US Senate Passes Resolution to Bring 1,000 Congolese Childen Home to Adoptive Families

(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)Candlelight vigil for adoptive parents of children stuck in the Democratic Republic of Congo, organized by Both Ends Burning, Washington, D.C., June 24, 2014.

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution calling on the Democratic Republic of Congo not to block any longer the 1,000 Congolese children who have been adopted, or are in the process of being adopted, from uniting with their adoptive families in the United States. The Congolese government stopped processing adoption cases last September.

Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, and Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, announced the passage of their resolution this week, days before the three-day U.S.-African Summit in Washington, which begins Monday.

Nearly 50 African heads of state and government, including DRC President Joseph Kabila, will gather for the unprecedented meeting.

"This sends a strong and clear message to the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Work with us to resolve this humanitarian crisis which has gone on for far too long," Landrieu said in a statement.

"I hope the administration will use the upcoming U.S.-African Summit to press for a solution," U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a statement.

The families who have completed the adoption process are only waiting for an exit letter from the Congolese government giving their children permission to leave the country, and at least 10 children have died while waiting for their exit letter.

About 41 other children are in critical condition and could suffer the same fate if they are not allowed to leave and get the care they need, Kelly Dempsey, counsel and director of Outreach and Advocacy for Both Ends Burning, told The Christian Post last month.

The resolution calls for issuing exit permits for children in the process of being adopted, specifically prioritizing the processing of inter-country adoptions, which were initiated before the suspension and expediting the processing of those adoptions which involve medically fragile children.

"Families have done everything asked of them during what has become a long and arduous process and are eager to be united with their children so these children can begin their life in a safe and nurturing family," Landrieu added. "I will continue to work with Sen. Portman to get the DRC government to again issue exit-permits, and I urge President Obama to engage with President Kabila when he is in Washington next week."

"I'm pleased this bill has passed as it is an important step toward helping many Ohio families who are simply trying to bring their adopted children home," Portman said in the joint statement. "Many children affected by this suspension require medical care and others have come to know and love their adopted families. I'll continue to work for a resolution to bring these children home."

On July 13, a bipartisan and bicameral group of 167 members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to intervene on behalf of the Congolese children.

Obama should use the U.S.-Africa Summit to press President Kabila "for an expeditious resolution that is in the best interest of these children," wrote the members of Congress, including Republicans and Democrats, Senators and Representatives.

About 60 adoptive American families met with members of Congress last month, asking them to pressure the U.S. State Department to get more involved.

One of the biggest frustrations, adoptive parent Linda Scotto earlier told CP, is no one will "tell us why" this is happening. "There are no answers coming out of the [U.S.] State Department or the Congolese government."

Jenny Scott, a Christian missionary living in Guatemala, first adopted her son, Joseph, in January 2013, but has been unable to bring him home. He is living in an orphanage with 70 other children, even though he has a mother, father and three siblings waiting to welcome his into their home. "Every day that he's there, his life is at risk," Scott told CP.