KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo plans to allow 71 children whose adoptions were interrupted by a 2013 suspension to join families in the U.S. and four other countries next week, an official told The Associated Press on Saturday.
In December 2013, Congo announced a suspension on foreign adoptions, citing reports that children had been mistreated or abandoned by their adoptive families while others had been "sold to homosexuals."
The move prompted a pressure campaign from hundreds of frustrated American families who were in the process of arranging adoptions from Congo. As of last year, 148 Congolese children had been legally adopted by U.S. families and given U.S. visas but were waiting for exit permits to leave the country, according to a letter to President Barack Obama signed by 167 members of Congress. More than 900 U.S. families seeking to adopt from Congo were "stuck in limbo" because of the suspension, according to the letter, which was timed to coincide with Congo President Joseph Kabila's visit to the U.S. last August for a U.S.-Africa summit.
Officials in Congo are reviewing about 1,000 individual cases of children whose adoptions were already in progress when the suspension was announced, Albert Paka, a judicial adviser at the interior ministry, said on Saturday.
"The interior ministry is going to authorize as soon as Monday the departure of 71 children adopted in five different countries," Paka said.
He said the U.S. and Belgium were among the five countries but did not specify the others.
Paka said the suspension on new adoptions would remain in place.
When the suspension was announced, Italy's foreign ministry said that it had summoned Congo's ambassador to express dismay that some two dozen Italian families, who were due to return to Italy with their newly adopted children, were thwarted from leaving with them due to the unexpected suspension of foreign adoptions.
According to State Department figures, 311 children from Congo were adopted by Americans in the 2013 fiscal year — the fifth-highest number of adoptions from a foreign country.