Thursday, January 23, 2014

The three most important documents in your adoption in DRC. Do you have them all?

I once wrote a post saying there were three essential documents you must see with your own eyes and have in your possession to know you had an ethical adoption in DRC.  Of course, they are all important, but these three are the most important.  And of course, possessing these documents is not the only way to assure you had an ethical adoption in DRC, but it is one of the many ways. 

One, you must have an adoption decree (or judgement).  Without that you have not adopted a child.  You should receive a copy of this judgement from your agency or organization and eventually you should be given the original copy.

Two, your child must have a visa from the U.S. embassy in their Congolese passport.  If they don't have one, they will not be able to legally leave DRC to immigrate to the U.S.  Remember, that even if you are their legal parent in DRC the child is still a Congolese citizen and will not be a U.S. citizen until they come to the U.S.  As a Congolese citizen they need permission from the immigration of their country to leave the country as an adopted child of a foreigner (on a U.S. visa, in our case).  Which brings us to point number three.  

Three, you must have a DGM exit letter that states you were given permission to leave DRC with your adopted Congolese child.  (Notice I said Congolese child.  Because your child is still a Congolese citizen.)   This is a piece of paper signed by the director of DGM (Congolese immigration).  There is no fee for this letter.  And as you all know, issuance of this letter is currently suspended in DRC.  Do you have a copy of your letter?  You should.  Otherwise you will not know if you legally exited DRC.   Or if you used an escort, you will not know that your Congolese child legally exited DRC.  These are official paper documents (not electronic documents) that were being issued as early as 2010 (stamped by the office of DGM).  I had mine in my possession from the middle of 2011 because we had to show the original paper document at all border crossings in DRC (and every country we passed through on our way to the U.S.).  I have friends that have theirs from the end of 2010. 

If you don't have it in your records (go look), ask your agency or organization for a copy of it.  They will have it in their records for your child.  Remember, if your agency is a Hague Accredited agency, then they are required to keep all your documents pertaining to your adoption for 75 years!  (source)   Various state laws also require detailed record keeping (source).   No one wants to be accused of smuggling their Congolese child out of DRC.  It's very important to have that document in your records and hold on to it.

Maybe you are reading this and you don't have the DGM exit letter in your possession.  Maybe you ask your agency and they do not have the letter.  Maybe you feel concerned that your child didn't legally exit DRC.  Your adoption is still valid in the U.S. when you child processes through immigration in the U.S., but it does mean that your child illegally exited the country (even if it was completely unknowingly to you) and you should hold your agency accountable. You should demand answers as to why you do not have the exit letter.  It is important we all abide by the laws in DRC.  Sometimes we aren't even aware of when we aren't abiding by those laws.  That is why asking hard questions to your agencies and organizations are very important.  

Shutdowns and suspensions will only continue to happen unless we hold our agencies accountable for their actions on the ground.  Not abiding by the DRC laws and processes are why the country will close to adoption.   Hold your agency and organizations accountable for their actions.  Ask hard questions.  Take a stand for the children of DRC. 


19 comments:

Megan said...

We had a paper DGM letter as early as Feb. 2010 when we brought our son home. They asked to see it at the airport so officials were already well aware that it was required to leave the country in early 2010.

Anonymous said...

We do have a copy of our exit letter, although our in country agency rep tried to lie to us and smuggle us out of the country without it! We did not pay the bribes, and ended up waiting an additional two days for the letter. Upon our return to the US we let our agency know all the unethical things that took place and they did fire this rep. However this person is now working with adoptive families again. So I'm sure she's been successful in sneaking kids out of DRC sans exit letter. And AP's wonder why DGM shutdown.

Anonymous said...

We have paper copies of our exit letter from Nov. 2009 and April 2013.

Katie said...

I got the exit letter for my son one day after my birthday in 2010, November 2nd. One crazy year later I got my daughters letter on my birthday, November 1, 2011. I will always treasure getting to spend a birthday in Congo with each of my kids! <3

Anonymous said...

We had an escort and we do not have a letter. :(

Anonymous said...

I do have my exit letter (and the other documents as well) -- from 2011. I waited 2 weeks for it -- which was really hard, because I was seeing people pay bribes to get theirs in 4 days or so. I'd actually never heard of someone getting it in less than 4 - 5 days, until I read this blog:
http://surveyofalife.blogspot.com/p/adoption-story.html?m=1
Visa issued on Thursday (Thanksgiving), babies home in the States on Sunday (with at least a day of travel time). But then I realized: this MLJ family was told to leave Congo just days before their babies were escorted home. Given that timeline, my STRONG suspicion would be that no exit letter was obtained.

Anonymous said...

We are an MLJ family who used an escort and we do not have our DGM exit letter. In fact, of all the MLJ families that I know who used escorts, I've only heard of one who has a copy of their letter.

We do have the other two documents.

Anonymous said...

It has taken me a few days to respond to this post after reading. We were also a MLJ family who adopted from DRC. We were told we could not travel even though we were adamant about the importance of visiting our child's country of birth. The agency would not allow it and warned us multiple times of everything from the liability of their "allowing us to go" to the cultural issues of being white with a Congolese child in public and what could happen. After our child came home, we noticed that stories about adopting from DRC vs MLJ and other agencies just did not match up. Now we find out that we don't have this DGM letter for our child as well. So we don't have proof that our child had permission to leave the country and the agency did not do their due diligence advocating for our child and our adoption.

Best yet, the blog post someone mentioned in the comments section showed that MLJ DID allow parents to travel after all, just not "escort" their own child home. I cannot state how utterly disappointed I am in the amount of lies we endured from this agency. None of this is in the best interest of the child and it's no wonder why there are problems with obtaining exit letters in DRC for current families in progress. Lord help shine a light on the truth so that these children who need to be adopted CAN BE and those that profit off of their lies are shown justice.

"In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow." - Ezekiel 22:7

Anonymous said...

It has taken me a few days to respond to this post after reading. We were also a MLJ family who adopted from DRC. We were told we could not travel even though we were adamant about the importance of visiting our child's country of birth. The agency would not allow it and warned us multiple times of everything from the liability of their "allowing us to go" to the cultural issues of being white with a Congolese child in public and what could happen. After our child came home, we noticed that stories about adopting from DRC vs MLJ and other agencies just did not match up. Now we find out that we don't have this DGM letter for our child as well. So we don't have proof that our child had permission to leave the country and the agency did not do their due diligence advocating for our child and our adoption.

Best yet, the blog post someone mentioned in the comments section showed that MLJ DID allow parents to travel after all, just not "escort" their own child home. I cannot state how utterly disappointed I am in the amount of lies we endured from this agency. None of this is in the best interest of the child and it's no wonder why there are problems with obtaining exit letters in DRC for current families in progress. Lord help shine a light on the truth so that these children who need to be adopted CAN BE and those that profit off of their lies are shown justice.

"In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow." - Ezekiel 22:7

Anonymous said...

We were also an MLJ family who brought children home in 2011. We were also not allowed to travel (we were told the same reasons). We do not have an exit letter. I know of NO MLJ families who used escorts during this time period who have an exit letter. We do have the other two documents.

Anonymous said...

We had an escort bring our child home in 2011 and we received NO exit letter. MLJ was our agency, and we did pay for the exit letter. We inquired about the letter after our child had been home for awhile, and we were told by MLJ that this letter is kept by DGM at airport and they did not make a copy! 2 problems with this is 1 why would you not make a copy of the letter that allows a child to
leave his birth country? 2 DGM does NOT keep the original as we have the exit letter for our second adoption in which we traveled to bring home our child!! I have yet to see any proof that an MLJ family that used an escort has this document. I am posting anonymously as MLJ has threaten other families with DPS. They believe in bullying into silence and no questions asked. It is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that my child was smuggled out of Congo!

Anna said...

I can't believe how many MLJ people are commenting.

I received my exit letter in country and have a copy. I was with Wasatch Adoptions.

Anonymous said...

I was with ALBB in early 2013 when I adopted my son. We were required to travel and could not submit our DGM documents until the day I arrived. I waited in country 13 days for our letter and literally picked it up on our way to the airport (most stressful time of the entire trip!). We made it on the plane but a few other families didn't. We did witness one family being asked for $200 cash to expedite their DGM request because it was a somewhat out of the ordinary situation (though one that DGM had already promised would be taken care of in the same time frame as my letter). She was stuck with the option of pushing back her two flights ($400 in change fees) plus finding a new hotel or just paying the $200... she paid it and got on her plane when I did. We have a copy of both our DGM letter and our Bordereau stamps in our paperwork. It was scrutinized pretty closely when we left DRC.

Anonymous said...

Our adoptions were finalized in 2011. We have our Adoption Decree, US Visas, and both of our DGM Exit Permission Letters. We paid nothing for either of our letters, received them the same day as we waited, and all the DGM staff was extremely kind and hospitable. Our US Visas on the other hand, took over 6 weeks, because they "forgot" that we were in-country waiting. All part of the experience. Just glad we are home!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the above 2011 adoptions were independent.

kym said...

Could someone say what MLJ stands for? Thanks.

Holly said...

MLJ is one of the largest adoption agencies working in DRC right now. They are Hague approved. The initials MLJ also are the initials of the founder, Michelle L. Jackson.

sofia said...
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REV THOMAS ORPHANAGE said...
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