I have written numerous times in this publication about how failed leadership is damaging and destroying children. The social movement we started to defend the rights of every child to belong in a family is growing, because it represents the only sensible reaction to the greatest social absurdity of a generation.
Today, over 100 orphans who have already been legally adopted by American families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are still stuck in orphanages waiting for their American families to bring them home. Their adoptions have been approved by the Congolese courts and the U.S. embassy. They have passports and visas, and yet they continue to languish and lose the precious development opportunities only a family can provide. They have been waiting for more than six months now, as if they have been imprisoned, and there isn't any end in sight.
Why are they waiting? We don't know exactly. How's that for an unacceptable answer?
On September 25, 2013, the immigration and emigration office (DGM) for the Congolese government announced that they would no longer issue "exit letters" for adopted children to leave the country. This suspension was reported to be due to concerns about the health and well being of adopted children. There is no doubt that every nation is entitled and indeed obligated to ensure that international adoptions are conducted with integrity, transparency and the highest ethics. However, the DGM also initially promised to process the completed adoption cases, and with no explanation that has not happened.
Making matters worse, the Department of State has done next to nothing to advocate for the cases that should have exit letters issued. They have not treated these children as a diplomatic priority with the DRC. Our Department of State has once again abdicated its responsibility to at risk children and their parents by choosing to do little.
Why? Why hasn't the Department of State used every diplomatic tool available to help these children in need? One has to wonder if these were their children rotting away in underfunded orphanages, would they stand idle and content to do nothing. They have not even gathered the basic facts, like how many families are eligible for exit letters? This is a simple task for our government to perform, and it has been done when children have been stuck in similar situations in the past.
So why hasn't anything been done? Is the Department of State too busy to attend to these children's lives since September 25, 2013? Or is that they just don't care? This much is clear -- these children deserve better.
Monday, Both Ends Burning stepped forward to do what the Department of State failed to do -- reach out to families and adoption service providers to identify the families in process. We also began a petition calling on Congress to intervene in this tragedy and have begun a specific advocacy campaign to right this wrong.
In less than 24 hours, our simple effort produced over 50,000 letters being sent to the President and Members of Congress to draw attention to this human rights crisis. The people of this country care about the lives of these children, even though it appears our State Department doesn't.
If you care about the best interest of children, irrespective of where children currently live or their circumstances at birth, and if you are willing to take action, please join us at bothendsburning.org to sign this petition, and learn more about our efforts to help at risk children come into permanent loving families.