Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest Post: When adopted children linger in DRC indefinitely, should we still respect DRC laws?


Today I have the pleasure of hosting another guest on my blog. Amanda Bennett is an American lawyer passionate about obtaining justice for vulnerable families and children. Amanda has a JD from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois and now lives in Kigali, Rwanda with her husband and son. She serves on the board of directors for Reeds of Hope, a non-profit serving vulnerable families and children in DRC, and she blogs about Jesus, adoption, orphan care, and life at AfterAllItsASmallWorld.com. She is the  co-author of In Defense of the Fatherless, Redeeming International Adoption and Orphan Care, which will be published in early 2015 by Christian Focus Publications.

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The DRC international adoption situation has, as many predicted, descended into chaos.

On a regular basis, we hear stories of families faced with an impossible choice – wait forever, pay forever, in complete uncertainty or go to any lengths necessary – even breaking the law – to get “their” children home.

Most recently, several American families were caught in the middle of such a decision. Apparently, escorts attempted to bring their children across the border without valid exit letters from DGM in Kinshasa. As a result, the adoptions were invalidated, and the families arrived home empty-handed.

A heartbreaking result for everyone involved. We don’t know the circumstances that led to this result, and we likely never will. Whether we agree with the decisions that these families made is irrelevant. As Christians, we are called to walk alongside them, weep with them, comfort them in their distress.

But how can families still in process move forward in this continued uncertainty? In many ways, it appears that a corrupt and violent government is holding their children hostage? Why should they respect the laws of such a place?

We can think of extreme circumstances where people stood up to evil laws and have been heralded as heroes – Germans who hid Jews in their basements, mothers in China who saved their daughters, Iranians protesting a harsh regime. Were these people wrong? Should they have just followed the law?

Far be it from me to suggest that laws should always be followed under any circumstances. I will also refrain from suggesting that it’s no big deal to break the law.

But I will argue that to equate a DRC immigration law with the extremes just described is unwise.  We have to look at the facts and circumstances here and not our emotional reactions to the situation.

DRC Immigration (DGM) has made a decision to suspend the issuance of exit letters to legally adopted children while they consider re-writing adoption laws and conduct investigations into adoptions. They cite worries about trafficking and re-homing in the adoptive countries.

We can surmise and hypothesize about other, more sinister motives, and we might very well be correct. But the law and the reasons are what they are.

It’s also confirmed that there have been illegal adoptions conducted, that children have been removed illegally, that documents have been forged, birth families have been lied to and coerced, and children have been re-homed in the United States after being adopted in the DRC.
It’s my opinion that to pay bribes, sneak children across the border and to forge documents is to contribute to the suffering of real people and real children rather than alleviate. With every bribe paid, the corrupt officials are emboldened to ask for more. With every document forged, the lesson is that being honest is irrelevant, and it gives DRC more evidence to keep adoptions shut down. With every child snuck across the border, we make the decision that the end justifies the means.

I urge parents facing this choice to respect the law, however arbitrary it seems. The only way that international adoptions in DRC should continue is if they are done ethically. If we don’t follow the laws of the country from where we adopt, then we are doing nothing to help the people of DRC. Rather, I believe, in this circumstance, that following the law, is to respect the people of DRC and stand with them against the widespread corruption in their land.

I am always willing and interested in speaking with parents who desire to follow the law and want to discuss how to proceed in this uncertainty. 

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If you would like to contact Amanda, her email is delighted.bennett@gmail.com.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Changes for the New Year (a Reeds of Hope Update)


As we come to the end of 2014, we at Reeds of Hope, have been reevaluating all our programs and looking at the future of our work in DRC.  Over the past couple of years we have seen our mission shift from direct care of children living in an orphanage to caring for vulnerable families.  Moving forward, we have come to realize that family reunification -- and family strengthening -- work is where our hears lie.

In moments of crises, in times of extreme poverty, or in tragedies -- such as the death of a mother during the birth of her child -- families often break apart.  We have seen Congolese men and women come together during these times and care for each other, either preventing the family fracture, or caring for the children when it does break.  We want to partner with programs and projects that do this hard work --groups that keep families together in the vulnerable moments when they are at most risk of falling apart. Walking alongside someone in the midst of their suffering brings hope.  

We also want to help Congolese women and men who have been supporting vulnerable children in their communities by providing family structures for those who don't have families or need new families.  We support and applaud the amazing work of the Congolese women and men who have been doing this work for years in their local communities.  It is humbling to consider the amazing networks that reach out to each other in times of insecurity, extreme poverty, violence, lack of infrastructure, lack of justice, and lack of basic human rights.  We believe in supporting these efforts and that in building up the capacity of local programs to care for each other, families can get the support they need when they are threatened.  Keeping families together and supporting new family structures brings hope.

We believe in education.  We know that for many children who have returned home to their families, paying school fees can be an insurmountable barrier.  We believe in helping these children continue their education as long as they want to attend.  We also believe that the groups that are supporting children in family units often need help to send all their children to school.  And older children need job trainings and job skills.   Education brings hope.

We are excited about the work we will be doing in 2015 in DRC.  We support the amazing work of the heroes of DRC -- Congolese men and women who make an impact in their daily lives as they reach out to those around them that are passing through a vulnerable fragile times.  We are thankful for the opportunities we have had to serve in the past and we look forward to the new ways we will be serving in DRC in the future.

Most of all we are thankful for the support of those who have come alongside us for so many years and continue to walk with us today.  Thank you for your continued belief in the Congolese people and their strength, beauty, resiliency, and courage.


If you are a regular donor with Reeds of Hope, please check your inbox for more details on changes to our projects and our future work in DRC.  We will be updating our website over the next month to reflect these changes.  www.reedsofhope.org   Also, follow us on facebook!   We will be sending updates of our new projects!

If you are working with an orphanage in DRC or want to learn more about what we consider important and essential components to our work in DRC, please read these two posts--found here and here.  These posts are close to my heart and I consider them very important.  



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

slow

We are over a year into our second "life overseas" journey.  Almost 8 years ago we moved to Eastern DRC.  Then we moved to the U.S. after 4 1/2 years in DRC.  That lasted 2 years before we looked again to east Africa--the land we missed.  Our second big move overseas started a bit over a year ago and brought us to the country of Tanzania.  Ironically, we share a similar climate, location (on a lake), and coordinates (almost) to our previous home in DRC.  DRC is only one country away.  Swahili is still the language spoken.  And life has again slowed tremendously for me. 

When we moved back to the states 3 years ago, I had such severe reverse culture shock.  Some of you who have read this little blog that long might remember I would have panic attacks in the grocery store and often seek out the "international food" aisles and hold cans of Nido to my chest while I deep breathed.  You might remember the embarrassing public bathroom trips with my bunch of little ones and the terrors of automatic toilets, of trying to encourage walking on sidewalks and of mailboxes.  We were surrounded by open land, there were no more compound walls, barbed wire, and UN vehicles and soliders in our lives.  There was rushing clean water and strong electricity and so much food. 

There were so many white people--so many white children!  So many people speaking English!  I felt so overwhelmed and soon work, child care, PhD studies, and life with a family of small children caught up with us and we felt like it was hard to breath.  We sought refuge in a small Baptist Church on Sundays with a predominately Black population of church goers and our hearts felt easy again.  I remember one Sunday sitting in my pew and tears running down my cheeks during communal prayers--the loneliness and stress had overwhelmed me and in the community of believers of this church and the Spirit of a loving and present God I could weep unabashedly.  I remember in that moment feeling the heavy, easy, loving pressure of a hand on my shoulder.  Just letting me know--I wasn't alone, we weren't alone. 

Perhaps we "escaped" back to East Africa, but we felt that it was the only and right decision for us with our small children and where our hearts rested.  The work felt right and resonated with us.  We felt like it would be good to give our girls a gift of being so near to their homeland, surrounded by those that looked beautifully just like them and those that spoke the same language that their mama had long ago.  Somehow, we knew this would be the right decision for them.  And for me--it felt completely right for me as well.  A small window of time that I could be with my children again without that same feeling of drowning in stress, trying to fit in, trying to make ends meet, trying to make friends, trying to make it to daycare pick up on time as the light is fading in the winter, trying to find common ground with those that had no idea what to do with previous life changing years in my life, trying to understand the changes in myself and my heart, unexpected struggles with illness, trying to fight consumerism and trying to fight the loss of memory of our lives in DRC. 

A gift.  A gift to slow down.  For however long it lasts. 

Lately, I have been thinking about the days here.  They are so much slower.  We live close to the school the twins attend and to where my husband works.  We are homeschooling the older girls.  I'm home with them everyday and we just spend time together.  It isn't always easy and some days I feel the slowness of the day as a struggle, but most of the time I feel overwhelmingly thankful for these days.  I realize they won't always be like this, that with four children at some point my day will be exploding in activity.  And there will be gifts in that life as well. 

And because our days are slow I notice so much more than I had time to notice before when I was running around never getting anywhere on time.  For example, we live in an area of Tanzania known for the variety of birds.  What a gift it is to have the time to watch the birds in my yard!  I sit humbled day after day and never tire of their colors and activities.   My mind is filled with memories of my small Hungarian grandmother and her simple pleasure in feeding the birds in her yard.  It is so fun to share this with the children, to be able to say "look at the beautiful world we live in, isn't God an amazing God that He has given us so much beauty to enjoy!" 

And sometimes if I am lucky, while I'm sitting on the back porch watching the kids run and play, I can catch the birds with my small camera (that doesn't have a lens to properly photograph birds)--at the right moment, I can catch a bird bathing and dancing in our pool.










Perhaps a birder can help me out here--is this an African Paradise Flycatcher?