AMESBURY — Like any mother of a two-year-old, Jennifer Runnion worries about her daughter. Unlike any mother of a 2-year-old, they have never met. According to Runnion, that changes absolutely nothing.
“I worry about her every single day,” Runnion said. “I worry that she is going to fall victim to malaria. I worry that she is not going to get the proper nutrition, that something is going to happen to her there that wouldn’t happen to her if she was home. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about that.”
Runnion and her husband Timm legally adopted an 11-month-old girl, Isilie (nicknamed Sunny) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the agency For Every Child in April of 2013. Although the adoption process was complete and Sunny is legally the Runnions’ daughter with a passport and U.S. visa to match, she has not been allowed to leave the DRC because of an exit permit suspension.
“She is our daughter in every way possible,” Runnion said. “She is my daughter’s sister in every way possible. When you ask my daughter how many sisters she has, she says three. She counts her sister in the Congo.”
The Runnions adopted their now 7-year-old daughter Zion from Ethiopia in 2007 and everything went smoothly but that has not been the case with the DRC where there are currently over 4 million orphans. Over 800 U.S. families are in the adoption process at the moment. Some 350 have legally adopted children unable to get the exit permits from the DRC’s immigration officials which ordered a suspension of exit permits last September.
“It took eight months to prove to (the U.S. embassy) that she was an orphan, which she is,” Runnion said. “She has no parents, she is an abandoned child. It has been one thing after the other. It was either on the DRC’s side, or on the U.S. side. There was always something hanging up the process.”