Annapolis family waits in Congo for months for adopted daughter
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Adoption advocates from around the world are hopeful that an African summit that convened in D.C. on Friday will help bring an estimated 350 orphans home from the Congo.
While they have been legally adopted, as in the case of an Annapolis family, they can't get the documents they need to bring their children home.
The Wallace family has been stuck in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than nine months, unable to leave with their adopted daughter Lainey.
"We just keep being told that maybe tomorrow, tomorrow, and that never happened, and now we are here," explained Erin Wallace, the mother of Lainey, who was orphaned as an infant and legally adopted by the Wallaces in March 2013.
Later that fall, Wallace and her husband, Chris, flew to Kinshasa in the Congo to bring their new daughter home. But the Congolese government then suspended all exit letters that are necessary for adopted children to leave the country. They reportedly did that to reform the adoption system there.
Even though the Wallaces had adopted Lainey long before an established cutoff date, that critical exit letter for Lainey remains out of reach.
Erin Wallace's parents, who live in Severna Park, thought she'd be home by now.
"We live in a western mindset, western culture, and Africa's very different. So, we don't really understand how or why all this could happen," said Mary Thompson, Erin Wallace's mother.
To make matters worse, Chris Wallace, a Navy diplomat, is now stationed in the west African country of Gabon while his wife remains in the Congo with all three of their children, Lainey, Noah and Cammy.
The family has written letters to members of Congress in Maryland and other states. While the responses have been sympathetic, no one has been able to bring Lainey home, Weiner reported.
"Until a diplomatic solution is reached, these kids are stranded in the Congo," said Jonathan Greene, an international adoption attorney who is not handling Lainey's case but is familiar with the issue.
A State Department official said that the U.S. embassy and the Department of State "continue to press actively for the lifting of the suspension," but they have been unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, mother Erica Mule considers her Severna Park family as blessed. Their son, Christian, was adopted from the Congo and brought home three weeks before the exit letters were suspended.
"We've been very fortunate," Mule said.
As far as the Wallaces go, friends and family have helped a lot, but being stuck in the Congo has cost them in the tens of thousands of dollars; however, they are not leaving without Lainey.
"We are here until we can leave as a family," Erin Wallace said.