Advertisement
  1. News

Dunedin couple allowed to bring adopted son out of Congo

Andrea Stewart holds a recent photo of her adopted son, Cruz, who has a rare respiratory disease.
Published Nov. 22, 2014

DUNEDIN — A Dunedin couple have succeeded in their fight to bring home their dying adopted son from the Democratic Republic of Congo, say advocates who have been assisting them.

Ten-month-old Cruz is among hundreds of legally adopted Congolese children barred from leaving the African country because of a September 2013 moratorium on exit permits surrounding international adoptions.

The implications are dire for about 30 children, like Cruz, who are critically ill and in need of immediate medical attention.

In October, his adoptive mom, Andrea Stewart, traveled to Congo to plead with officials in person for a medical exception.

Nearly four weeks later, officials deemed Cruz and 10 other children certified by three Congolese physicians to be so ill that they need to be evacuated to the United States for treatment unavailable there. Their ailments include HIV, heart and lung defects, and seizure disorders.

On Thursday, Cruz, whose rare respiratory disease is expected to kill him unless he receives heart and lung transplants within six months, became the third to receive an exit letter. United States government officials are pushing Congolese leaders to issue the remainder and to examine 18 additional sick children.

Advocates say Congo's reason for the exit ban has repeatedly shifted from concerns about the welfare of adoptees in foreign countries to worries about the integrity of its own adoption system and more.

"The real obstacle has been getting the medical assessments done, because adoption is such a political issue in that country right now," said Kelly Dempsey, general counsel for Both Ends Burning, a nonprofit rallying to assist the children and their families. "It's hard to find physicians who are willing to examine these children and prepare reports."

Mother and child are scheduled to arrive at Tampa International Airport this evening — sparing Andrea, her husband, Chris, and their three young biological children from plans to uproot and move to Congo.

"We are beyond blessed with the honor of being Cruz's family. For now, we will focus on his health and where the next steps take us into caring for orphans around the world," the couple said in a statement released through U.S. Rep. David Jolly's office.

Dempsey said a medical team is in place to immediately admit Cruz to a hospital as soon as he touches American soil.

"For Cruz, this will mean the difference between life and death," she said. "Andrea's fondest wish was to be home and with Cruz in the hospital for Thanksgiving, and I think she's going to get that wish. I am just thrilled for them."

Meanwhile, Dempsey said her group, as well as federal authorities, remain on the case: "As wonderful as this is for Cruz and the Stewarts, I know they will continue to fight for those kids too, because there are hundreds more waiting."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Ryan Cummings, 23, left, and Alex Frey, 25, both of Tampa, rent Spin electric scooters from a corral located along Zack Street in May. St. Petersburg hopes to soon launch it's own scooter program. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The city wants to avoid other cities’ mistakes. Scooters will not be allowed on sidewalks and must be parked in designated corrals.
  3. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  4. Marissa Mowry, 28, sits in a Hillsborough County courtroom court before her sentencing hearing Thursday. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy when he was 11-years-old. She was his former nanny, and became pregnant with his child. Photo courtesy of WTVT-Fox 13
    Marissa Mowry was 22 when she first assaulted an 11-year-old boy. Now he’s a teenager raising a son, and she was classified as a sexual predator.
  5. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  6. Pat Frank, at a 2016 candidate debate with then-challenger Kevin Beckner. She won. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
    From school board to state lawmaker to clerk of courts, she just keeps on going, Sue Carlton writes.
  7. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and International innovation company, Imec have developed a camera that uses specific wavelength of light to easily find pythons in habitat where they are typically well camouflaged. 
 Imec
    University of Central Florida researchers worked with Imec to develop the cameras.
  8. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies lead three teenagers from a Wesley Chapel Publix store after responding to reports that the boys had been showing off handguns there in a Snapchat video. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The three Pinellas boys were apprehended while they were still walking the aisles of the Wesley Chapel store.
  9. The 59-year-old pastor was arrested Oct. 2 after a young woman told investigators he began abusing her in 2014 when she was 14 and he was senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP
    Rev. Bryan Fulwider was released Wednesday night after posting a $700,000 bond.
  10. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement