(Photo: Rebecca Morlock)
Becky Morlock never expected to become a mother when she left the United States to serve as a missionary in India. A month after she arrived, a 2-day-old baby was given to her by a mother unable to care for him. Four years later, she is still waiting on approval from the U.S. government to bring her son home.
Kyle's birth mother was from a remote village in India. She had concealed her pregnancy and traveled to Kalimpong to give birth. Unmarried, she could have been kicked out of her village had her pregnancy been discovered.
"She was going to leave him, in the dust bin or whatever, and go back to her village as if nothing ever happened," explained Morlock in a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post.
"Will you take this baby?" a nurse asked Morlock on that fateful phone call. "You choose – life or death?"
"So, of course, I said 'yes,'" recounted Morlock. "I had been praying this whole time, 'is there more for me? God, what is it that you have for my life while I'm here?' As soon as I made the decision, I had total peace about it."
Morlock went to the hospital, met Kyle's birth mother and learned more about her situation. Morlock then made her an offer.
"I told her, if she wanted me to I would take the baby and love him as my own son and take all the steps to make him legally mine."
Kyle's birth mother gratefully handed her son to Morlock. Little did Morlock know at the time that the most difficult part of bringing Kyle home would be dealing with her own U.S. government.
Adopting Kyle was, comparatively, the easy part. Morlock fulfilled all the adoption requirements and is recognized in both India and the United States as Kyle's adoptive mother. To bring Kyle home with her, though, he needs permission to enter the United States, in the form of a visa from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"U.S. immigration does not really know how to handle cases that are not cookie cutter," Morlock explained.
Morlock's case is, indeed, unusual. Most international adoptions are handled through an adoption agency, and most adoptive parents make arrangements before traveling to their child's home country. But, as The Christian Post will show in a series of reports on international adoptions, even parents who follow the routine processes are having difficulties bringing their children home.
Though USCIS is responsible for determining if the child is an orphan, or to make sure the adoption is not fraudulent, the U.S. embassies or the host countries often handle some of that responsibility for USCIS.
Morlock first filed Kyle's visa application with USCIS. After several rounds of the application being denied and additional requirements placed upon her, Morlock's immigration attorney suggested that she file the application through the U.S. embassy in Delhi, India. This turned out to be a mistake.
The embassy has little accountability, according to Morlock. She discovered this through personal experience, and her U.S. congressman, Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.), told her there had been many complaints about the embassies in India and Ethiopia.
The embassy would not even accept her application at first. This was a violation of the law, Morlock's attorney explained to her. For 10 weeks, the embassy would not answer Morlock's emails. The embassy only accepted the application after her attorney threatened legal action.
"So the embassy said, OK, fine, you can come and file. I went to file and they said, we can't guarantee you anything, can't make you any promises, but, because you made a big scene about it, we'll accept your paperwork," Morlock said.
Even now, Morlock is unable to track the progress of her paperwork. She does not know if, or when, she will be able to return home with her son.
According to the State Department, international adoptions have dropped steadily from a high of 22,991 in 2004 to 9,319 in 2011. This decline is not due to fewer orphans. Rather, as future articles in this series will show, it is due to a lack of resources, a tightening of adoption requirements designed to prevent child trafficking and fraudulent adoptions, and different priorities regarding what is best for orphaned children.
"When you look at child trafficking, you totally understand why you want the law to be strict," Morlock explained, "but at the same time, you have all these children, all over the world, in homes, orphanages, on the streets, not in a forever family. That, to me, can also be seen as a crime and absolutely not in the best interest of the child."
As Morlock waits, Congressman Holden and her two Pennsylvania Senators, Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey (D), are advocating on her behalf with the USCIS and the State Department. Plus, many friends and family members are praying for her. Over 50 people showed up Wednesday to a candlelight vigil held on her behalf in her small hometown of Millersburg, Pa.
"I was really blown away," Morlock said when she heard about the event. "It's amazing. So incredible to come from a hometown community that is just so loving and supportive."
Correction: Monday, January 30, 2012
An article on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, about the adoption of a boy from India incorrectly reported that USCIS issues visas for internationally adopted children. The Christian Post confirmed that USCIS does not issue visas. Rather, it is responsible for determining the eligibility and suitability of the prospective adoptive parents and the eligibility of the child from overseas.