Please see addendum at the bottom of this post.
In the world of international adoption it is easy to point fingers. It is easy to blame someone else for the problems and challenges in trying to adopt a child, especially from DRC.
Two days ago, another adoption alert was posted. It was a very hard announcement for those in the process, because it leaves their children they have been trying to adopt in limbo. Will the suspension be for two weeks or 12 months? Sadness, fear, hurt, anger are normal reactions when faced with such possibility, especially if adoptions are delayed by a year of children that may even already have their visas from the embassy. There are a lot of unknowns. And dealing with unknowns can be terrifying. Especially when little ones that truly do need new families are the ones that will suffer because of the delays.
The wording of this particular announcement made it easy for adoptive parents to cast blame. It is the fault of a series of article on rehoming, it is the media's fault for reporting on abuse of adopted children, it is a blogger's fault for sharing the story of loving her newly adopted child. At the end of the day, casting blame like this (it is the fault of one person or one article) is absolutely ridiculous.
Let's assume that DGM Kinshasa is following every media report that is out there about DRC adoptions or even adoption in general. Let's imagine they read all our blogs and scour sites for news of disrupted adoptions or abuse in adoptions. If we assume this to be true, I would put forth that there have been plenty of reasons to stop issuing DGM exit visas before the rehoming report ever was published.
Glance through blogs over the past two years or so and what will you find? Stories of lost referrals, children dying, children gone missing in DRC. Stories of funds that never showed up at orphanages. Stories of corruption and bribing. Stories of adoptive parents knowing about corruption, child stealing, and still staying with their agencies. What else will you find? Agencies that list children that are from disruptions that needs home, children from DRC. Stories of families that have been denied their visas and/or given NOIDs. Stories of families that will say congolese law regarding adoption is irrelevant, you just have to get waivers.
The media hasn't exactly been silent either. An article like this can easily be found and certainly makes many accusations against DRC adoptions and adoptive parents (by the way, I certainly don't agree with his methods in this article and I think some of the sources should have been verified and checked). Or this very disturbing report (anyone know what the story is behind this? I just can't believe it is completely true as reported.) Head on over to reformtalk.net and search "congo". Check out the PEAR warning statement on DRC.
My point is nothing occurs in isolation. I'm going to jump on in and give my opinion about this warning statement and the suspension of exit letters. I might be wrong, but here is what I think. I don't think it has to only do with media statements, blogs, or adoption agency media posts. I think it is about what it happening on the ground.
I take a step back and look at adoption from when I first starting getting involved in adoption in DRC. This was fall of 2009. I didn't know that much. OFA was the only group doing adoptions at the time (yes, they were doing adoptions before MLJ). I learned what I could from them and I also did my own research. But how I learned the most was living on the ground while trying to adopt. Our first adoption we walked away from because of concerns we had about the adoption. Even now, we couldn't list the exact reasons why, but we knew something wasn't right.
Then I started facilitating adoptions for a pilot out of eastern DRC. I talk all about that in other posts. I started having concerns about everything I was learning about doing adoptions in DRC. And at this same time, I was living in DRC and had been experiencing the corruption that is common there (not even as it related to adoption). As well as the lack of infrastructure. I was watching friends try to start businesses and hit walls as they tried to deal with local government. Finally, in August 2011 I started speaking out about my concerns about adoption in DRC.
Here are some things I have seen or heard about in DRC adoptions since fall of 2009. DGM Kinshasa came to Goma and Bukavu in the fall of 2011. They had serious concerns about the adoptions in DRC and gave strict guidelines about children exiting the country. This directly impacted us because it meant that though we had our adoption decree for our girls we couldn't cross the border with them (even though we were residents of DRC). Over the last 2 1/2 years, I have watched families leave DRC without DGM exit papers. DGM in other areas of DRC decide to allow children to leave via their border crossing without a letter from Kinshasa. Adoptive parents try to circumvent DRC adoption law over and over again. Paying DGM money for exit letters is still common place. I have learned of investigations not only of DGM but also of other authorities in Kinshasa into trafficking rings in orphanages in Kinshasa. I could go on and on.
My point is this: I know only a small drop of what is happening in adoption in DRC, and what I know isn't good. DGM Kinshasa and the other authorities in Kinshasa know so much more than I do. There are reasons that this isn't the first suspension that has happened. There are reasons that the embassy is denying visas and that they are instituting investigations. And all of these reasons are why adoption from DRC will shut down unless we pull our heads out of the sand and start changing things.
You can blame someone else, but in the end if you give a single dollar for an adoption in DRC and you don't know how that dollar is spent you are as much to blame as someone else. If you are a part of an congo adoption forum, you should be discussing how your money is spent in DRC, you should be discussing how much lawyers are paid, you should be discussing orphanage donations, you should be discussing money given to DGM, you should be discussing congo adoption law, you should be discussing which orphanages have had cases of corruption or child trafficking so others can make sure they aren't adopting a child that has been trafficked. You should be discussing if it's possible to do an ethical adoption from DRC right now and how you can make it as ethical as possible. We cannot control the decisions of people on the ground in DRC that may accept a bribe. We cannot control our agencies poor choices. But we can control our own actions and we do have power to make change happen.
Don't stay silent any longer. Speak out! Respect DRC. Abide by their laws. Don't pay bribes and participate in corruption (and ignorance is not an acceptable excuse anymore). Don't take advantage of the lack of infrastructure in the country and the high levels of corruption (and don't let your agency do it either). Don't pay child finder fees. Know how ALL your money is being spent. Do investigations to verify your child's orphan status and story. You are not helpless. If you stay silent you are going to be a part of the eventual shutdown in DRC adoptions. Since when did being a Christian mean stifling the truth? Since when did it mean not speaking up about injustice? Since when did it mean becoming complacent? Since when did it mean not defending the cause the orphan and vulnerable (and their families) and the widow? If you stay silent you are part of the problem. If you point fingers at others and don't acknowledge your own part in what is happening in DRC adoptions, you are part of the problem. As friends remind me, it is our privilege to give children homes that truly need them in DRC, we are not entitled to them.
Walking away from our first adoption was the hardest thing I have ever done. We left Moses in an orphanage. During our second adoption the judge threw out our dossier the first time we submitted it because we found a forged document in it. We didn't know if they would accept it again. It took us a year to get DGM approval to leave the country, a year to get our exit letter. In the end, I will repeat what I said in the my second paragraph. The ones that suffer the most is the child that truly needs a family and that is left in an orphanage where care is suboptimal or in long term foster care where care might be better but it is not a permanent solution. In the end, we shouldn't only be speaking out because it's right, but we should also be speaking out to get our kids home that truly need homes. For those that have their adoption decrees and have their visas (or close to it), this suspension is unbelievably hard. And it is for these children and their new families that I share this post today. In the hopes that change can happen and the children that need new families will come home.
Addendum: It has come to my attention that for the past 4-5 days comments haven't been coming through. I made the hard decision to moderate comments after I received a very nasty insulting comment. I have only ever moderated that one comment. I'm not sure what is going on with my comments, but if you tried to post recently and it didn't go through, I apologize. Try again, I think I fixed it. You can always contact me by email (above right) if it isn't working. Thanks. By the way, moderating comments is currently off.