Today, the staff of MLJ Adoptions woke up to a familiar story on the front page of our hometown newspaper, the Indianapolis Star. Over 500 children are “stuck” in DRC unable to travel with their legally-recognized parents out of the country and four of these families are local to the Indianapolis area. Our hearts are with all of these families and we are dedicated to working with US and DRC officials to find solutions.
MLJ Adoptions exists to serve children in need. And the need in Congo is immense. In The United Nations Human Development Report for 2013, Congo is tied for last (with Niger) of all the countries in the world in an index that measures income, education and health based on information from the IMF, UNESCO, and the WHO. According to UNICEF, one in seven children dies before reaching the age of five. Mothers die in childbirth in 13 out of every 1,000 deliveries. There are over 4 million orphaned children in the country.
This tremendous need will not be met with one solution or even with two or three solutions. Meeting the need in Congo requires the dedicated efforts of all who care about Congo working side by side in a collaborative fashion to implement a multitude of solutions. We believe that international adoption can be a viable option for some children who are unable to remain in the care of his or her birth family or are unable to be placed with a Congolese family. Unfortunately, it is an undeniable reality for many Congolese children that they have no in country alternatives to living in an institution.
Our connection to these children of Congo is deep and heartfelt. Many of us have traveled to Kinshasa and seen the institutions in which children without families must live. We know the disadvantages these children experience living in institutions and our hearts ache for them. Our CEO, Michele Jackson, has adopted two precious little boys from Congo and we seem them flourishing in her home. As an agency, we have donated thousands of dollars to the Global Orphan Foundation which was founded by Jackson to assist children in institutions.
We have placed nearly 200 children from Congo in families across the United States. As we diligently receive and process post adoption reports for our families who have brought children home, we see the pictures of children gazing into the loving eyes of mom or dad and we read the social worker reports of children blossoming in their homes and schools. We know international adoption works for tens of thousands of families across the United States and we wish that the media would choose to tell these success stories as often as they choose to dwell on the negative.
The choice by media outlets to focus their spotlight on a small spectrum of international adoptions has had consequences. DGM, the name for the immigration officials in Congo, stopped issuing exit permits not because of corruption as the Indianapolis Star article implied but because of their concerns about Congolese children being mistreated after reading the stories on “rehoming”. These articles, while describing accurately the outcomes of a handful of adoptions, do not reflect the more likely outcome for families pursuing international adoption.
Because we know firsthand that international adoption ends in success more often than it doesn’t, we are dedicated to working with officials in the US and DRC to find solutions for the children currently unable to leave Congo. And we continue to advocate fervently for CHIFF to pass so that all US policies will recognize the importance of growing up in a family. Children have a human right to a family and MLJ Adoptions is committed to providing this basic human right to as many children as we can. We invite you to join us!