The Gift of Flight is a series featured in our Art of Flying section, which chronicles the role and significance that aviation plays in the lives of professionals working directly or indirectly in the airline industry. For this Gift of Flight, Nehmi Klaassen, Kambr’s Head of Agency and PR, writes about how, with the help of aviation, she was united with a very special little person.

Thousands of transnational adoptions are processed worldwide every year. But the COVID-19 pandemic, like so much of daily life, has put those adoptions on indefinite hold.

Up until the past several weeks, families all over the world were united with their children for the first time. Last August, our family was one of them. Little did we know then, that we were one of the lucky ones.

With so much talk about the coronavirus’ impact on travel, including the grounding of flights, from business travel to leisure, there is an overlooked circumstance at play. Grounded flights and cities on lockdown means that international adoptions have come to a halt, forcing children and the families they’ve been matched with, to wait through a longer and more uncertain period than they could ever have anticipated.

To be clear, putting adoption on hold prioritizes the children’s health and safety, as it should be; the well-being of the child is first and foremost. However, it’s also important to note that the majority of children up for international adoption, have already exhausted their possibilities of being placed in their country of birth. In other words, these are the most vulnerable children.

According to the U.S. Department of State, there were a total of 4,058 international adoptions in 2018, with a large majority coming from China and Russia. The average age of a child being under three, many of these children are at risk of aging out, leaving them at a higher risk of becoming a statistic. Data shows that a high number of children that age out, are more vulnerable to homelessness, unemployment, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse.

With no clear timeline of when the pandemic will end and when the lockdown will be lifted, families have no choice but to wait. Although exceptions are being made for some travel (e.g. humanitarian, cargo, repatriation), it does not include adoption.

Given that many of these adoptions are only possible with international flights, it is difficult to coordinate until travel restrictions are lifted. After a five-year wait to be matched with our son, it came as no surprise to me when I heard some families have chosen to take the risk to travel abroad and stay in quarantine with their child. At the same time, other families have been forced to stay grounded until quarantine regulations are lifted.

For most of my life, travel has meant a holiday, visiting family abroad, or a work conference in a different city, but this time, it was a crucial step in becoming a family. I share the anguish with the families that are being kept apart at this time. Our waiting ended in August, many thanks to the gift of flight, and now I hope that as countries put walls up to protect their wider populations, small doors will open so that the suspended joy of children and parents can finally be realized as they experience the love of family for the first time.