Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nothing occurs in isolation

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 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. 


Anonymous said...

I don't know, the Keith Harmon Snow article at least got APs and PAPs to watch what they're saying in an open forum - that's not a bad thing, considering some of the things I've read.

Holly said...

Varouna--there is that.

Holly said...


Countdown to Congo said...

Thank you for being willing to keep the conversation going.

Anonymous said...

This blog doesn't help matters -- listing everything that's wrong instead of focusing on the positive. What if DGM reads this and learns about all of this? It'll mean more delays and more kids STUCK.

Holly said...

anon @5:10

I suppose you are making the assumption that DGM isn't aware of what is going on in country. That somehow I have the "in" to it all. If this were the case, you would suggest that I hide what I know from DGM and the DRC authorities?

I think DGM is more than aware of everything I talk about here. I argue that we need to get our act together, act with respect towards the DRC government and start dialoguing with each other so we don't keep making the same mistakes that only hurt children in the long run.

Anonymous said...

All what you write only makes sense if DRC was concerned about their children. Knowing what goes on in N. Kivu, and as long as the DRC government does not prohibit sorcery of under 18 year olds they are not doing what they do because of concern for the children (30000 of the estimated 50000 street kids in Kinshasa have been kicked out on the street because they of their stepmothers were accused of being possessed).
Russia has stopped USA adoptions, only because it was political adventitious. China has after the Reuters series (I assume you have seen it!) threatened to do the same, so DRC is just following the rest.

Jess said...

Frankly, I am surprised that DRC has stayed open this long. We have seen terrible corruption on both the Congo side of adoptions and the US side. I am only surprised that the shutdown didn't come at the order of the US Embassy with all of the things that have happened with American agencies doing terrible things. We have friends who are to travel this week to Congo to bring home their daughter. It will be very interesting to see what happens to those with referrals already and for the program in general.

Holly said...

Anon @ 12:32 am

I totally get what you are saying on many levels. It IS hard to watch so many kids suffer in DRC (remember, I lived there 4 1/2 years and in eastern DRC). And not only kids but there is little to no protection for women and girls from rape and awful violence. However, they are still a sovereign country and we have to respect their laws and government by obeying their laws. U.S. Law says that we have to abide by the laws of the adopting country. Interestingly, as I went though Congolese family law, I was astonished by how much the laws actually protect women and children. So, the laws are there, but not enforced well. It is a complicated problem, you have lack of infrastructure on a large scale as well as many of the government officials not even getting paid salaries, let alone being understaffed and supported. What I WAS amazed at living there was how much the local churches and local communities reached out to care for vulnerable children and women in their midst. That was so inspiring. It's easy to look at Russia and China and compare them to other countries, but they are very different countries than DRC. I did see the Reuters articles. The DRC adoption program is SO different than the ones in China and Russia and so much newer. Also, there have been major problems in DRC from the very beginning that DGM and the DRC government has been aware of. The politics b/w Russia and the U.S. and China and the U.S. are VERY different than the ones b/w DRC and the U.S. Again, I don't think the reuters article, taken in isolation could cause a shut down or suspension.

Holly said...

Jess-I agree.

allan said...

From Anonymous@Holly (Allan Nielsen
Thanks for your response.
Just to make it clear I love the views you put forward, ever since I first found them.
I agree as a foreigner we have to follow DRC's laws, and I know Russia and China are another world. Lived in Europe half my life and Russia is understood on a complete other level when you live next door to them.
I am moving to DRC for the rest of my life. So I have followed and read all I could about their history and follow every day news closely. I intend to work for kids on the streets.
But when a MP can be beaten up by police (which happened recently) and anyone can be stopped on the main roads in Kinshasa and have to pay to be allowed to continue, well then there is no law, only an illusion on paper, that was my point.

This site might interest you. They are not Christians but are doing much of the same that you do, but in Uganda. They have been on TV to promote local adoption and have shown the way in the quality of care that children need / should be receiving when they are orphaned.
and their youtube channel which is very good to explain what they do.

If you know some way to improve learning Lingala I would like to know. I am currently using Memrise.

Best wishes,
Allan Nielsen

Holly said...

Allan--thanks so much for the comment. There is so much I would like to say in response (and in agreement) that I just feel like I can't say on such a public forum. I will say that I often felt like I lived in a land with complete impunity and much like the "lawless west" (pretty awful stuff). Because my post is specifically about adoption (and what things contribute to a country closing it's doors to adoption), that is what I'm limiting my comments to here. But overall, you bring up great points and as I said, I could easily dialogue with you about them for a long time.

Regarding Lingala learning--no idea! We were in eastern DRC where it is swahili/french. Immersion with a native Lingala speaker would probably work best.

Regarding Child i foundation--I love their work! You should also look at the Abide Family Center in Uganda, Rileys in Uganda, and the alternative care movement in Uganda. Great great stuff happening there.

Feel free to email me if you want to chat more.


Mary Hoyt said...


Your stamina is amazing!! How do you stay in it, keep speaking, keep responding, keep taking the heat? I am praying for you in this ministry of truth seeking! There is part of me that misses it, and yet more of me is still just too...I don't know the word...broken? to re-enter full-force. If people contact me or ask for advice, I just send them to your blog. Thanks for being a resource for so many who are in touch decision making processes and for being so thorough and persistent.