Seattle family fights to reopen Nepal to child adoptions
SEATTLE -- Tales of corruption, child-trafficking and fraud have led the United States to shut down foreign adoptions from several countries. But a national organization argues the government has gone too far, and one local family is fighting for thousands of orphans who want to find their own, forever families.
Six-year-old Pukar Lund is learning to play the piano and his mom helps him with homework. He practices soccer kicks, and has a favorite climbing rope in the backyard. In every respect, Pukar is living the American dream. But it could have been so very different.
Pukar was born in Nepal and spent the first two years of his life in an orphanage.
"I was found under the bridge," Pukar said. "I didn't have any momma, she had to abandon me probably because she didn't have any food."
Pukar's early life is repeated in the lives of hundreds of thousands of foreign orphans according to the organization "Both Ends Burning". Attorney and outreach advocate Kelly Ensslin wants the U.S. to re-open adoptions there. "We believe that every child deserves a family and that we ought to be working actively to reopen the doors to that country for international adoption."
The State Department shut down all adoptions of abandoned children in Nepal in 2010 over allegations of corruption. A State Department official told KOMO that documents provided in these cases, "were unreliable," and that, "investigations in Nepal were met with a general attitude of non-cooperation."
But Nepal had already approved Jenni Lund's adoption of Pukar.
"They had told him that his mommy was coming, she was coming on an airplane," Lund says. "He was looking in the sky every day for this mommy that was coming."
Lund refused to turn her back on Pukar, "I just couldn't live with that." But the U.S. Embassy wouldn't give her a visa to bring him home.
Lund and more than 50 other families in the same situation were caught in limbo, with children the Nepalese government said were theirs, but with no U.S. paperwork to complete the adoption process and bring their children home. All eventually proved there was no corruption involved in their cases. But it left many of the orphans in institutions for many extra months and cost, on average, an additional $25,000 per family for further investigation.
In Lund's case, clearing Pukar's history took four months and all of Lund's financial capital to do it.
"I felt like I was being shut out by my own country in a way," she said. "It was terrifying."
After an overall investigation, BEB found no evidence of any fraud or corruption in any of the Nepal cases.
"Why is the door still closed?" asked attorney Ensslin. She and BEB want the U.S. to reconsider its position. "If there was no evidence of fraud and the system is not as bad as the U.S. government believed it to be, why are we still turning our back on the Nepali orphan children?"
BEB and advocates of re-opening foreign adoptions were in Washington, D.C. last week lobbying their local congressional delegations, hoping to persuade them to open hearings on the topic.
Pukar and Jenni Lund were there as well to tell their story because there are thousands of orphans still waiting for families. And as Pukar put it, "every little kid should have to get a mommy."