Africa Relative Adoption & Parent-Initiated Adoption

darling_girlNote: Under the UAA, effective July 2014, all families proceeding with an international adoption must have an identified primary adoption services provider.  ICF can provide adoption services for relative or parent-initiated adoptions in several countries with the proviso that the foreign competent authority agrees to or allows for ICF to provide adoption services on behalf of the family.  ICF does not offer general adoption programs in these countries.  Some countries do not allow international adoption except in cases of relative adoption.  Each adoption is undertaken on a case-by-case basis and a free preliminary consultation is provided.  ICF also provides adoption home studies and post adoption services for all countries.

Alert from US Dept of State re Ethiopia Adoption Suspension: Ethiopia Suspension Warning Letter

PARENT-INITIATED ADOPTION Overview

Contact us at 520 531-9931 or info@childfound.org for our current program guide and fee schedule. International Child Foundation (ICF) began the Parent-Initiated adoption program in 2014, after the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) came into force.  The UAA requires that all adoptions be processed under the supervision of a Hague Convention accredited or approved Adoption Service Provider (adoption agency).  The UAA extends the same safeguards provided in Hague Convention adoptions to ALL adoptions.

This means that any family intending to bring a child into the US through adoption, including related children, must engage the services of an accredited or approved adoption service provider prior to completing an adoption.  This ensures a consistent level of ethical standards of practice, transparency and safeguards against child trafficking and corruption.

Accredited adoption service providers must comply with the requirements of the US Dept. of State, including the prevention of exploitation or trafficking of children, ensuring adoptive parents receive adoption training, ensuring adoptions take place in the best interests of children, providing transparent fees, prohibiting improper gain, providing qualified staff, and remaining current with regulations.  For detailed information about the UAA and intercountry adoption, visit the US Dept of State website at

http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/hague-convention/agency-accreditation/universal-accreditation-act-of-2012.html

ICF will evaluate the circumstances of any family applying for Parent-Initiated adoption services on a case-by-case basis.  We can offer assistance in many countries.  General orientation to intercountry adoption is free.  Consultation on complex cases is not; consultation fees will be determined after we receive an explanation of your case and needs.  ICF does not provide Parent-Initiated adoption services in Hague Convention countries, as independent or parent-initiated adoptions are generally prohibited. Administration and case management fees are set as outlined in the fee schedule.  Foreign representation may be needed unless it is possible for ICF to work directly with foreign government officials.  If representation is needed, and ICF identifies a representative to assist in the foreign country, there will be additional professional fees.  All representatives must present credentials and evidence of suitability to work on intercountry adoption cases.   

The adoption service provider/adoption agency you choose becomes your “Primary Provider.”  This means that the agency must oversee your adoption to ensure compliance with the UAA.  This role of the Primary Provider is NOT the same as the home study provider.  The home study provider may be the same agency or a separate agency, but the roles and responsibilities are different.  The home study provider is responsible for evaluating the suitability of prospective adoptive parents the preparation of the home study report.  This is an entirely separate role from that of the adoption service provider.  Home study providers are only responsible for the initial evaluation of the family; adoption service providers are responsible for the adoption, itself, to ensure compliance with the UAA.  After an adoption is completed, the home study provider frequently then becomes the post-placement report provider, to assist the family with any post-adoption reports required by the foreign country, agency or their state of residence.

COUNTRY Considerations

Many countries require that any agency providing adoption services be approved by a foreign government entity.  In Hague Convention adoptions, this is the “Central Authority.”  In non-Hague Convention countries, it may be a “Ministry of Social Welfare” or “Ministry of Health” or similar government office.  This office may also prepare the history and report on the child to-be adopted.  This report typically travels directly from that Ministry to the adoption service provider, rather than to the family.  Once received, it typically needs to be professionally translated into English and may then accompany the I-600 form (not the I-600A—this is another form) and is sent to USCIS for approval.  USCIS may provisionally approve the pending adoption or request additional information.

Some countries do not have provisions for international adoption in their laws.  In such circumstances, there may be no avenue for an agency to be “approved” by the foreign government.  However, the agency cannot act without the knowledge and consent of the foreign government and thus must make a reasonable effort to establish a line of communication with the appropriate office or Ministry.

International Child Foundation has experience working in many countries and is well equipped to initiate communication with a foreign government.  The US Dept. of State website has information about the offices that oversee adoption in every country, including contact information and an overview of the country’s adoption laws.

Adoptive families often have contacts in foreign countries, either government officials or attorneys or others who are familiar with adoption regulations.  It is incumbent on the Primary Provider, however, to make a reasonable effort to ensure that the contacts a family has made are the correct venue for proper adoption processing.  Intercountry adoption is a complicated process.  Occasionally, persons in foreign countries assert that they know the process but then in truth have limited experience or knowledge of the laws that pertain to adopting the child abroad with the intention of bringing the child into the US.  Some countries have separate kinds of adoption; one for domestic in-country adoptions and one for children who will be adopted by foreigners or by persons holding citizenship in that country but intending to bring the child into the US.  It is essential that the appropriate steps be taken, in the proper sequence, because making a false step may run contrary to the intercountry adoption regulations and thus prevent a family from gaining a visa to bring the child into the US.

FAMILY ELIGIBILITY to Adopt

Generally, families entering into any adoption must have an approved home study and approval from USCIS.  It is best practice for the family to have selected an agency as their Primary Provider and for the agency to be identified in the home study.  Each country has other rules governing parental eligibility, in addition, that stipulate the age range and marital status of the person seeking to adopt.  The US Dept. of State has this information on their website.

Adoptive families must complete at least ten hours of pre-adoption education.  Most families use on-line adoption education courses.  This is typically completed while the home study is in progress.  Families should continue to read books on adoptive parenting throughout the process.  There are several books and resources recommended on the ICF website… www.childfound.org

Families adopting relatives may feel their situation should exempt them from the training requirements.  However, children coming from another country, often after traumatic losses or dislocations, need parents with a greater depth of understanding about the psychological challenges these children face.  Children going through an adoption process and moving to the US are both excited and frightened.  The immediate concerns may obscure underlying issues, such as grief and post-traumatic stress.  Better educated parents will enable a child to work through the transition with less frustration and stress, and with better prospects for success in school and adjusting to a new culture and social life.

TIMEFRAME and Steps in the Process

Adopting from any country will generally take a minimum of one year.  The first steps are engaging the agency, providing a home study, applying to USCIS and the preparation of the dossier documents for the foreign government and/or court. The dossier includes the home study and USCIS I-800A approval.

The family’s dossier often travels first to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to be registered, and then on to the Ministry that handles adoption casework.  Families may be required to visit with the child or attend a court hearing.  It all depends on the laws of the country.  Generally families will need to plan on 3+ weeks of travel, which might include an initial visit, and then the trip to bring the child home, which may or may not involve a court appearance.

When the foreign government has provided the documents that declare the child to be free for adoption, and often some medical/social/educational history about the child, these documents must be reviewed by the agency and adoptive parents, translated, and then reviewed by USCIS.  This review takes about two weeks; maybe longer if more information is requested.

After provisional approval by USCIS, the file is transferred to the US Embassy that provides adoption processing and visas for children being adopted in that foreign country.  Sometimes families need to visit US Embassies in two countries, if the Embassy in the child’s country of origin is not equipped with personnel who are qualified in intercountry adoption.

Families will need to complete additional documents for the US government, and the child or children being adopted will need to have medical exams and laboratory tests by a clinic that is approved by the US Embassy.

The final steps include… court documents and approval from the foreign ministries and/or courts are needed to apply for a new birth certificate for the child.  The birth certificate then may be used to apply for a passport for the child from the foreign government.  The child’s passport may then be submitted to the US Embassy for the purpose of getting a visa for the child to enter the US.

In some adoptions, children receive “automatic” US citizenship after arrival to the US.  The certificate of citizenship is mailed to the family within a few months after arriving home.

Other adoptions require that the child be “re-adopted” in a court in the child’s new state of residence.  The variable here is the type of visa the US Embassy issues and that depends on circumstances relating to the adoption itself and the laws of the child’s country of origin.

Note:

1) Documents in English for presentation in the foreign country must be translated to the official language of the country.  Documents from the country regarding the child and adoption must be translated to English. This adds expense and time to the adoption process.

2) Families are obligated to provide post adoption reports per the requirements of the foreign country and/or their state or agency.  These are legal obligations.  A compliance deposit may be required.