After two long years of waiting to get home to their families, Exit papers have finally been signed for nearly 160 Congolese children adopted by Americans. The African country called a halt to international adoptions in 2013, stating that the adoption system was corrupt. There was fear that children being taken out the country would be abused or trafficked. Government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo also expressed concern over adoption by gay couples. At the time, many adoptions were in the process and many had been finalized, awaiting exit papers. It came as a hard blow to both adoptive families and waiting children expecting to be given families.

Over a three year period, between 2010 and 2013, American adoptions from Congo rose dramatically – 645%. This was due to, in part, to the extreme poverty and violence in the nation, leaving over 4 million children orphans.

Just this week, Ambassador Francois Balumuene sent an email statement announcing the unification of 159 children with their adoptive parents and assuring the adoptive community that Congo’s government is working towards uniting all adopted children with their families.  Additionally, the Congolese Parliament is working to create a bill that will more closely regulate foreign adoptions while lifting the ban.

Sadly, the ban which was meant to protect the nation’s children actually created a black market in child smuggling, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The good news that already-adopted children will soon be going home leads to the hope that many more orphans from Congo will also find their forever families.