Erica, Brian, Djino & Benedicte
The adoption process for Erica and Brian began in early 2005. This was their first adoption. After years of infertility treatments, they decided to adopt from India, and were matched with a little girl, Emmalee. She began displaying signs of a behavioral disorder not long after they brought her home. Brian and Erica hired numerous specialists to address her condition; all agreed that it was simply ADHD. They were wrong. In August of 2010, Emmalee began having neurological problems. She was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. One week later, she was diagnosed with a terminal complication from measles, which she had contracted in India, and which had been misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated at the time. Erica and Brian refused to accept the terminal diagnosis. Despite their efforts, she passed away less than five months later, shortly after her eighth birthday.
Despite the grief they felt at losing their daughter, they knew they still wanted to be parents, knew there were children out there who needed their love. They began the process again, and were matched with Benedicte and Djino, siblings from the Democratic Republic of Congo in September 2012. At the time, they were told that they should be “preparing to meet [their] children.” They joyfully decorated the bedrooms for their new son and daughter. Little did they know that these bedrooms would remain empty for three more years, a constant reminder that their children lived half-a-world away, that they could not hold them and kiss them and tell them that everything would be alright.
With less than a month left before travel, Erica and Brian were notified that the immigration department in the DRC was no longer processing exit letters for adopted children. This was initially referred to as a “temporary” suspension, and Erica and Brian chose to place their children in a private foster home while they waited for the suspension to be lifted. It would be safer, cleaner, and there would be less chance that the children would contract a preventable disease. It was an expensive decision; it cost $800 a month, adding almost $10,000 a year to an already expensive adoption. It was also the right decision; since the beginning of the moratorium, 13 children who had already been adopted by American families passed away from preventable diseases.
Erica and Brian waited for two more years. This November, Djino’s health took a turn for the worst, and Erica and Brian were able to procure a medical exit permit for the siblings. Immediately after the children’s arrival, Djino was admitted to the Children’s Hospital for treatment. Doctors told Erica and Brian that he had been only weeks away from a major crisis. Erica writes about the first time she met her children,
“I became completely unglued when I saw them come out of the gate. We had been waiting so many years, when it took over an hour for them to clear customs, I just fell apart. It was amazing. I just couldn't believe they were finally here. It was our miracle.”