by Chad Turner, Legal Intern
In my short time as a member of the Both Ends Burning team I have met some truly amazing individuals and families. Perhaps this should not surprise me as these people truly believe, as I do, that every child deserves a family. During the present adoption crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) diligent advocates, resilient families, and caring elected officials have made a true impact on me.
In April, thousands of Americans concerned about this crisis sent over 100,000 letters to Congress. In subsequent months, they petitioned Congress, and made calls to the White House. In a bipartisan effort, 170 Members of Congress sent a letter to the DRC President calling for an end to the suspension of exit letters, showing that on this issue our elected government is not broken. The House and Senate Resolutions that followed and the letter from Members of Congress to President Obama have received overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. Secretary Kerry and Second Lady Jill Biden also raised the issue with Congolese officials on visits to the DRC.
Senator Landrieu, Senator Blunt, Senator Portman, Senator Corker, Congressman Peterson, Congressman Braley, their staff members, and many other Senators and Representatives have been instrumental in helping to bring attention to this crisis. Two examples of Congressional leadership that I was privileged to witness came from Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Chris Smith, Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee. Both have been incredible champions for these children.
As I attended a town hall meeting with Representative Royce and families with children stuck in the DRC I was struck by his genuineness. He took time to meet with people who desperately needed his help and proved he was willing not only to listen, but to act. His knowledge of the situation in the DRC and his commitment to help reassured me and the families in attendance that Congress would help these children.
Likewise, Representative Smith has become a hero in the eyes of those painfully waiting for this crisis to end. His support of Representative Peterson’s Resolution, including holding the subcommittee markup and managing the bill on the floor of the House, demonstrated his commitment to children and families. As I sat in the audience during a recent hearing, Representative Smith repeatedly expressed his commitment to bringing the children home, giving me a much-needed hope that the adoption crisis in DRC will end and that at least these stuck children will enjoy their right to a family.
It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of children who are separated from their loving families. Yet, because of extraordinary leaders and their determination, I find hope. Amazing people can be found in orphanages in Africa, in homes across America, and even in the halls of the Capitol. They are doing everything they can to help these children come into their loving families. For each of these determined people, I have sincere admiration and appreciation.