Adopting an attitude of hope

Despite distance and time this Charlotte family remains resolute in their goal to have all of their children under one roof.

Meet the Colemans a nice family living in Charlotte, and upon first glance you might not think anything was especially out of the ordinary. Chad and Katie have been married for 15 years and are loving parents to an active bunch of children: Colin, 13, Gabriel, 10, Oliver, 7, and Carina, 5.

Surrounding their home is a yard with a soccer net, basketball hoop, fire pit, and a few kayaks for the lake, all of which are in constant use. All three boys stay busy between playing various sports and learning Chinese at their language immersion school, which means they can playfully tease each other in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Carina is full of spunk and smiles, passionate about everything from her dress-up clothes to the bugs she finds outside.

But that’s not the whole family—two of their daughters currently live about 7,000 miles away in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Legally adopted in 2013, Safi, 6, and Sifa, 5, have been stuck in the DRC waiting for an exit permit. What would normally be a nine to 12-month process after filing the adoption paperwork has turned into a three-year waiting period to unite their family.

Chad and Katie began talking about adoption around the time that their oldest child was born. “After my first son was born, I felt like once I got the hang of motherhood, this is something I could do to make the world a better place,” said Katie. “I knew I loved being a mom. This is one way to touch a person’s life in an intimate way.”

Growing up in a family of eight kids, Katie was deeply impacted by her own mother’s influence in her life. “My mom stayed home with us, sewed all our clothes when I was little, served in our church, loved us with all her heart. She was fun, loving, and just so thoughtful. Her example as a mom is what shaped me as a mom.”

In March of 2013, following the birth of their youngest biological daughter and ten years after their first son was born, they decided to fully pursue adoption. Every adoption process has its own set of logistics and possible setbacks, but for many it begins at an adoption agency. Agencies are intended to help match parents with a child in need of adoption and walk families through the legal process. This can include background checks, parenting classes, home studies, meeting with social workers, and financial logistics. Adoptions can be domestic or international, for children of different age ranges, sibling groups, children with special needs, or special circumstances.

Once adoptive parents have completed the arduous task of filling out the paperwork and going through the proper steps to complete the process, then begins the waiting period. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to be matched with a child and receive a referral to continue the adoption. Then begins the paperwork of adopting that particular child and getting them home. For international adoptions, this can again mean filing and re-filing paperwork and important documents as parents give a comprehensive look at their family life with everything from family photos to financial records.

The Colemans saw a need in the DRC. Not only did they want a daughter so that their kids could have another sister, but they knew that this was a dangerous place for orphan girls to grow up without a family. Knowing that this child would be coming from another country and a different past, they were interested in a sibling group to create more of a mixed dynamic in the family and have extra support for the adopted children. When they saw Safi and Sifa on a waiting list, they were immediately drawn to them as the girls were a bit older and therefore harder to match with a family. At the time of the referral, the Colemans expected these biological sisters to be home with them in the U.S. by the ages of four and two years old.

Safi and Sifa are officially Colemans. Legally the girls share a name with their parents, Chad and Katie, who have full parental rights in the DRC. Yet, the girls cannot leave the country.

By September 2013, the DRC suspended all exit permits for adoptions with foreign families. According to the alert sent out by the U.S. Department of State, the suspension was issued by the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration (DGM) due to supposed fears of the adoption process being used for abuse or trafficking. At the time, DGM said the suspension would last up to a year.

As each day, week, and month passed by, the suspension continued well past the original deadline, while the girls grew older along with hundreds of other adopted Congolese children stuck in the process.

This is part one in a two part series, click here to read part two: Hope for the future.

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