Though I had spoken to several international adoption agencies previously, I felt like I had not received good answers or felt a specific leading. However, within 48 hours of contacting our agency, a flurry of email exchanges had taken place with one of the Program Directors. Early in the morning, late at night, even on the weekend, she would respond to my questions within minutes to hours.
Were adoption conditions changing for Kenya? Yes, but there was still going to be an extended required residency, which would mandate that we move to Kenya for months before being able to even pursue adoption. We knew that was not a possibility for us.
The Program Director suggested that we consider Democratic Republic of Congo.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was indeed on my short list of desired countries. In my research of every.single.country. open to adoption, I had been particularly shocked at the plight of the orphans in DRC. Because of civil war spilling over from Rwanda in the late 1990’s, the country formerly known as Zaire, now known as Democratic Republic of Congo, has seen massive casualties. Estimates are difficult, but it is widely believed that as many as 5.4 million Congolese have died since 1998, making it the most deadly war since World War II, yet most Americans (including myself) have been completely unaware of the humanitarian crisis. Due to the war-related destruction of the economy and infrastructure, widespread disease and famine have taken the lives of the majority of the 5.4 million, and nearly half of those have been children under 5 years of age. Congo has the world’s second highest infant mortality rate, and almost half of children in DRC have stunted growth due to poor nutrition. In the capital, Kinshasa, 20,000 orphaned children under the age of 18 live on the streets, surviving by means that are simply unthinkable.
The orphan crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo broke my heart. I knew that it was breaking God’s heart even more so, and I could not turn away.
I needed to hear more.
When the Program Director sent me a list of their agency fees and anticipated costs, I found that the DRC program was actually less expensive than most programs. Rather than requiring a prolonged trip lasting months, or two trips at different times, the DRC requires one trip of 7 to 14 days. There are many children waiting, and the process would be considerably faster than other countries — all adoptions our agency had done had been completed in 12 months or less, compared to 2-5+ years for most programs. Infants were available, but the greater need was for sibling groups over the age of 3, and there would likely be no wait for a referral once paperwork was submitted to the country.
In fact, when I indicated our interest in more than one child, and our willingness to adopt children over the age of 3, the Program Director offered to send me pictures of some waiting children. Would I like to see them?
Would I like to see them. That was difficult to answer. After having looked at pictures of “adoptable children” for years, only to find out that they weren’t adoptable, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get my hopes up again. Was I really ready enough to move on? Should I focus my attention on specific children, or was that unwise? If we did want the children, would they commit to “saving” them for us, or could someone else choose them ahead of us? Would it just be better to be matched when we were paper-ready?
On the other hand, why not?
I typed an e-mail to the Program Director and asked to see the pictures of the waiting children.
And then I hit send.