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US families urge resumption of Congo adoptions

Frustrated US families want Obama's help in resuming stalled adoptions from Congo

In this February 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Neema, left, and Canaan, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...
In this February 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Canaan, left, and Neema, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...
In this June 18, 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Canaan, left, and Neema, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...

Congo Adoptions

In this February 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Neema, left, and Canaan, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...

Congo Adoptions

In this February 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Canaan, left, and Neema, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...

Congo Adoptions

In this June 18, 2014 photo provided by Alana Carroll, Canaan, left, and Neema, two Congolese boys who have been adopted by Justin and Alana Carroll o...

NEW YORK (AP) -- With the president of Congo coming to Washington for a U.S.-Africa summit, hundreds of frustrated American families are hoping he can be persuaded to lift a suspension that has stalled efforts to adopt children from his troubled country for the past 10 months.

The families and their many supporters in Congress are urging President Barack Obama to intervene by raising the issue now with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, and then pressing for action when Kabila arrives with dozens of other African leaders for the Aug. 4-6 summit.

A letter sent to Obama last week by 167 members of Congress requested his intervention.

According to the letter coordinated by Sen. Mary Landrieu, 148 Congolese children have been legally adopted by U.S. families and have U.S. visas but are still waiting for exit permits to leave the country. In all, according to Landrieu, more than 900 U.S. families seeking to adopt from Congo are "stuck in limbo" because of the suspension.

"This suspension is having tragic consequences," the letter said. "Already, 10 children who were matched with American families have died since the suspension went into place and many more have urgent, life-threatening medical problems."

Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said the Obama administration is working with Congress on the issue.

"We are seeking a resolution to these cases as quickly as possible," Price said.

Until the suspension was announced in September 2013, Congo was viewed by adoption advocates in the U.S. as a promising option at a time when the overall number of international adoptions has been plummeting. Congo accounted for the fifth highest number of adoptions by Americans in the 2013 fiscal year -- 311 children, according to State Department figures.

Initially, the Congolese government attributed the suspension to allegations that some children were abandoned by their adoptive parents and others were "sold to homosexuals." More recently, authorities in Congo have indicated that they view their entire adoption system as beset by corruption, and they say no exit permits will be issued to any adopted children until a new adoption law is enacted.

Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, discussed the matter this month with Congolese lawmakers and officials during a visit to the Congo.

The lawmakers "cautioned that they consider many Congolese judges to be corrupt and that few government officials have confidence in completed adoptions," according to a State Department account of Biden's meetings.

Several high-level State Department officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have raised the issue with Congolese authorities. The department has offered to provide technical advice to Congo as it drafts new adoption legislation and has invited Congolese officials to the U.S. to learn about America's adoption and child welfare systems.

Among the families in limbo are Justin and Alana Carroll and their 8-month-old daughter, Carson. Well before the suspension was imposed last September, the Carrolls had obtained final approval to adopt two boys, Neema and Canaan, from Congo.

"I've been a mother for 16 months to 2 little boys I've never met," Alana wrote recently.

Another family's plight was described July 16 during a hearing on African orphans held by the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa. Among the witnesses was Jovana Jones, who -- along with her husband Robert -- has been trying since April 2013 to adopt a deaf girl from Congo.

Jones, who has three biological children, spoke of her family's extensive efforts to learn sign language and prepare their house for a deaf child, and of their frustration over the delays.

"We have done our part," said Jones, speaking on behalf of all the affected families. "We sincerely appreciate the efforts that have been made thus far, but frankly it's not enough."

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Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP.


Updated : 2021-03-06 16:22 GMT+08:00