Sunday, May 26, 2013

facing fears late at night

I leave for DRC in less than one week.  I feel overwhelmed and have been surprised by bouts of anxiety.  I have always been someone who has had to conquer my fears often.  When I was young, death came unexpectedly and suddenly to our family.  The losses were tragic and changed our lives forever.  I didn't realize it then, but looking back I can see how fear of losing those close to me constantly haunted me.  I remember irrational anger at my mom when she was late; I feared she had died and that is why she wasn't there on time.  I remember overreacting to situations that didn't bring risk, but in my mind meant a possible threat or potential loss.  As I grew into adulthood, a combination of stubbornness and determination meant I did things that scared me but that I knew were worth the risk.  Yet, the anxiety was there.  Always there.

Obviously, moving to eastern DRC took a bit of courage.  More than courage, it took trust in God, trust in the unseen.  Interestingly enough, the things that scared me most were the chances of random accidents or disease.  Airplane crashes or car wrecks.  Getting very sick and not being able to access quality health care.  Something about the drive to the orphanage pushed all those anxiety buttons for me.  The complete loss of control involved in driving along a curving escarpment that was barely more than one lane wide, meant that fear was something I battled.  Insecurity, road blocks, guns, riots, they all scared me less than a simple rocky road surrounded by breathtaking beauty.



For whatever reason, flying has become an anxiety for me lately.  A bit ridiculous, I know.  Going without Mike to Congo, also makes me feel vulnerable in an unexpected way.  Leaving the girls.  Feeling unreasonably afraid that I might die and they would be left without their mother (for two of them, losing their mother a second time).  And knowing they need me.  That I couldn't bear to leave them; they would be lost.  I suppose there are some that might argue I increase the chances of that happening by going to eastern DRC.  I don't really think so (yes, I suppose statistically there might be some validity to the argument from the perspective of the greater chance of a car accident, for example).   There is a different reality that you know after you have lived somewhere like eastern DRC for years.  You trust those on the ground.  You know the news paints a different picture than the day to day life you will experience.  That the life your friends experience.  In the end it's not about statistics though.  It is about something bigger combined with wisdom.  There is the trust.  Trust in God, in the unseen.  Trust that this is the right decision.   That the work is right.  I have continued to feel doors opened, gentle pushes forward.  Support from others saying that this is the right work.  Despite the obstacles, it is just and good work.  Knowing that I won't forget promises made years ago to incredible women caring for vulnerable children.



I have my moments of doubt, of fear.  I try to keep walking forward.  It isn't about me in the end.  It is and only has been about them.  They are not voiceless (everyone has a voice); we must simply listen.  It is about the amazing children, women, and men on the other side of the world.  Keeping families together.  Loving children and their communities.  Small work, hard work, very daunting work.   It is about humanity.  Caring and loving others.  Never giving up.  Walking forward despite fears.  Finding courage and strength.  Trust in God.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Listening hearts and tender souls

About 4 years ago we started thinking about adoption.  I didn't know anything about international adoption.  I knew I just had a yearning in my heart to provide a home for a child that needed a home and I knew I wanted to do foster care or adopt from where we were living.  I never once thought I would live overseas when I first had these dreams.  In fact, I did a MPH and never took a single international health course (though I did take a couple later)!  When I met my (now) husband, I had recently come back from a trip to India (my first overseas trip) and a love of the world outside of the U.S. had just been awakened.  Our first date involved him talking to me for hours about Congo; he talked about the history, the politics, the culture, the faith, and about his heart full of love and passion for DRC.  He quoted chapters from Isaiah about God's promises.  Over time I too began to have those same dreams and hopes that he had shared with me so fervently that sunny day as we road bikes together up the NCR trail in Baltimore.

We got married and he said, "let's go!".  I said, "whoa!  not yet!".  Ironically, two years later when we were expecting Natalie, I felt the urging too and together we sold our house, most of our belongings, said hard goodbyes to dear friends and family, packed up our 8 week old and moved to DRC.

After a couple years, I remembered that dream of providing a home for a child where we were living.  I always thought that would mean the U.S. because that is always where I thought I would live.  But, as our years continued in DRC, it became more and more "home".  So, we began the process to adopt from where we were living.  As I mentioned before, I didn't know a lot about adoption.  I was naive, hopeful, and trusting.   But as in most things, I had a lot to learn.  And what I first learned was I had to listen.  I had to listen and hear what was being said.  I think the first thing I read that really impacted me in a deep way was the writings of an adult adoptee on a blog called Yoon's Blur.  Mila wrote words that challenged and convicted me.  I realized that I was missing so much in the midst of thinking I had it all figured out.

At the same time I was living in DRC.  I was surrounding by women who were just like me, yet suffering from social injustice, extreme poverty, insecurity, rape, war.  Women, just like me, that loved their children and their families.  Women, just like me, who were trying to help each other, who were trying to care for their children and their families, to keep them together.  Women and their families who mattered just as much as mine.  Who mattered just as much as me.  

All of a sudden having a listening heart and a tender, compassionate soul meant everything.  Hence, this blog and this journey.  There have so many brave voices sharing lately.   A lot about adoption ethics.  I say the words "adoption ethics" but what that really means to me and what is at the heart of these posts is caring about families and caring about keeping families together that are vulnerable and struggling.  People speaking out about coming alongside each other when times are hard and when we need each other the most.  This is beautiful.  This is worth fighting for every day of our lives.  

Here are the voices I have been listening to over the past week--

*Those that linked up to my post.  Amazing stories, thank you for sharing them!

*Mila wrote a moving powerful post yesterday at Lost Daughters.

Then you will be able to ask the questions that really matter, that really get to the root. I've stated this before as have many other adult adoptee bloggers. And we'll keep saying it until people finally start to not only listen but to act.
The question to ask yourself is not what are all the good reasons for adoption to continue? Or whether it was best for me to be adopted?
Instead, I believe, the question to answer is WHY are children being relinquished and adopted in the first place? 
The answers are complicated but absolutely necessary to face.
Then, perhaps, you'll see the potential reality of who not only my Omma and Appa and I could have been, but who all these other families could have been, if someone had been willing to ask those questions long ago...  
*Livesays posted an excellent post yesterday.  (I certainly raised my hand too).  

For whatever reason, there is an undercurrent that involves privilege. American privilege, consumer privilege, born into money and things privilege, white privilege, Christian wanting to convert others privilege, whatever it is... probably some combination of all, that says, "I am better for this kid than you, poor person."   

I'll submit sometimes that is true; sometimes a materially poor or mentally ill or terribly abusive parent cannot care for a child - but not always and not even usually.It doesn't take all that much to love a first family and give them a hand up, it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it.
*Jen Hatmaker is writing a series of posts about adoption ethics.  Part one is here and Part two here.  Excerpt below is from part one.  

Yet people working in impoverished countries tell me something totally different. My friends, Troy and Tara Livesay, work in maternal care in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. By every statistic and standard, it is a hot mess. Yet at Heartline, their organization that offers prenatal care, safe birthing facilities, and parenting and child development classes for vulnerable moms, their numbers disclose something astonishing: Out of roughly 300 births – and I’m talking very poor women, some raped, some teenagers, some single moms, extremely disadvantaged – only ONE birth mom has ever relinquished her baby. As Tara told me, “If our small, simple operation has virtually a 100% success rate, we are not trying hard enough for birth families.”
 
What would happen if we reallocated a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development? What if we prioritized first families and supported initiatives that train, empower, and equip them to parent? This would absolutely be Orphan Prevention, not to mention grief prevention, loss prevention, abandonment prevention, trauma prevention, broken family prevention. What if we asked important questions about supply and demand here, and broadened our definition of orphan care to include prevention and First Family empowerment?

*Amanda at Watershed is doing a series on Adoption Truth.  Talk about brave and courageous.  She is standing up to her "agency" and refusing to sign their gag clause.  And they won't release all her paperwork.  

We hope that, after reading our story, you will support us for this simple reason: we will not sign a gag order to protect our former adoption "agency" and their facilitator in return for the easy release of our documents.

*Megan at Millions of Miles posted a great post about foster care which is very relevant.

Not everyone has those supports in place.  And even though I felt like a failure for using them (don't you love how our twenties trick us into thinking that we have to be superwomen?) they were there and were my saving grace.  They kept me from being one mistake away.
What if those supports hadn't been in place?  I think that the longer we study these kinds of things and the longer that we are entrenched in the adoption/foster community- the more that we realize how many things happen just because of the lack of supports for families.  And while I wish there were more supports available to people before something bad happens, I still find it to be such an incredible blessing to be a part of being that support now and to hopefully continue to be a support for families even after their kids leave our homes.  There are times when this seems so far off and there are times when a conversation with our birth mom has totally restored my faith in humanity.  It makes me sad that I ever judged to begin with.  If you ever want a way to keep your judgement in check- become a foster family.  We all have so much to learn- especially me. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Next steps

After spending the last two weeks in bed (as much as one can with four little ones) and sick, I'm feeling very grateful to be upright and have some energy again.

I'm looking forward to my upcoming trip to DRC.  It will be very short (way too short!), but I'm thankful I have the opportunity to go and for all those who are supporting this trip.  It is such an important trip.  We need to sit down with the leadership of the orphanage and make sure everyone agrees with the steps necessary to move forward with making family support and reunification a priority.


Ushindi



All of the children living at the orphanage have living and known family that care for their children and brought them to the orphanage when they were infants after their mothers died.  The families are extremely poor and couldn't afford the formula to keep their babies alive.  Most families intend to come get their children and most of the families visit their children regularly.


Ishara Kilosho


We want to help those families that do not come and get their children within 6-9 months of dropping them off at the orphanage.  We want to intervene at their most vulnerable moment, at the drop off moment.  We want to be able to activate quick and thorough assessments of the families to elucidate what barriers are present that prevent them from taking their children back home.  We want to work with the communities (and churches) to support these families.  We want to make comprehensive program that supports families in need.  It is being done in other countries, it can be done in eastern DRC as well.


Mutwela Benjamin


We don't believe international adoption is the answer to the desperate act by a family in extreme poverty that led to a baby being taken to the orphanage.  We believe poverty shouldn't prevent a child from being able to live with their family.  We believe in the hard work of coming alongside families, supporting them, and hearing their stories and their voices.  We believe that the families themselves, together with the community, can be empowered to care for their children and each other.  We believe in keeping families together.

What are the next steps?  Well, we need to go to Congo, get on the ground and talk to each other.  We need to make a plan.  Next, we need to raise some funds to start this work.  First, we need to raise about $5000 to buy a motorcycle for our manager and staff on the ground.



Our families are spread all over different territories.  There are some roads, but many that are there are not passable.  Many areas are only accessible by foot, plane or moto.  We support about 80 children (who lived in the orphanage until age 5) to go to school.  We want to be able to check on these children in their schools and in their homes.  Our manager needs transport to be able to do that.  This is essential to our work.



Second, we need committed funding to hire a social worker.  Thanks to some donors we have started raising these funds.  Once we have all the committed funding, we will go about hiring a social worker.



Third, we need to train all of our staff and this is something we are committed to as well.  There are experts throughout Africa and Europe that are willing to help.  We have done some preliminary reaching out and are excited about the prospects for training and support.



There is a lot of work to be done.  I'm so incredibly thankful for all those that have come alongside us and are excited about this work too.   If you are interested in giving to our work in eastern DRC, our website is www.reedsofhope.org.  





Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Perhaps change is a comin' (a link up)

You know when you read something and it resonates with you in a deep way?  Well, that is what happened when I read this article today.  Oh, please take the time to read it.  It is beautiful and says so much of what is on my own heart these days.  Ever since I started this road of speaking about ethics in DRC adoptions I have really struggled with continuing to speak out given the opposition I face in doing so.  Interestingly enough, much of what has hurt the most has been the quiet judgment, misunderstanding, and rejections.  Especially from other christians.  Please, let's dialogue together.  Let's find a way to walk forward in unity.  I was talking with a friend the other day and she said, "it's almost like if you talk about and support ethics in adoption it's like people think you aren't a christian".  That is how I have felt!  So judged.  I certainly don't think anyone would agree that the opposite is true, that if you are a christian therefore you support unethical adoptions.  So, I was hoping that we could do a little link up.  If you have written a post about ethics (even if it was in the past) in adoption (or about any topic that is not "easy" to talk about in adoption), please link up to this post.  Let's encourage one another.  It takes a lot of courage and bravery to speak out.  I really think that most of us really do care about reform and truth and justice in adoption.

Here is the link to the article, "Evangelical Trafficking?  A Guest Post by Caleb David." (Please, read the entire post.  I am just quoting a part of it.  He is a part of a family whose story was shared in the new book, Child Catchers.  He also talks about this in the article.)

As a Christian, I’ve found it more and more important, for me personally, to set aside a consistent stance of defensiveness and to take my opinions and truly seek to listen and understand what someone of an opposing view is trying to communicate. As a result, over the past few days, I pored over blogs, articles, FB posts, Twitter feeds, watched and listened to web and radio interviews all surrounding the release of this book. I also want to re-establish, that as an adoptive father, I am FOR inter-country adoption. I am FOR sharing the Gospel through our love and healthy, responsible actions. Those families closest to us in the orphan care community have been consistently seeking the best for their adoptive children and are fiercely committed to their well-being. Some of them (true orphans) have come from such traumatic situations that the argument that a child must remain connected to their culture is made nil. The family’s desire is to keep them connected but many of them barely lived through many negative cultural abuses and atrocities, that it’s truly not what is best for them at this phase in their adjustment and attachment.
BUT, friends, there ARE major problems with how we view adoption, orphan care and poverty. Just being an adoptive family does not make us experts on the complex socio-economic issues of our children’s birth countries. A year and a half ago I told Kathryn, that our family’s views and the approach of One Child Campaign would not be widely embraced in the mainstream evangelical adoption movement. However, now I believe that the Church and the adoption movement cannot ignore these issues any longer. The time to start discussing this emotionally-charged issue is now. We are doing ourselves, and the world, a great disservice if we focus only on what we disagree upon and push it off as one more “attack” on our faith. Too many organizations and ministries focus on “just wanting to love on people” without doing the due diligence necessary to truly affect any kind of lasting change.
Now that our attention is turned, and our passions are ignited, I believe that the Church is ready to start learning and understanding. A year and a half ago, if we were to speak out on how we (the Church) have missed the mark, we would have been shunned from the Christian and adoption communities. After many, many years and taking thousands of people onto the mission field, we have learned one thing: that we have so much more to learn. With our focus now being primarily in Ethiopia, we’ve had the opportunity to delve into each of our partner’s communities, learn from missionaries who have given their lives and Ethiopians who care about the long-term well being of the orphan, the widow and the impoverished.
I have heard and seen trafficking of children with families with my own ears and eyes. Some of this was done as a lack of knowledge, but some of it was done blatantly. In our eyes, we can’t imagine a Christian agency knowingly trafficking children under the guise of “they will be better off in the US anyway,” but it happens way more frequently than we could have ever imagined. If we truly say that we are people of justice, then these ethical and illegal issues MUST stop and be addressed. We cannot empower the stealing of children from their cultures any longer. We cannot allow children to be a commodity. We can, however, empower the nationals in so many different ways to restore hope, dignity, create jobs, sponsor by going and learning first hand what beauty and resources are in each community. In doing this, though it will be even harder than it sounds, those who are true orphans, and not adoptable in their home country, can be identified for international adoption. The problem for our Western mindsets with this is that it takes way more time, way more money without us receiving much, if any, credit. But if we say that we care about orphans and justice, then we must set aside our savior complex and hero mentality. This is the ONLY responsible, holistic, and sustainable way to move forward.
We have placed band-aids on the face of poverty, but never cared or were too ignorant to realize the much deeper issues beyond the inflated marketing numbers used for orphans. I quoted these numbers too, we even put them in a video. Not any longer. I will not compromise my beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that I am choosing a “side”. I hate choosing sides. We miss out on understanding too much when we don’t want to listen and draw a line in the sand and put our finger in our ears. I’m calling for a new side. The center of balance and the whole picture. A call to come to the table. A coming together while pulling our fingers out of our ears, setting down the stones and sharing our hearts and stories for the well-being of children, women, families and communities around the world.


Monday, May 6, 2013

DRC family code/adoption law (part 4)

I want to finish up sharing the pertinent parts of the DRC Family Code tonight.  There is still the supplement to the Code to share (this does include the part of the code that delineates only heterosexuals may adopt from DRC) from May 2009, but first I will finish this one.  I will make it accessible as well so anyone can read over the adoption law themselves.  We all need to know what DRC law says about our adoptions.   You can find the first three parts of this series of posts here--part 1, part 2, and part 3.

(My comments are in italics below).

Article 690

The adoptee and his/her descendants retain all their hereditary rights in their birth family.  They acquire hereditary rights in their adoptive family.  In absence of inter vivos or testamentary provisions, the estate of the adoptee insofar as it does not return to his or her spouse or descendants, is divided into two equal parts between the birth family and the adoptive family.

So, that was my first time reading that article in detail.  This stuff gets more and more interesting.  "The adoptee and his/her descendants retain all their hereditary rights in their birth family."  Wow.  I think I would like to say I already believed this, but in practicality it is hard to imagine how that works out.  And then to see it in print even makes me more want to keep our adoption an open adoption.  It is their legal right in their country.  The last part is fascinating as well, that if the adoptee doesn't have descendants, his/her estates is divided between the birth and adoptive family.  

Article 691

Revocation of the adoption may, exceptionally, for serious motives, be pronounced upon request of the adopter or the adoptee.  The decision of justice having become definitive which pronounces the revocation shall be inscribed in the civil affairs register in the place or residence of the adoptee.  The Civil affairs Officer shall make mention in the margin of the adoption decree and the birth certificate of the adoptee and his/her descendants.  The effects of the adoption cease from the day the revocation ruling becomes definitive.

This is an important point I think, that adoption can be revoked upon request of the adopter or the adoptee by the decision of the justice based off of serious motives.  If it isn't revoked, then by DRC law, if you have an adoption decree, you are their legal parents in DRC. 

Article 695

Kinship results from birth lineage.  It results as well from legal paternity and the adoptive lineage insofar as determined by the provisions relative to lineage and adoption.

Article 714

The parents and relative mutually owe each other assistance and respect in accordance with the law and custom.  In all circumstances their behavior must be guided by concern to maintain and reinforce family harmony.

Article 721

Independently of their obligation of maintenance and education, the father and mother are required to support any of their children unable to work, and this, regardless of their age.

Beautiful.

There are a lot of articles that are a part of the family law (but not directly relating to adoption) that I didn't share here.  After reading through them all, I am left feeling astounded by the laws that tie families together in a country that is now seemingly so torn asunder.  I am left feeling staggered by the beauty in their laws and the written obligation to care for one another.  And then I am left with more understanding about the resiliency and courage I saw and witnessed in the Congolese people.  People who care for orphans and each other.  People who would walk days to keep a newborn alive.  People who start indigenous orphan care groups that watch over 100s of vulnerable children (with no outside support).   Families who would walk through the darkness over the mountains to get their sisters to the hospital.  Women who, despite the horrors done to their bodies, rise up and find joy and a new start.  They are not people to be pitied, but admired.  I am left humbled.  


This amazing woman started an orphan care group helping 100s of vulnerable children.  Her funding?  She has 100s of others who give a monthly small amount (dues) which she then uses to buy food and other supplies.  Incredible.  





Saturday, May 4, 2013

Please, don't sign that letter.

Today I was distracted by a letter that DRC prospective parents are supposed to sign and bring to their senators as a part of the Both Ends Burning campaign and upcoming march on D.C.  I read it and was left disturbed and angered by what I had read.  So, I wanted to encourage everyone to NOT sign the letter.  Write your own letter instead and fill it with the truth instead of the misleading (and in some cases mistruths) statements found in the form letter created by the Both Ends Burning campaign.  Here is the letter (found in the link "sample letter for DRC parents").

And here are the six points that the letter puts forth (the link to this is in the letter above), that I argue you should NOT put your signature to:
Here are some facts you should know about the DRC:
1. It is estimated that 10% of Congolese infants die before their first birthday and that 20% of Congolese children do not live to see their 5th birthday.
2.  There are estimated to be over 1,000,000 orphans in the capital of Kinshasa alone, and 5,000,000 in the entire country.
3.  The longer the embassy takes to do investigations the more at risk these children are at illness and even death because of the high rate of TB, meningitis etc. It is in the child's best interest not only emotionally, but physically, for their survival. 
4 If a child becomes ill they have fewer medical resources than in the U.S. Children residing in orphanages in DRC do not receive medical care or immunizations.
5.  All children residing in orphanages in DRC have some level of malnutrition and many children die in the orphanages because the orphanages do not have the resources to feed them even one meal a day.
6.  Some have suggested that the embassy is lengthening investigations to prevent child trafficking and they have argued that ultimately it is in the best interest of the children. However, allowing millions of children to languish in orphanages and on the street in a country with such a high mortality rate is surely not in their best interests.

I have so many problems with this presentation of facts.  The biggest problem is that it appears to be saying that the extreme poverty of children in DRC and the high infant/child mortality is the justification for adoption.  We do not adopt children because they are extremely poor, we adopt children when they need a new or second family.  Extreme poverty is not why children should be adopted.  The statistics in this letter are broad (and do not give the sources) and if anything, should motivate our energy towards fighting the underlying reasons why there is such extreme poverty.

Then it appears to be implying that there are 1 million orphans in Kinshasa that live in orphanages that are not receiving medical care or immunizations and are malnourished and dying.  And it further implies that the embassy (by investigating orphan status more thoroughly) is "allowing millions of children to languish in orphanages and on the street."  The letters goes on to imply that given there is such a high mortality rate in DRC, the embassy is not acting in the children's best interest by allowing them to languish in orphanages and on the street.   Basically, the letter has the feel of implying that the embassy is a part of millions of children dying in DRC because they are insisting on lengthened investigations!  That it is the embassy taking the time to ensure ethical adoptions that is causing children to die!   Talk about manipulation!

"Orphan" in Africa as in many other countries around the world is a term that is used to describe many children.  It is used to describe the child of a woman whose husband has died.  The child of a man whose wife has died.  It is used to describe a child who has been abandoned.  A friend in DRC called herself an orphan because her mother was too ill to care for her and her father had deserted them.  The term is used regardless of whether or not the child who is called an "orphan" is living in an orphanage (which few are) or living with their one surviving parent or with their surviving parent and his/her new spouse, with extended family, or with foster care.   Spend even a short amount of time in DRC and one will quickly realize that almost every family you meet has an orphan living in their home.  I personally feel like a more appropriate term than "orphan" would be "vulnerable child".

Certainly when children become ill they have less resources to treat those illnesses in than in the U.S.  However, it is a lie to suggest that children residing in orphanages in DRC do not receive medical care or immunizations.  There will be some orphanages (especially ones that are either very poorly supported or the ones that have corrupt director and keep donated funds to themselves) that do not have medications.  But even the two orphanages I was visiting and working at in eastern DRC made sure the children were all immunized and of course medications were given (even when the funds were extremely low and the children had very little to no food).

The reality is that most children who are referred for adoption are immediately placed in foster homes that provide a high level of care compared to an orphanage.  The ones that aren't placed in foster homes are often housed in agency/organization funded orphanages that certainly feed the children more than once a day.  The letter that I quoted above, that letter is meant for all the children living every day in DRC that will never be adopted.  Those kids?  Those are the kids that I am trying to help through Reeds of Hope.  Those are the kids that most of my fellow adoptive parents and friends are trying to help by improving their lives.  Those kids in that letter, they aren't the ones being adopted.

So why the manipulation, why the guilt tactics?  Would it be so hard to write a letter that is simple, heart felt and the truth?

Why not write instead something like--

"We share the concerns our government has in ensuring that our adoptions are done ethically and that the children we are bringing home are the ones that truly need homes.  We know that there have been concerns with the rapid increase in DRC adoptions over the last 3 years and we understand your concern that with this rapid increase comes intense pressure on a already fragile system that is working to protect children from harm and first families from manipulation.  We want to be a part of ethical adoptions and we applaud your efforts to do so as well in DRC, which is a country that has little infrastructure and worrisome levels of corruption.  We are concerned, however, with how long the investigations are now taking due to the combination of greater numbers of adoptions being processed and understaffing at the embassy to handle this number of adoption investigations.  We strongly encourage you to consider supporting the Kinshasa embassy more fully so that they can do their work in a timely and thorough manner so that the children that do need homes do not have to wait for their homes any longer than necessary.  Thank you."   


Addendum May 7: The letter is no longer accessible on the link above.   

May 14, 2013--comments now closed on this post.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why I am sharing DRC adoption law (thoughts about DGM and DRC laws)..

There are some important reasons I felt compelled to get the Family Code of DRC translated from French.  (It's still in process, I have part 4 and then the supplemental update to post about).   I wanted to know what the laws were in the country I adopted from and the country I work in now.  I felt like it was also important enough that others needed to know what the laws were as well.  There can be a lot of misinformation and rumors when it comes to DRC law and often going directly to the source is instrumental in learning the truth.  When we adopt we have to follow the laws and requirements of three separate authorities:  1) The foreign country in which the child resides (which are the adoption laws which I have been doing posts about); 2)U.S. federal immigration law; 3) your states of residence (source).

Whether or not we agree with the laws of any of those three governmental authorities, we must abide by them.  There are DRC adoption laws that I don't understand (see the previous three posts in this series), but I still must abide by them.  It means that at any time if we are found to have broken the DRC law then we could face the possibility of not bringing our child home.  So, if your agency or organization tells you that the DRC law has been "waived" or it isn't important, you must consider that in the end your agency or organization isn't the one that issues your U.S. visa and your agency or organization is not the one who gives you your DGM exit letter.  We have a responsibility to know and respect the laws of the country from which we adopt.

There are documents that you are given in your adoption that validate your adoption.  Obviously, your adoption decree shows a judge has declared you the legal parents of the child (in DRC).  This is an important and powerful document.  I distinctly remember the day it was given to us, we brought our girls home (because we were living in DRC at the time, we could move them into our home when we had the written decree in our hands).  But then we were stuck in DRC!  We were their parents in DRC, but we couldn't cross the border with them.  For one year we waited on our U.S. visas and the permission to exit from DRC.

Once we had our U.S. visas we then had to get permission to leave the country from the immigration of DRC (from DGM in Kinshasa, western DRC).  They had to investigate our case and decide whether or not we had legally adopted the children and whether we were breaking any laws in doing so.  We were not allowed across that border without their permission.  We waited and waited.  I've talked on here before how until very recently, it was common to pay DGM bribes.   Even the embassy posted it on their website that it was common to pay DGM.  No one said anything about the fact that every cent paid to DGM was a bribe, because there was no fee for the letter/permission!  Now, the embassy has finally made a specific point to say it is free, and paying them anything is a bribe.

Once DGM (DRC immigration in Kinshasa) has decided that your adoption is legit, you didn't traffic a child, you didn't illegally adopt them, and you aren't breaking DRC adoption law, you are given a letter from DGM giving you permission to exit the country.  This is an essential document and you can't legally leave the country without it.  When you look over your pile of documents, the most important documents that you will have is your adoption decree, your child's U.S. visa to immigrate to the U.S. and the DGM exit letter.  Look for those three documents.  You should have all three documents.  If you don't, then you need to question if your adoption abided by the laws of DRC and the U.S.

I am sharing the DRC adoption law because I believe we need to be people who pursue the truth and act justly.  And how can we do that if we don't even know what the truth is when it comes to our adoptions.  We, as adoptive parents, are the ones that must ensure we are not breaking DRC law and U.S. law when we are adopting from DRC.  We need to know that the child we are adopting is an orphan (investigations).  We need to know how our money is being used (don't accept lump sums requests from your agency that say "foreign fees" and don't pay child finder fees).   We need to closely examine orphanage donations (we shouldn't be giving directly to the same people who are processing our adoptions that are also caring for our adoptive child).  And we need to make sure we are abiding by DRC adoption law (know the law).

Don't bribe DGM.  The letter is free.  If you pay money not only are you breaking DRC law you are breaking international law by giving a bribe (source).

Make sure you get your exit letter from DGM and you see it!  Have it scanned to you if you are using escorts.  Make sure if you are on the ground you hold it in your hand.  This is an extremely important document, just as important as the adoption decree and the U.S. visa.

There are children that desperately need homes in DRC.  Let's make sure we are abiding by the laws of DRC and the U.S. so that those children that truly need homes can come home to families.


The day we received our adoption decree and brought the girls home to our house in DRC, July 2010.