BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA (WBTW) – A Myrtle Beach family trying to adopt a child is stuck in South America due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Benik family traveled more than 2,000 miles to officially welcome its newest member: a 15-year-old girl from Colombia. R.P. and Allison Benik hosted her last summer as part of an adoption program.
Once they met her, they say she was a perfect fit.
“She happened to love soccer and this is a soccer family to say the least,” said Allison Benik. “She fit in the family. It wasn’t awkward at all. She was really great with our biological daughters, who are young.”
“Within two weeks of our hosting, we decided we definitely wanted to adopt her,” R.P. Benik said.
They arrived in the capital city of Bogotá on Mar. 7, when there were very few coronavirus cases in South America. The U.S. government had no travel restrictions in place there. The Beniks say they had spent about nine months going through the adoption process and the trip was planned in February.
About two weeks later, Colombia, like many other countries, was under a total lockdown because of COVID-19.
“They shut down the courts here when we were just hours away from completing our adoption on the Colombian side,” said R.P. Benik.
The Beniks aren’t alone.
They say at least three other U.S. families looking to adopt children are quarantined in the Colombian lockdown, which has been extended to Apr. 27.
“We feel like we’re trapped under house arrest because we can’t even leave our house with our kids to take a walk,” said Rosemarie Woodbury, who’s from Chicago and also adopting a child with her husband Ryan.
There are more than 1,500 coronavirus cases in Colombia. At least 46 people have been killed by the virus in the country.
Allison Benik says she hopes she and the other families working through Project Hope Ministries can get back to the U.S. very soon.
“The adopted children have medical and psychological needs that we need to follow up on as soon as we get home,” she said.
The Beniks also say they aren’t coming back to Myrtle Beach until their family of four is a family of five.
“They’re part of our families and they need us right now,” Allison Benik said. “It’s a crucial time. Some of them have been abandoned by family and we don’t want to be a part of that.”
The Beniks say a court could finalize the adoption by next Tuesday. If it’s finalized, they may all be able to return to the U.S. next week on the last scheduled evacuation flight.
If it isn’t, they’re prepared to stay in Colombia for as long as it takes.