Exit permits okayed for kids in Congo adopted by Americans

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 5:06 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities in Congo have agreed to grant long-stalled exit permits to about 150 of the children who've been stuck in the African country for more than two years despite having been adopted by American families, the State Department said Friday.

Susan Jacobs, the department's special adviser for children's issues, attributed the move to relentless pressure by U.S. officials and the waiting families. She said some of the children were likely to head to the United States by next week.

The Congolese government put a halt to international adoptions in 2013, saying the nation's adoption system was beset by corruption and falsified documents. The move affected adoptions that had already been approved for more than 400 U.S. families, and hundreds more families from Canada and Europe.

For many of the families, the suspension led to heartache and hardship. Some parents moved to Congo to be with their children.

Jacobs said the exit permits confirmed on Friday were limited to American families; she had no update on a possible timetable for the families from other countries.

Last year, Congo authorized the departure of 72 of the waiting children, but Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said no further cases would be considered until the government approved a new adoption law. According to Jacobs, that legislation is still in the works and may be voted on in March.

Under the proposed legislation, international adoptions will only be allowed if options in Congo are lacking. The proposed law also states that those seeking to adopt must appear before a tribunal in Congo.

Jacobs said she was "guardedly optimistic" that the adopted children still awaiting exit permits would soon be cleared to leave Congo.

"This is a good example of how persistent diplomacy can be successful," she said. "But we cannot forget about the cases that still haven't moved."