January 11, 2014
Justin Carroll is the proud dad of a 6-week-old daughter in Tennessee, but thus far he’s done his doting via Facetime video phone calls from Africa. Since mid-November, Carroll has been living in Congo, unwilling to leave until he gets exit papers allowing two newly adopted sons to travel with him.
Carroll and his wife, Alana, are among scores of U.S. couples caught up in wrenching uncertainty, as a suspension of all foreign adoptions imposed by Congolese authorities has temporarily derailed their efforts to adopt.
While most of the families are awaiting a resolution from their homes in the U.S., Justin Carroll and a few other parents whose adoptions had been approved have actually taken custody of their adopted children in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. However, they say that promised exit papers for the children are now being withheld pending further case-by-case reviews, and the parents don’t want to leave Kinshasa without them.
“Justin is not going to leave the boys,” Alana Carroll said from the family’s home in Jefferson City, Tennessee, where she’s been caring for biological daughter Carson since her birth on Nov. 25. Justin Carroll was not present for Carson’s birth; he left for Africa almost a week earlier.
“In a dire situation, we would just move there,” said Alana, referring to Congo. “Leaving our sons there is not an option.”
According to UNICEF estimates, Congo – long plagued by poverty and conflict – is home to more than 800,000 children who’ve lost both parents, in many cases because of AIDS.
Until the suspension was announced in September, Congo had been 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 sixth highest number of adoptions by Americans in 2012 – 240 children, up from 41 in 2010 and 133 in 2011.
There are varied explanations for the suspension – explanations which reflect how international adoption has become a highly divisive topic.
The U.S. State Department, in its latest Congo advisory, says all applications for exit permits for adopted children are facing increased scrutiny because of concerns over suspected falsification of documents. Congolese authorities earlier attributed the suspension to concerns that some children had been abused or abandoned by their adoptive parents or have been “sold to homosexuals.”