Thursday, January 31, 2013

And I will say it again and again and again (embassy notwithstanding)

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I have talked again and again about the absolute necessity of investigations into the orphan status of a child that is being referred for adoption in DRC.  This is critical to an adoption in DRC.  Critical.  And it has to be a 3rd party investigator, meaning someone that has no financial investment or interest in the adoption.  In other words, it can't be your agency that supplies the investigator.  It can't be your organization that supplies the investigator.  And it can't be your lawyer that supplies the investigator.  And it can't be the orphanage director that supplies the investigator.  All of these people are invested in the adoption of the child and are receiving money (whether fees, compensation, or donations to the orphanage) from the adoptive parents that are directly related to the adoption.  

Third party investigations should be initiated immediately upon referral by the adoptive parent.   This would involve sending someone to the site of abandonment, asking questions, interviewing key parties, putting out radio ads (radios are a very common way to spread news and they are easily accessible) for 3-6 months after abandonment.  Why?  Because someone knows the story of the child.  The more time goes by the more that story is forgotten or the harder it is to trace down those who know the story.   In the end, it is the adoptive parent in the visa interview, not the agency.

Not only is the adoptive parent responsible for investigating the story of their child, but so is the agency/organization.  As I have said over and over again here, the stories of the police and social services must be independently verified by them as well.  The organization you are with, the agency you are with also needs to investigate the story.  You are paying them to help you adopt a child that is an orphan.   The story and approval of the commune is not enough.  The story of the orphanage director is not enough.  It must be investigated independently and there must be a good paper trail documenting that investigation.

The responsibility is on the adoptive parent and on the agency or organization.  An investigation shouldn't wait until the embassy visa appointment when you are fully in love with the child that you consider your child.  It should be done before so you can go to your interview with confidence.

If these investigations are done and they are done well, when you get to your embassy interview, you have the assurance that the child you are adopting is indeed a child in need of international adoption.  Their investigation of the orphan status is smoother and quicker because there is a good paper trail and investigation to consider.

Remember, you may have great paperwork when you submit your visa application.  But in the end, that doesn't matter.  What matters is that the paperwork is TRUE.   And the most important way you can verify that is by independent 3rd party investigators.    Because what matters most, is that children are not exploited for gain or taken from families that want them and that may not even know about the adoptions.  What matters most is that those children that truly need international adoption are the ones being adopted and those that need to be reunited with their families are able to go back to them.



Katie said...

I am curious what you would recommend if during the investigation it is discovered that a child was abandoned due to inability to care for the child and the child has a living parent. At that point the ethical thing would be to walk away from the adoption, but then what happens to that child? The investigation seems like it has potential for complicated situations with no good solutions, especially in Kinshasa where my children are from. Nobody accidentally forgets a baby on a roadside in the middle of the night, so I guess I am just wondering what your thoughts are on the abandonment cases seen so often in Kinshasa. Not disagreeing, just asking!

Holly said...

Hi Katie, Thanks so much for commenting. I have slowly come to the conclusion that if a family is found and that family wants the child but can't take care of them (due to extreme poverty), then before adoption is ever offered, family support should be offered (accessing organizations/groups/churches on the ground). I completely understand your point (and the concern it shows for a very vulnerable child) and I really think that any agency or organization working in DRC is also responsible for that child and either should have the ability to link the child/family to organizations that do family reunification/support or do it themselves. There are so many wonderful examples of this happening around Africa.

candice said...

Holly, do you know of any organizations in Kinshasa that give family support/reunification? I mean, when people abandon their baby on the side of the road (on purpose) do they know where that baby will end up, or are they just at the end of their rope without any means of providing for one more mouth? I guess there is no way of knowing, but if there were groups out there offering assistance to "needy families" it seems that everyone in DRC would qualify.

Ted said...

And to further up on Holly's point. Also understanding the conflict in what seems like the abandonment or turning your back on a child in need. ALl the more reason to due investigations ahead of time before the emotional attachment sets in. That said, for every one of those children in need with family (that on the surface cannot care for them) there are likely many many more that are true orphans.

Ted said...

Great post Holly. Maybe you and J have been talking, else you read our mind to a T. You exactly expressed my sentiments on the subject and why we strived to have an investigation (but were unsuccessful) early on. We did of course get one later, and we are very pleased with what we learned. Photos and interviews from the point of abandonment. Our investigation might have ruffled some feathers, but those folks just dont get it (or didnt at the time). We have zero regets that we did it, even if we were invalidly branded for it.