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September 24, 2010/ Chicago Tribune
Candice Warltier just wants to bring her 13-month-old daughter, Antara, home to Chicago. The U.S. won't let her.
They are stranded in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, because the State Department and other U.S. agencies placed a ban on adoptions from that country as Warltier was en route to become Antara's mother.
According to U.S. officials, there are serious concerns about whether some children who have been presented for adoption in Nepal are victims of kidnapping and child trafficking. Investigations have reportedly yielded cases of false birth certificates, cases in which it couldn't be verified that biological parents have willingly given up the children.
Nepal suspended its adoption program in 2007 amid concerns about child trafficking. The nation introduced new regulations in 2008 and resumed adoptions, but concerns have persisted. Some other nations have also stopped recognizing adoptions from Nepal.
State Department officials say the U.S. has since February urged prospective parents to reconsider adoptions from Nepal, because of trafficking concerns. But the U.S. imposed no ban at the time, and Warltier and other prospective parents moved forward.
Now she is caught in a nightmare. Nepal recognizes her adoption of Antara, who was abandoned at a local police station and taken to an orphanage when she was just days old. But the U.S. won't recognize the adoption and Warltier can't return to the U.S. with her daughter. She has stayed in Nepal for seven weeks now, living with her child in an apartment, fighting for their right to be a family.
Five other U.S. families are in the same limbo over Nepal adoptions. Two of them are from Illinois.
There are sound reasons to be concerned about Nepal's handling of adopted children. But the situation for these families needs to be resolved quickly by the State Department. The uncertainty is cruel.
Warltier, who is 42 and single, worked with a reputable Minneapolis agency to find a child through an international adoption. She received a photo and medical records for Antara in June. As soon as Warltier was approved to travel to Nepal, she and her mother took off, getting there on Aug 7.
The U.S. embassy informed Warltier of the sudden suspension while she was en route to meet her daughter.
This is starting to get some attention. Last week, 18 U.S. senators and six members of the House sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling on the department to speed approval of cases that were so close to final adoption. "These families are enduring extreme emotional and financial burdens while their children's cases are investigated further," the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers make a sound point: Leaving children in limbo can mean consigning them to orphanages or other places where they are less likely to thrive than if they were in a home with parents. More broadly, Nepal is in a desperate situation. Contaminated water and poor sanitation have led to outbreaks of diarrhea and cholera in at least one quarter of Nepal. The nation has no constitution and no elected leader. Nearly half of Nepal's children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Warltier told us she supports the intent of U.S. officials. But she also trusts the orphanage where Antara has lived since she was just days old. She has witnessed Antara's first steps. Her child calls her "Mama."
She just wants to bring her home. The State Department should make that happen.