I want to tell you a story of a family living in Kinshasa.
Grandma lives in Kinshasa in a humble home. She’s supported by her church since her husband was the senior pastor for many years before he died. They have six children and many grandchildren. One of their daughters was very successful working in Kinshasa. T first had a job with the government, and then was hired to run an orphanage and facilitate adoptions for an American adoption agency.
Life is hard in Kinshasa. It’s an expensive place to live, and unless you know the right people, it can be difficult to find work. The justice system is lacking, making life more challenging for the poor. Disease and conflict are common.
Grandma is raising about 10 of her grandchildren while her children work various odd jobs, go to school far from Kinshasa or otherwise live outside of Kinshasa.
By facilitating adoptions for this American adoption agency, T makes a lot of money, more money than she’s ever made. Her friend also works for the organization as the lawyer. He makes a lot of money too.
T sees Americans drive up to the orphanage in big cars. She sees photos of happy American families going to Disney World. She sees that they live in houses larger than any she’s ever seen, and she sees that all the children in America go to school, have medical care and never go hungry.
T has a daughter, a beautiful young girl that she loves. Seeing an opportunity to advance this daughter’s life economically, she fills out the paperwork to have the daughter adopted to America. She hopes that her daughter will keep in touch, and that the Americans will send her pictures so she can see the woman she grows up to be. Then T has her sister do the same for her daughter. Neither woman has ever heard from her daughter again.
Every time a new child comes to the orphanage or signs up to be adopted, T makes more money.
T has another sister, M. M lives with her husband about a 2 hour plane ride from Kinshasa. They have six children and another on the way. T tells M that if she gives her three middle children to the orphanage, they will be adopted by an American family to go to school in America. The children will stay in touch. The American family will send photos and be part of their own Congolese family. M’s family tells her that she is not a good mother and cannot adequately care for the children. With trepidation, she agrees.
The three chidlren live at the orphanage for one year. They see their aunt at the orphanage; they go home to the grandmother’s house when they fall ill. They are told that they will go to America to go to school.
This is what adoption looks like all too often in DRC.
One day, with no explanation, the children return home for good. The Americans never come for them.
They now live with their aunt and their mother in Kinshasa with their twin sisters and a new baby on the way.
I met them three weeks ago. We were supposed to adopt them. At lunch, the aunt continued to try to convince me to take them while their mother wiped their noses and looked at the floor.
These three beautiful children, being cared for by not one, but at least 4 biological caretakers, were almost adopted by me. I almost caused them one of the greatest traumas that would have occurred in their lives because I didn’t know any better.
They spent one year of their lives in an institution because the staff of the orphanage was making money like they’d never seen by keeping them there and because the American adoption agency never bothered to verify that they were referring actual orphans for adoption.
By the grace of God, he spared these children the fate of being torn away from their family and country, but not all children are so lucky.
Seeing them was a sobering blessing to me. I have wondered at times whether we made the right decision walking away from this family, but I saw how the biggest mistake I made was walking into their lives in the first place. The worst thing that happened to this family was crossing paths with One World Adoption Services and me. Thank you Jesus for saving them from international adoption!
*** edited on February 6, 2014. I received a message from one of the family members who disagrees with some of the facts (such as whether the birth mother was married and the family history). I’ve researched this to the best of my ability, and the small facts are not relevant to the bottom line point of this message – that international adoption was not the right answer for this family. I’ve also removed identifying information to protect the family’s privacy.