Deciding to leave their Dallas home and jobs as emergency physicians to live with their adopted son in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was not easy, but Andy Kahn, MD, FACEP, and Amy Kahn, MD, FACEP, are pleased with their decision.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 34 – No 07 – July 2015
The couple, who already had three biological daughters, felt a Biblical calling to care for an orphan, Dr. Andy Kahn said. “We wanted our faith to be reflected in our lives,” he said. They were also influenced, among others, by the medical director of the emergency department where they worked at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, who had adopted a son abroad.
International adoption comes with many challenges. “There is a lot of paperwork involved,” Dr. Kahn said. “You must fill out many documents to allow for a background check, financial screening, and review of your home. A doctor must write a letter stating that parents are in good physical and mental health. Some countries require you to make multiple visits or spend significant time there.” The cost can range from $15,000 to $30,000.1
But the couple faced one final hurdle, one they continue to battle, when they learned that they couldn’t bring their now 2-year-old son, Daniel, home because the DRC requires that children leaving their country must have an exit letter. In September 2013, the DRC suspended the issuance of such letters after the Kahns had been matched with their son.
“The government initially stated they were concerned about the treatment of children once they left the Congo,” Dr. Kahn said. “Later, they stated the need to reform their adoption process before children could leave.”
It was difficult for the Kahns to know that their son was growing older without knowing them, even though he was being cared for by a foster mother who they paid. “He was not learning English, and we felt we needed to move there because there was no end in sight to the exit letter suspension,” said Dr. Kahn, who met Daniel once in 2014. “We were his legal parents according to Congolese law, so we were in a difficult position, being ethically and financially responsible for him but not allowed to have him leave the DRC.”
Although the couple highly valued their jobs, they wanted to do what was right for the hospital’s emergency department. Not knowing how long they would be gone, they made the difficult decision to ask the medical director to replace them so their colleagues would not be stretched thin covering their shifts indefinitely.
Departure Date Moves Up
When President Barack Obama asked the DRC’s president, Joseph Kabila, for a timely solution to the pending adoptions, the Kahns decided to leave a month earlier than intended, at the beginning of April, in the hope that they would be ready to take Daniel out of the Congo as soon as the exit letter suspension was officially over.