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 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.


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. 


If you would like to contact Amanda, her email is


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said. Thank you Holly. We are one of the many families choosing to walk the narrow path to ensuring an ethical adoption. We have dealt with so many hard situations but at the center of this is a belief that I want to share with my son that we did everything possible to ensure that our adoption was legal and ethical. I too don't want to condemn others that have taken a different path but instead focus on those who are doing what they can to ensure transparency in helping adoptions continue in the DRC.

Anonymous said...

Sorry-just realized the thanks should go to Amanda . . .

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!

The ends do not justify the means in this case!

I am really, truly and incredibly horrified -- beyond horrified! -- that seemingly well-intentioned PAPs are rallying behind BEBCampaign's efforts to expedite adoptions of likely trafficked Congolese kids and trying to bully a sovereign state (DRC) into letting Americans adopt those kids!

It's admirable that the Congolese government is working to improve child welfare. The problems they've cited (trafficking, US adopters rehoming) are legitimate.

I very much hope that our government, the US government, considers doing the same -- specifically, developing a better way to screen PAPs. Actually, to better screen OUT the sort of PAPs who abuse, disrupt or rehome their adopted kids!!

Rachael said...

Thank you for this post Amanda. I'm a waiting parent; I've been waiting for nearly 2 years since my adoption judgment. Even so, I am shocked and dismayed by the behavior of many waiting parents. We have made mistakes in this adoption process, but ultimately are guided by the knowledge of God's sovereignty and love of justice. While that may see foolish to many other parents, I truly believe that if He wanted them home, they would be. And that even though this hasn't turned out at all how we planned, He will still use the situation for good. That being said, I think that the recent behaviors of APs are probably the death knell for the future of reforming DRC adoptions. And that is really sad for those kids who really need families. Hopefully some of these people who are not invested in DRC will be able to step up and fill the gap.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post!
Would love to get you and/or Ms. Bennett's take on an initiative to get President Obama involved directly with President Kabila to bring some resolution.