Happy homecoming, changes for other orphans on way

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by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 7:37 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 10 at 11:17 PM

The U.S. State Department plans to restructure its foreign adoption office to get more adopted children out of orphanages, according to staff for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

The future changes come after a KVUE Defenders investigation last year exposed a broken foreign adoption system keeping children in orphanages for several years. The investigation profiled several Central Texas families with children stuck overseas.

In January Landrieu, a Democrat, and five other senators met privately with Secretary John Kerry to voice their concerns and to ask him to support legislation that would move most foreign adoption responsibilities to a U.S. immigration office.

The day after the meeting, staff said Kerry’s chief of staff wrote a letter agreeing that “significant changes are needed” and directed the agency to work with lawmakers to implement recommendations. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the meeting.

The legislation, CHIFF, or Children with Families First, was filed in September 2013. Republicans like Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi have also sponsored the bill.

One of those children stuck in an orphanage was 10-year-old Wilson Guenther from Haiti. Over the summer, the KVUE Defenders met him while following his Central Texas adoptive parents, Brian and Christie Guenther, to the third world country.

The Guenthers said they fought U.S. government red tape for nearly three years before they were able to bring Wilson home.

The homecoming happened on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013. Dozens of family members, friends and siblings greeted Wilson at the airport when he got off the plane.

"It has not sunk in yet that he's home. I've seen so many of my friends come down the escalator with their child, and I think 'One day, one day it will be ours,' and for it to actually be our day, and I just can't believe it," said Christie Guenther.

After filing the CHIFF legislation, Landrieu told KVUE the changes will prevent future delays.

"We're not lowering any standards. We're not whisking kids out of countries, you know, to bring them to the United States without the proper safeguards, but we have had enough -- enough of state department feet dragging, bureaucracy and heartbreak," Landrieu said.

Landrieu hopes to hold a hearing on the legislation this spring.

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