I've been MIA from my blog lately, I admit it, partly due to outside commitments and partly out of despair concerning much of the news in the adoption world, but this sad story with a happy ending has prompted me to get back to it.
Yesterday Washington Times columnist Andrea Poe highlighted the story of the LeRoy family of Indianappolis at her blog, The Red Thread:An Adoptive Family Forum. Nick and Lori LeRoy accepted the referral of a baby boy from Vietnam in July 2008. Their son Nate finally came home three years later, in December 2011.
In 2009 Vietnam announced that it was uncertain which, if any children, who had been matched with American families would be permitted to leave the country. The Vietnam government cited its interest in cleaning up its intercountry adoption as the reason for its slowdown –and ultimate cessation—of intercountry adoptions.
Together with other families with children languishing in the Bac Lieu orphanage, the LeRoys began to make visits to Nate and the other children, bringing books, toys, clean clothing and fresh food. The orphanage, which was a former prison camp, was terribly underfunded with minimal staff and limited educational and medical supplies.
As difficult as it was on parents making the round-the-world trek to visit their children, who were often ill and undernourished, they were dealt an even more serious blow in January 2011 when Vietnam announced that parents could not longer visit their children.
The LeRoys, together with several other families, hired an attorney, Kelly Ensslin, who not only helped negotiate the tricky waters of international adoption, but who also assisted them in working with the U.S. government. For two years, the U.S. Department of State declined to intervene on behalf of the American parents and their children.
The LeRoys credit the actions of Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, who brought attention to the plight of these American families. Ultimately, Lugar held up the approval of the United States Ambassador to Vietnam as a way to protest to the way families were being treated in the adoption process and asked the U.S. State Department to get involved.
Bowing to the pressure, the Vietnamese government allowed families to resume visiting with their referred children in late 2011, though they were cautioned that investigations into the orphan status of the children would be ongoing. Then suddenly, the LeRoys got unexpected good news during that reunion trip: Nate would finally be allowed to come home.
Here's the part of the article that really grabbed my attention:
Despite all the complications and the lengthy wait in poor conditions, Nate is doing remarkably well. Although his teeth had rotted out while in the orphanage, which has necessitated extensive dental work, totaling more than $6,000 now, he's otherwise adjusting well. He is learning English, goes to pre-school and has already made friends.
Some adoption critics will no doubt blast the LeRoys for their dogged fight, for the use of American political pressure on Vietnam, for the sense of American entitlement they will read in this story. And they will ignore this detail: the child's teeth rotted out while the politics dragged on.
We all have a responsibility to support ethical adoption practices. We need to demand that countries police their own systems, including our own country. Most of all, we must insist on a child-centered approach to ethics that doesn't allow investigations to drag on indefinitely while the children quite literally rot.