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Durham couple's adoption put in limbo by Congolese government

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Tiffany and her husband Thomas have waited more than a year for their adopted children, Ada and Jackson, to arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tiffany and her husband Thomas have waited more than a year for their adopted children, Ada and Jackson, to arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DURHAM, N.C. -

Tiffany Sangster normally avoids her children’s bedroom.

Meticulously decorated with posters filled with messages of love and mounds of toys ready to be played with, the room instead sits silent.

Tiffany and her husband Thomas have waited more than a year for their adopted children, Ada and Jackson, to arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo. But like hundreds of other families, the Durham couple's plans have been put in limbo by the Congolese government.

"We're still waiting to be able to get an exit letter to bring the children home," Tiffany explained.

The Sangsters said they legally adopted the 6- and 4-year-old children as of June 2013, but the Congolese government suspended international adoptions on Sept. 25, 2013, following allegations that some of the children were mistreated by their adoptive parents.

"The moment we saw these children, we knew we wanted to adopt them and follow through with it," Tiffany said. "The hardest part is knowing that they're there and we can't love them and care for them and give them a secure environment."

The Democratic Republic of Congo has said it will uphold adoptions approved prior to the September cut-off, but some families, including the Sangsters, say they have not been able to submit applications for exit permits.

"We may have to come to the realization that we may never bring them home, but we will support these kids until we're dead," Thomas said. "That's a commitment we're willing to make."

More than $80,000 later, the adoption process has taken a toll on the young couple both financially and emotionally.

"It hurts," Thomas said, "a lot, to be honest with you."

Later this month, Tiffany will travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby North Carolina representatives to put more pressure on the Democratic Republic of Congo to allow them to bring Ada and Jackson home.

"Knowing that DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world is a big deal for us," Tiffany said. "It's part of the reason we selected that country."

The Sangsters then plan to pack up and head to the Congo to visit their children, who are out of the orphanage and now in a transitional home. And until the Congo allows exit letters, the couple said they will have to continue to fly back and forth to see them.

"I just can't imagine how I'm going to feel when I leave them," Tiffany said. "I get to spend just under 2 weeks with them, and then I'll have to leave them in the country."

Until they come home, Tiffany and Thomas said they'll keep fighting for them.

Thomas said, "Whether they ever touch American soil or not, you know that doesn't change for me. We'll continue to support them."

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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