Update on Adoptions in DRC

Chapter 4 of In Defense of the Fatherless discusses the current suspension of exit letters for adopted children from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The exit letter is the last document a child needs to exit the country and immigrate to the United States. It’s understood that there are at least 100 children currently waiting on exit letters – meaning they have legalized adoptions and entry visas to the United States, but they cannot leave their home country.

The suspension began in September 2013, and there have consistently been rumors of the suspension being lifted. This week, the rumors became increasingly strong.

On May 13, DRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a Diplomatic Note requesting all finalized adoption cases to be presented for review in May.

On Sunday, May 17, a French publication reported that the ban on adoptions lifted and that adoption files would be revisited. Similarly, Italian news sources released a headline stating that the ban on adoptions had been removed. Media in DRC then repeated the story. It’s possible that the news reports were just a misinterpretation of the May 13 Diplomatic Note; however, many adoptive families interpreted these reports to mean that the suspension had ended.

On Tuesday, May 19, my Facebook feed ignited with cries of joy as parents announced that the suspension had ended and that their adopted children would finally be coming home. But by the end of the day, it seemed that such excitement was unfounded.

Italy’s Commission for International Adoption and the U.S. Department of State released notices that any announcements about the exit letter suspension being lifted were unsupported by the Congolese government and based on rumor.

It seems that the waiting will continue.

I’ve watched this suspension unfold from the sidelines. I can’t imagine the pain of being so close to finishing your adoption only to sit and wait. It appears that while there are very real concerns about the legality of many adoptions from DRC, that the suspension is really just a power struggle between government actors.

But I can’t help but hope that the suspension results in change. There is so much corruption within the adoption system in DRC. As my friend Holly has written – as far back as 2012 – DRC is a failed state. It’s nearly impossible to act without engaging in corruption.

So I admit. When I heard the rumor that sounded true – that the suspension was over – my heart sank a bit. I felt that it was good news for some children but bad news for others. I want the children who should be adopted to be with their new families. I really do. I want the joy and resolution for many of my waiting friends.

But I also know how agencies and those who support them work. Nothing in the adoption process has changed since the suspension began. There are still no safeguards for families – here or in Congo. It’s likely that many agencies will just pick up where they left off – finding children for adoptive families without regard to the fact that many of those children already have loving families.

My hope is that the suspension does lift and that those with valid adoptions can bring their children home. But without change, adoptions in DRC must cease. We have seen the tragedies created by the corrupt system currently in place. We can do better.

Want to know more about how to improve international adoption? Check out Chapter 9 of In Defense of the Fatherless. In Defense of the Fatherless is the conversation I would love to have with a friend who wants to learn how to improve the international adoption system and ensure that adoptions are ethical and legal. Learn more about In Defense of the Fatherless or read what experts have to say. If you are ready for a deeper conversation, In Defense of the Fatherless is now available on Amazon or at a bookstore near you.

Amanda Bennett


AMANDA BENNETT is a lawyer wife, mother, and advocate for vulnerable families and children. She serves on the board of directors for Reeds of Hope, a non-profit serving vulnerable families and children in DRC. Amanda lives in Kigali, Rwanda with her husband, Bill, and son.

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