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Boyers stuck in adoption process with the Democratic Republic of the Congo | SLIDESHOW
For about a year and a half, Jason and Jennefer Boyer have been living in a paperwork-filled limbo.
It all began when the Boyers — who lived in Redmond for five years but recently moved to unincorporated King County between Redmond and Sammamish — decided to adopt children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
After filling out the different forms, sitting through a home study and going through everything else that was required of them to be approved, they were matched with two brothers — a 1-year-old named Luke and a 3-and-a-half-year-old named Andre — in September 2012. That fall, Jason and Jennefer went through more red tape to be approved by the Congolese court system. Once that was completed and it was established that Luke and Andre were indeed orphans, the Boyers officially adopted the two boys.
DELAY AFTER DELAY
Jennefer said they expected to be able to bring Luke and Andre home by January 2013, but the U.S. Embassy made some changes to how it processed the paperwork and decided it wanted to do a more thorough investigation of potential parents, delaying things by more than a year.
During this time, Jennefer said she and her husband visited DRC twice, in late March and early April 2013 and July 2013. The first trip was to meet Luke and Andre and the second was to bring them home.
But it didn’t work out that way.
“We didn’t get to take them home,” Jennefer said. “It was a great trip. It was hard to leave, for sure…but we don’t regret going to see them.”
She said their case has been thoroughly investigated by both countries’ governments and the two children have passports with visas in them. All that is needed to bring the boys home is an exit letter. But on Sept. 25, 2013, the Congolese government suspended all exit letters and Luke and Andre — who are now 2 and a half and 5 years old, respectively — are still in DRC.
“We fully support the rigorous background checks, applications, home studies and investigations of both the boys and ourselves to ensure that these children are going to homes that will provide what they need in the best way possible,” Jason said. “Having finally worked our way through this arduous and expensive process, it is heartbreaking to be denied with the finish line seemingly in sight.”
In addition to Luke and Andre, the Boyers have two birth daughters who are 4 and 5 and a half. Jennefer said their girls are excited about having brothers and talk about them “as if they are already here.”
“They always pray for their safety…and it breaks my heart,” Jennefer said about her daughters. “There’s just a hole in my family right now.”
CAMPAIGNING FOR A RESOLUTION
The Boyers are among hundreds of families throughout the United States who have been stuck somewhere in their adoption process with DRC.
Adoption attorney Kelly Dempsey said there are anywhere between 500-600 families stuck at various stages in the process and about a third are like the Boyers, who have already legally adopted their children. Dempsey connected with this case as general counsel for Both Ends Burning, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring every child’s right to a family. She said once Both Ends Burning became involved in the issue, they invited the waiting families to join them in an advocacy campaign to resolve the pending adoptions. The first part of the campaign was an online petition on Petition2 Congress.com that would send letters and emails to members of Congress. The petition was posted at the beginning of April and as of Thursday, 113,686 letters and emails have been sent.
In addition, Dempsey said they encouraged the families to contact their respective members of Congress about the issue. This has prompted Congress to send a letter to Joseph Kabila Kabange and Augustin Matata Ponyo, the president and prime minister of DRC, respectively. A total of 169 members signed the letter, including Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray from Washington and Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes Redmond.
The letter asks Kabange and Ponyo for their help in resolving the issue and offers support to the DRC government “in its efforts to ensure that adopted Congolese children are safe and well-cared for and that future intercountry adoptions between our countries continue to be conducted in an ethical, transparent manner.” The letter also asks Kabange and Ponyo to consider allowing the American families “who have legally completed the adoption process to move forward” and specifically requests they expedite processing for pending adoptions of children whose health is at risk; begin issuing exit letters again and provide families who have finalized adoptions on or after Sept. 25, 2013 “with a means for obtaining” exit letters.
In addition, Secretary of State John Kerry visited DRC recently and spoke on the topic. The pending adoptions was not originally on his agenda, but it was added once he became aware of the issue.
“I urged President Kabila to move as rapidly as possible in the review of the situation that raised some concerns, and also to lift the new freeze on international adoption from the DRC,” Kerry said in a statement. “We want to enable Congolese children, who seek to, to be able to be matched with parents abroad who are eager to provide them with a secure and happy future…I have seen this firsthand. My sister has adopted a young child from China. I know how positive and important this can be for everybody concerned, and I think it’s an issue that’s important to all of us as a matter of basic human decency.”