PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local family is in limbo. The pandemic has them stranded overseas with a newborn baby.
Stephen and Zara Wilcox traveled to Ghana for the birth of their baby girl back in March.READ MORE: Cherry Hill School District Psychologist Francesca Aldrich Helping Inspire, Connect Students Through Virtual Black History Month Book Club
It’s been a time of great joy but also great frustration. They want to come home to Philadelphia but can’t.
The Wilcoxes say the U.S. embassy in Ghana will not issue their daughter a passport until she gets a DNA test but the embassy won’t do a DNA test right now because of the pandemic.
The new parents have not lost their joy, but their patience? That’s long gone.
“They haven’t even returned our email so here we are totally stranded,” Stephen said.
The two American citizens and Philadelphia residents traveled to Ghana in February to welcome their baby daughter. The couple worked with a fertility clinic there and a relative living in Africa served as their surrogate. What should have been a month-long trip has lasted ever since.
“We contacted the embassy the day before she was born — that was March 22, she’s 13 weeks today — and to date, they have done nothing for us,” Stephen said.
In order to obtain a passport to bring baby Vernice home to Philadelphia, the Wilcoxes say they were initially told by the American embassy in Ghana that they needed to prove their biological relationship to her.
“You have to do a DNA test, that’s what they told us. We said, ‘OK, fine how do we do that?’ ‘Oh, well you can’t do a DNA test we’re not doing it. It has to be done through us,'” Stephen said.READ MORE: Mr. Potato Head Drops 'Mister' From Brand Name To Be More Gender Neutral
According to the State Department’s website, children born abroad to U.S. citizens don’t always require DNA tests.
“Due to high costs, complexity, and logistical delays, genetic testing is generally used only in the absence of sufficient evidence (documentation, photos, etc.) establishing the biological relationship,” the site says.
“I don’t know what other evidence we could have. We went through a fertility clinic so we have total documentation,” Stephen said.
Their main frustration is in the embassy’s lack of responsiveness.
“We only just get periodic emails, which we haven’t even gotten that lately so we don’t know who is making the decision, where it’s coming from, who can we appeal to – it’s all completely opaque,” Stephen said.
For right now, mom and dad say they are safe and comfortable enough but still, they need help.
“Here we are just waiting week after week after week just to get home,” Stephen said.
The offices of Congressman Dwight Evans and Sen. Pat Toomey are also on the case.MORE NEWS: Radnor School District Moves To Phase 1 Of COVID Plan, Full School Days For Kindergarten-5th Graders Begin Monday
Vernice is the Wilcoxes’ biological daughter but even when a DNA test is approved and administered, the results could still take weeks.