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 personally intervene by raising the issue now with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, and then pressing for action when Kabila arrives in Washington along with dozens of other African leaders for the Aug. 4-6 summit.
The pressure campaign has included a call-in to the White House phone line Wednesday by the affected families and their allies, as well as a letter sent to Obama last week by 167 members of Congress requesting his intervention.
According to the letter coordinated by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., 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 so that adopted children, some with serious health conditions, can join their families in the United States without unnecessary delay,” 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 fiscal 2013 – 311 children, according to State Department figures.