Some families have been kept apart by coronavirus. These families are still waiting to meet
London (CNN) Across the world, families who were on the brink of adopting a child have had their futures together postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Adoption systems in many countries have been hit hard as social distancing restrictions meant the closure of courtrooms and clinics, while travel bans have made connecting with a surrogate or transferring a child between households far more difficult.
Most international adoptions have been put on hold after countries closed their borders and canceled visa applications, according to agencies who spoke to CNN.
Dwight Burton and Monik Kadarmanto, who live near Portland, in the US state of Oregon, began the adoption process in September 2018, and were matched with a three-year-old boy living at an orphanage in China just before Christmas.
The couple applied to US immigration in early January for final approval to fly to Changchun, in Jilin province, northeast China. Several weeks later, just as they were expecting it to come through, their adoption agency canceled travel to China, and the US State Department issued advice against travel there.
Monik Kadarmanto and Dwight Burton, from Oregon, are waiting to adopt a three-year-old boy from China.
The Chinese government has now closed its borders to prevent further waves of coronavirus and the couple is in limbo, waiting for news on when they may be able to bring their adopted son home. They say it has been hard to get updates on him, with the orphanage in lockdown without administrative staff.
"There's so much uncertainty and I think that's the toughest part about all of this," said Kadarmanto, 40. "There's nothing easy about adoption, there's a lot of just every step, you know, kind of not getting our hopes up too much."
She said the couple was "doing fine" but some days brought "a lot of heavy emotions. We just really want to be with him."
The couple are staying isolated as their community reopens to ensure they are healthy for travel. They don't know whether they will need to quarantine in China, or whether only one of them will be able to go.
"As first-time parents, of course, we feel a nervousness about, 'Are we going to be good enough? Have we done enough?'" said Burton, 41.
"And yet at this point, we also are like, none of that matters anymore. What matters is for us to be united as a family and to be able to start that process of becoming a family."
Holt International, the inter-country adoption agency working with Burton and Kadarmanto, has 250 adoptions on hold, according to Susan Cox, vice president of policy and external affairs. Fifteen families already had plane tickets, and another 25 were almost ready to travel. Those adopting from South Korea have to go through the country's family court, and hearings that have been scheduled for months have been canceled.
Satwinder Sandhu, chief executive at IAC inter-country adoption agency in the UK, told CNN he knew of families stuck in Morocco and India after traveling there to adopt.
He said that developing countries often rely on children's homes and orphanages rather than foster care, and resources are stretched. "For children waiting in these institutions, every month that goes by is another month lost, really, where they could be accessing and making attachments with a new family.
"We're very conscious that in some countries, if parents become ill, they might not have the resources for other people to care for their children."
He said there were "large numbers of families who are ready" to adopt and "thousands of children waiting."
In India, for example, there is already a two-and-a-half year wait after adoption papers are lodged with the authorities, Sandhu said.