Wednesday, September 17, 2014

American Families Caught Attempting Illegal DRC Exit

According to reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo ("DRC"), officials intercepted an attempt by three American adoptive families to remove their children from Congo without proper authorization (  This news story has been reported as "child selling" or trafficking by DRC news outlets (  PEAR understands that the three families in question had legally adopted the seven affected children according to DRC regulations, that they had US visas, and that they were attempting to take the children from the country without the permission of the Congolese government in the form of the mandatory exit letter from Congolese immigration (known by its acronym "DGM").  The seven children are all believed to be in the custody of the Congolese government; the American adoptive parents had all left the country prior to the police operation.  Congolese news has reported that one American, M. Jessy Samuel, was implicated in the scheme.

In September 2013, the Congolese government announced a one-year suspension on the issuance of exit permits.(  In April 2014, the US Embassy stated that the Congolese government was aware that at least five American adoptive families had taken their children out of the country without exit permits (  We have been informed that many more than five adoptive families have taken their adopted children from Congo without the proper authorization during the suspension, which may have happened with agency complicity and/or through the payment of bribes. In the present case, it is not believed that any adoption agencies were involved in the attempted illegal exit. 

Given that the Congolese government has officially stated that no exit letters will be issued until such time as the suspension is lifted, PEAR does not believe that the United States Embassy in Kinshasa should be issuing any entry visas, as this deliberately contravenes current DRC policy and puts prospective parents in the difficult position of having children that are “legally” adopted in DRC and permitted to enter the U.S., but are unable to leave the country under until such time as the suspension is lifted.  

As such, PEAR calls on the US Embassy in Kinshasa to immediately cease the issuance of entry visas until such time as the suspension is lifted.  Continuing to issue visas during the suspension will only encourage adoptive parents to attempt to circumvent Congolese laws to remove their adopted children from the country.  

We also call on members of the adoption lobby, DRC prospective parents, adoption bloggers, and adoption agencies to be truthful in their knowledge of the issued exit letters, of any “underground” routes that may have been used to illegally remove adoptees from DRC, and to advocate for a fully transparent and legitimate adoption process. We would also remind all adoptive parents with legally adopted children in DRC of the risks of attempting an illegal exit from DRC, and that a valid exit letter from DGM in Kinshasa is required in order for your children to legally exit Congo.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

DOS Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Announces End to Exit Permit Exceptions Until New Law is Promulgated

On July 10, Ambassador James Swan met with Director General Beya of the Congolese General Direction of Migration (DGM) to seek clarification on the DGM’s decision to no longer issue exit permits to any adopted Congolese children until a new adoption law is promulgated. DGM Beya stated that his office will not accept any cases for consideration in the interim, even those involving children with medical conditions or those cases that met the DGM’s October 2013 exception criteria.
During the meeting, the DGM stressed that it considers no intercountry adoptions from the DRC to be completely free of fraud. The DGM said it believes all the bordereaux letters it recently reviewed to be falsified or back-dated and therefore invalid for purposes of seeking an exit permit.
Over the July 4 weekend, the Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, raised the exit permit suspension and all the pending cases with Congolese parliamentarians and the Minister of Gender and Family, all of whom emphasized their concerns about problems in the adoption process. The parliamentarians further cautioned that they consider many Congolese judges to be corrupt and that few government officials have confidence in completed adoptions.
The Department of State deeply regrets that families are once again forced to wait indefinitely for exit permits. On July 3, the DGM accepted 8 medical cases from the U.S. Embassy for humanitarian consideration;of which four received exit permits. However, at that meeting, the DGM refused to accept 29 grandfathered cases received from adoptive families in response to our June 13 Adoption Alert.
The Department of State will continue to engage the DRC government on ways we can address its concerns about intercountry adoptions. Our offers to provide technical expertise, and to bring a delegation of Congolese officials to the United States, remain on the table and will be reiterated at every opportunity. We will also continue to strongly emphasize our message that all children whose adoptions were completed in Congolese courts should be allowed to obtain exit permits and join their adoptive families in the United States.
Please direct questions related to this alert or a specific adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DOS Alert: Haiti announces re-registration period for Adoption Service Providers

The Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de Recherche (IBESR), Haiti’s central adoption authority, recently announced updated information related to its Hague Adoption Convention intercountry adoption procedures. The announcement is available, in French, on IBESR’s website. Among other clarifications, IBESR announced that the registration period for re-authorization of international adoption service providers will be from July 14, 2014 until August 14, 2014. The list of supporting documents required is available on IBESR’s website in French. For more information on intercountry adoptions in Haiti you may contact, or contact IBESR directly at

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Riverkids Project - The beautiful lies that broke my heart

I read Somaly Mam’s book cover to cover in a bookstore, holding myself utterly still so I wouldn’t start crying, drowning in the images of violence and suffering she wrote about.
It was that cover picture, a Cambodian woman who had been through hell and survived. That gave me hope when I was the desperately confused new mother to children from Cambodia who had been bought and sold by traffickers, hurt in ways that I could barely comprehend, and deep in grief over all they had lost before coming to these new strangers in Singapore.
We watched and read Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, and something in that story unlocked the first secrets. I told them with stumbling simple Khmer about how I had been hit as a little girl over and over, and promised I would never hit them. Stories, both mine and those we found from other survivors and in novels, helped my children find a way out of their painful pasts.
Stories mattered deeply.
When the Newsweek report broke, I wasn’t surprised. There had been rumours, and I had met donors and journalists who wanted a wonderful saviour story and weren’t interested in the reality of trafficking in Cambodia.
I’m not even angry now, only terribly sad. The pressure to package the right story is immense when you have to raise funds. I have nightmares about running out of funds, about how to decide which program to close – the new kindergarten class or the medical clinic?
If a restaurant closes, a few staff lose their jobs and people have to eat somewhere else. If Riverkids closes, hundreds of children go hungry, drop out of school and have nowhere safe to find shelter or get help. And there is no-one else stepping in.
Compared to that, why not put together a great heartbreaking story? Piece it together from the real stories, where the kids are too traumatised to talk, and get someone photogenic and poised with a happy ever after ending. That’s kinder than what I’ve seen, where a child is forced to talk over and over about their pain to raise funds, selling a little of their soul each time.
But it’s a lie. A beautiful lie.
And in the end, beautiful lies cover up uglier truths. The truth about trafficking in Cambodia is ugly.
Most of the people buying sex are Cambodian, but sex-tourists bring in the money. Boys are sexually assaulted almost as often as girls but they have far fewer people helping them. Parents sell their children because of gambling debts and medical debts. Being sold as a domestic slave can be worse than working in a sex bar.
Trafficking and abuse in Cambodia has become an image of a young girl locked in a cage in a secret brothel, waiting for a hero to burst through the doors and rescue her. Or at least donate to do that.
The truth about trafficking is a teenage girl being inspected by a doctor for her virginity because she’s agreed to sleep with a rich businessman for three nights to pay off her family’s crushing hospital bills. It’s the newborn baby being sold for adoption to a family so there’s money to feed the other children. It’s the boy who falls asleep in class because he’s been collecting recyclable trash before dawn to pay the ‘fees’ the teacher demands. It’s the battered wife who looks away when her new husband gets drunk and calls her daughter to come closer.
There are no easy solutions. There’s no hero who can stage a raid and swooping in to save girls from having their eyes gouged out by brutal pimps, set them up as hairdressers and inspiring role models and smile for the cameras.
There are instead thousands of people in Cambodia working together to train teachers, get clean water, nurse sick babies, create better jobs, all the steps that weave together to build families and communities closer and healthier. People who are ignored because they don’t have a beautiful lie.
The beautiful lies grab all the loving compassion and generous support that good people are moved to give to children in Cambodia and send it to the least effective ways to help them.
That’s what makes me really angry. That so much could have been done, and so little was. That children who really needed help got forgotten because they weren’t the right kind of trafficked and abused.
Stories saved my family and me. Keeping them true will save so many more children.
- Dale Edmonds
P.S. A few years ago, we produced a book called Eight Stories about what we do at Riverkids. With the permission of eight families, we included their true stories about trafficking in Cambodia. We changed people’s names to protect their privacy but we did not “improve” stories to make them more effective. The printed book is US$45 but if you are interested in reading about what we do, just hit reply and I’ll send you the PDF, and you can share it too.
Download pdf copy of Eight Stories here

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

DOS Alert: Benin Announces Temporary Suspension of Intercountry Adoption Applications

Benin informed the State Department that, as of May 22, it has temporarily suspended acceptance of new applications for intercountry adoptions as the Benin government prepares to implement the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention). The suspension applies to both plenary and simple adoptions of Beninese children.  
The U.S. Embassy is in communication with the Benin government concerning transition cases; the government will decide how to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
On February 26, 2014, the National Assembly passed a bill authorizing Benin to become a party to the Convention. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans are in process to deposit its instrument of accession but has not provided a timeline.
The Department of State will provide updated information on as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this notice, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.