Americans stuck in Africa trying to bring adopted kids home

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This Sept. 13, 2019 photo provided by the family shows Adebambo Alli, left, Robin Gallite and their adopted daughter, Adenike-Rae, at the Lekki Conservation Center, a natural reserve protecting the wetlands of the Lekki peninsula in Nigeria. Stranded in Nigeria for months, the couple had a rare chance to board a U.S-bound evacuation flight amid the coronavirus outbreak. They refused to fly because Adenike-Rae has yet to receive a U.S. visa and they would have had to leave her behind. (Adebambo Alli via AP)

Stranded in Nigeria for months, a Colorado couple had a rare chance to catch an evacuation flight to the U.S. recently during the coronavirus outbreak. But they refused because they would have had to leave behind their adopted daughter, who has yet to get a U.S. visa.

“After we found our daughter and our daughter found us, it was out of the question to leave her,” Robin Gallite said.

Gallite and her husband, Adebambo Alli, who live in Denver, are among several American families facing similar predicaments as the pandemic disrupts travel and slows the final steps needed to bring home children who were adopted abroad.

The Virginia-based National Council for Adoption says it is following dozens of cases where the foreign adoption is complete and American parents are waiting for their child to receive a visa from the State Department.

“We need to do the right thing and prioritize the health and safety of these families,” council vice president Ryan Hanlon said.

The State Department says foreign adoptions remain a priority but has told families that with routine visa services suspended during the pandemic, their requests for emergency visas may not be granted swiftly, if at all.

The adoption council says nearly all of the cases it's tracking are from Africa — where many countries, including Nigeria, are not part of the main international convention on adoption and investigations can take longer even under normal circumstances.

Gallite, 41, and Alli, 42, have been in Nigeria since last August, when they arrived to complete the adoption of a baby girl. A Nigerian judge signed off in November, but obtaining a U.S. visa has moved slowly and is now in deeper limbo because of virus-related shutdowns.