they talk about any time they speak with a Congolese official. Perhaps annoying them into submission will work…
The latest line of thinking by our support group is to ask Congress to issue US Passports to these kids, essentially granting them US Citizenship without them ever having set foot on US soil or having been born to US Citizens. It’s a long shot, but it could be helpful in a number of ways. First and foremost, it is unlikely that the DRC would honor such a ploy. These are Congolese citizens and they will be judged by their laws, regardless of how crazy those laws might seem. We are still hoping to push the issue, however, for two reasons:
- If our children are declared US Citizens with US Passports, that will potentially bring much more focus to the issue in both countries. The US has plenty to worry about, as do the Congolese (see a future post for my opinions and thoughts about why the Congolese are doing this), but if it becomes a debate about which country these children belong to, it at least becomes a debate. Right now, there is just a lot of inactivity.
- There are a number of families that have relocated to the Congo to wait out the moratorium while living with, providing for, and bonding with their children. Should civil unrest break out in the Congo, which there is a not negligible chance of that happening, those families would be able to seek refuge at the US Embassy, and their children would be able to get protection as well.
Meanwhile, I’ve decided to go on the offensive. To date I have met with members of two of my state’s federal legislators who were kind enough to take meetings with me. I’m heartened by a number of things in my experiences in communicating with my government:
- They bothered to meet with me at all. With all of the things going on in this country, with elections coming up, budget deadlines, and whatever else it is the government is doing, two of the three officials I contacted actually took the time to meet with me and listen.
- They are actually trying to do something. They are fairly limited - the DRC holds ALL the power, but they are trying. And that’s nice, because this literally only affects around 400 families in the country. This is not an issue that will get them reelected, nor will it bring untold treasures in donations.
- They are staying connected. In both cases, they took my meeting very seriously, doing a good amount of prep work and calling around before our meeting. In one case, there has already been follow-up, and I am confident I will get follow-up from my other contact soon.
If you are still reading this…
So, this is long and sprawling. But if you are still reading this, you strike me as a person that can do more than be a sideline slactivist. Why not reach out to your congressmen and help to educate them!? The more people in government that know of this, the better chance we have of them doing something when there is something to do. Thanks to technology, it is pretty easy to get a hold of our lawmakers. Because of that, however, they limit who can contact them to their own constituents. So those of you in WI, IA, MN, wherever you might be, please head out to the Senate and House websites, find your representatives, and poke a little note to them from the website. I was able to get through mainly on my approach, and my call for action. I asked very directly to have a meeting with them so I could help them to understand what was going on, and to ask that they do whatever they could to help when it came up. Here’s the text of one of my requests for a meeting:
Mr./Ms. (legislator’s name here),
I wrote to you one other time in the past several weeks. As a refresher, we are in the process of trying to bring our adopted daughter home from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This has been a long process with many setbacks.
Last week we were updated by the Department of State on the most recent developments in the situation, and needless to say, it was not good news. I would very much like to meet with yourself or somebody from your staff to discuss the situation and identify what, if anything, the US government can do to attempt to drive this to resolution in a timely fashion. As there are children involved, time is really of the essence.
Please feel free to reach out by cell phone or e-mail and my wife and I will be happy to discuss in more detail. I look forward to discussing further.
Thank you. Brandon Grady