McConnell-Cosponsored Bill to Assist Families Adopting Children from Democratic Republic of the Congo Passes Congress; Now Goes to President

This bill will help ‘bring needed assistance to so many loving families across our country who want nothing more than to open their homes to a child in a need.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that the Adoptive Family Relief Act has passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and is now on its way to the President for his signature. This legislation, which Senator McConnell cosponsored with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), and 19 other bipartisan senators, will provide meaningful financial relief to families adopting children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Earlier today, Senator McConnell spoke on the Senate floor regarding the legislation.

More than 400 American families – approximately 20 of them from Kentucky – have successfully adopted children from the DRC. However, due to the DRC government’s suspension of “exit permits” – which has been in place for more than two years now – many of these families have been unable to bring their adopted children home to the United States. These families also have been financially burdened by the cost of continually renewing their children’s visas while they wait for the day the DRC decides to lift this suspension.

“In an attempt to help these families, the Adoptive Family Relief Act will provide meaningful financial relief by granting the State Department the authority to waive the fees for multiple visa renewals in this and other extraordinary adoption circumstances,” Senator McConnell said. “This bill will now go to the President for his signature, and it is my hope it will bring needed assistance to so many loving families who want nothing more than to open their homes to a child in a need.”

Today, Senator McConnell also met with the Brock family of Owensboro, Kentucky, who the Senator nominated for the 2015 Angels in Adoption award, which is a public awareness campaign organized by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each year, Members of Congress can nominate a constituent who is helping to improve the lives of foster children and orphans.

Senator McConnell assisted Emily and Tycen Brock with the bringing home one of their adopted son, Noah, from the DRC last Christmas who was deemed medically fragile due to a congenital heart defect. However, the Brock’s other son, Eli, still remains in the DRC, and multiple efforts are underway to encourage the DRC to lift the exit permit suspension.

“We truly appreciate the Senator's dedication on this heart wrenching situation and hope this bill will be able to assist Kentucky families, as well as many others dealing with the financial impact of the adoption crisis in the DRC,” Emily and Tycen Brock said.

“For this Kentucky family and the many others that are still waiting, I again, strongly urge the DRC government to resolve this matter expeditiously in a way that provides for the swift unification of families,” Senator McConnell added. “But until then, I want to praise Congress for the passage of the Adoptive Family Relief Act, and I hope families see this as a message that Congress is supporting them.

Senator McConnell with the Brock Family. L-R: Beau, Emily, Sen. McConnell, Emmitt, Tycen and Noah

Another Kentucky adoptive family, Clay and Dawn Tinnell of Florence, Kentucky are adopting a daughter from the DRC. Upon hearing the news this bill would become law, the Tinnells explained how it would help them and other adoptive families: “As adoptive parents of a little girl who is stranded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we sincerely appreciate Senator McConnell's efforts in working to pass this bill. This legislation will provide much needed relief to adoptive families in Kentucky and around the United States until the suspension is lifted. Senator McConnell and his office have been instrumental in working towards a resolution to this crisis, and we are hopeful that more can be done soon to bring our children home. We are thankful for the statement that Congress is making with this legislation on behalf of our children who are unable to come home to their families,” Clay and Dawn Tinnell said.

Lucy Armistead, Executive Director of All Blessings International, Inc., an adoption service provider in Owensboro, Kentucky attested to the impact this bill could have on adoptive families. “The Adoptive Family Relief Act will be a great benefit to adoptive families and will save them $325 per child in fees that they have been incurring every six months while waiting for DRC to allow the legally adopted children to leave. Senator Mitch McConnell's leadership and support on this issue show his strong commitment to adoptive families and children in need,” Armistead said.

Similarly, Kelly Dempsey, an adoptive family advocate who advises for the national child welfare organization, Both Ends Burning, praised the passage of this bill. “The passage of the Adoptive Family Relief Act means so much to the waiting families. It signals the continued strong support of Congress to end the suspension in DRC, which has now lasted more than two years. And most importantly, this bill provides families with some relief from the financial burden the suspension has imposed as they have paid to renew visas over the years and provided the fees for schooling, medical care and foster care for their waiting children in DRC. These families appreciate the efforts of the bill’s cosponsors, including Senator McConnell, and hope more can be done to resolve this situation,” Dempsey said.