John Kerry responds to Iowans' pleas to bring children home - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

John Kerry responds to Iowans' pleas to bring children home

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) - Iowa families in the process of adopting children from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are hopeful their pleas for help are being heard.

Lawmakers believe there are approximately 460 families -- at least a dozen of whom are in Iowa -- who are in the process of adopting children from the DRC.

Fifty of those families, including the Peat family in Dubuque, have legally finalized the adoptions, but their children are stuck in the DRC after Congolese officials quit issuing exit letters.

The exit letters are required documentation for children leaving the country.

For weeks, families stuck in this international adoption process have called on Secretary of State John Kerry to help bring these children home.

This week, Kerry is headed to Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC.

While his agenda doesn't specify if he'll address the standstill of hundreds of international adoptions between the U.S. and the DRC, a spokeswoman for his office said late Tuesday afternoon that Secretary Kerry will discuss a "number of topics of interest to the people of the United States."

KWWL obtained a statement issued by Nicole Thompson from the U.S. Department of State late Tuesday afternoon. It reads as follows:

"State Department officials regularly engage their international counterparts on a range of topics, including international adoption. It is expected that during his upcoming diplomatic engagements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Secretary Kerry will discuss a number of topics of interest to the people of the United States.

"The announcement of the suspension on exit permit issuances for adopted Congolese children was followed by extensive engagement by U.S. government officials, including U.S. Ambassador Swan, with Congolese authorities in a variety of Ministries, including at the highest levels within those ministries. Those conversations were initially very productive and resulted in the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration(DGM) agreeing to grandfather some cases, as outlined in the Department of State’s October 23 Adoption Alert. We continue to persistently raise the exit permit suspension in meetings with all Congolese officials who have a role in any part of the Congolese adoption process.

"The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa’s staff has also raised the suspension with prominent local NGOs and the embassies of other countries also affected by the suspension. USAID in Kinshasa also continues to engage with Congolese officials and local NGOs on child welfare issues. In addition, the Department of State engaged the DRC’s Ambassador to the United States, which resulted in reversing a Congolese decision to suspend the issuance of visas to U.S. adoptive parents wishing to travel to the DRC.

"Senior U.S. government officials both in Washington and at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will continue to actively encourage the lifting of the suspension on exit permit issuances so that children may travel to join their families in the United States.

"The issue of intercountry adoptions is a very sensitive subject for the Congolese people and government. The government has asked all affected countries to give them the time necessary to review its adoption policies and processes following the growing Congolese concerns of fraud, corruption, and child-buying in the adoption process.

"Given these sensitivities and concerns, Congolese government officials have not responded favorably to perceived foreign coercive pressure. We are aware of families from other receiving countries who were prohibited from remaining in the DRC with their children and who have not been allowed to visit the children after their governments took a more confrontational stance on the issue of adoptions."

According to an earlier press release from the U.S. Department of State, Kerry will travel to Addis Ababa, Kinshasa and Luanda April 29 - May 5.

Meanwhile, Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Peat family's district in Iowa, said he's encouraging Secretary Kerry to discuss the issue of international adoptions.

"I've urged Secretary Kerry to discuss this issue directly with the Congolese government and I'm very hopeful he'll do exactly that on his upcoming trip," Braley said. "Families like the Peats that have made the decision to welcome a child into their home deserve a resolution to this heart-breaking situation."

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