We are the Wriede family, and our story, like our family, is unique. After marrying in 2012, we (Bruce and Emma) decided to expand our family through adoption. We started the process of adopting from DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) early in 2013 and we were soon matched with our daughter, Evelyn-Grace and our son, Joseph.
Despite our adoption being legally complete in December 2014, the DRC refused to lift a supposedly temporary suspension on exit permits (a document required for any Congolese child under the age of sixteen to leave the country), leaving our children and us, along with hundreds of others as legal families unable to unite.
The journey has been long and arduous, but this turn of events led to hundreds of parents joining together in an effort to resolve this situation. From several countries, we united on social media to launch awareness campaigns and appeal to relevant governments to get involved and request the release of our children. Slowly but surely we made progress, and we were finally given permission to bring our children home on 16th March, 2016.
Being expats (Bruce: Australian, Emma: British) living in Kuwait, we immediately proceeded to get all of the relevant paperwork stamped, attested, notarised and goodness knows what else to submit with our applications for the children’s visas to come home. Despite receiving prior approval, the children’s visas into Kuwait were denied on the basis of them holding different passports to both parents. This news, along with daily calls from DRC telling us the country was becoming increasingly dangerous and the children should leave as soon as possible, became a source of great worry for us. We were at a loss as to how to unite our family.
We soon devised a plan to travel to the Philippines, where the children would be issued visas on arrival, where Emma could live with them while we pursued a more permanent solution. Whilst being less than ideal, it was the only viable solution that meant the children could leave DRC for safety and at least be united with one of their parents permanently. We set our plan in motion and soon found an apartment and booked flights with the plan for the children to be escorted to arrive a few days after us, allowing us to spend a few weeks together as a family bonding, before Bruce returned to Kuwait to work.
Shortly before travelling to the Philippines, tragedy of another form hit our family when Bruce was diagnosed with aggressive skin cancer that required urgent surgery and treatment. All of the relevant specialists were seen and surgery was scheduled. We went ahead with our plan and travelled to the Philippines, where the two of us set up the apartment that would become our temporary home, and, on 31st May 2016, the Wriede family were all in the same country – Bruce was in departures, the children were in arrivals, and Emma was sat outside of the airport waiting to greet them. It was short lived, but it was somewhat comforting to know we were all on the same ground.
Bruce had his surgery and a host of tests to establish what further treatment might be needed (results to follow), and in a few short weeks, in July, he will visit us to meet his children face to face for the first time. They know his face and his voice, but the day he is able to hold them in a loving embrace is long overdue.
The Philippines is being good to us, we have a home that is safe and secure and we have a phenomenal medical team keeping us under a close watch and addressing our health concerns – aside from the general check ups, Joseph was admitted to hospital shortly after arriving following a twenty minute seizure for immediate medical care and observation (our little boy has epilepsy, is physically disabled with global developmental delay). He is dealing with the constant tests and treatment well and has the most adorable, positive nature. Grace has also had her check ups and has started on her vaccination schedule, she is a great big sister and loves cuddles and brightly coloured socks. She also has a beautiful disposition and is handling the transition between countries and lives with admirable strength and resilience.
While we can Skype and message, and there is a small support network in place, living separately is incredibly challenging – single parenting two internationally adopted children who don’t speak English, one of whom has special needs and disabilities, in a foreign country is challenging, and at times we are all pushed to our limits. Our love and bond is strong and we are confident we will be united this year, however, our reserves are running low – the costs of running two homes in two countries, along with medical bills and preschool fees, following a very expensive three year adoption process, whilst maintaining legal teams in four continents coupled with our family doubling in size (they may be small, but man these kids can eat!) is taking it’s toll.
We have applied for the children to become British citizens as Plan A and our lawyer has requested it be expedited and processed in a shorter time than the usual six month period, which we are hopeful will happen. If their applications are approved, we then move on to a lengthy passport application process (several months in these circumstances). Should Plan A be unsuccessful, we do have a Plan B that involves Australian citizenship and visas, but is a far longer process (think years rather than months) and will take a lot more money.
We are very grateful for the situation we are in, as there are many positives; we were able to bring our children to safety; we have access to an excellent medical team who have genuine affection for our children and are taking excellent care of them (and mummy); they are attending a preschool where the teachers are understanding and supportive; and, although we are not all together, we are at least partially together as a family. There have been disappointments – the cost of living here being greater than we initially thought means Bruce is unable to make monthly visits as hoped, and due to timescales and unfortunate work schedules, we may have to face the reality of another Christmas as a separated family this year, although if this is the case, we will do everything in our power to make it our last.
We continue to move forward with our plans, as we are Wriedes and this is our way – we are a family, and, although our journey has been littered with obstacles, they are merely speed bumps; they may be slowing us down but nothing will stop us from being a family. We may not be together but we have enough love to fill the distance between us.
Whilst it is incredibly humbling to ask for help, our savings and salary can only go so far. Any contribution towards the cost of our journey towards uniting our family will be so very gratefully received.
Thank you for reading our story and being a part of our journey!
Bruce, Emma, Gracie and Joseph.