Avoiding the Perils and Pitfalls of Intercountry Adoption from Non-Hague Countries: Considerations for Agencies and Adoptive Parents (Part I)
By Christine Lockhart Poarch and J. McLane Layton
While adopting a child from another country, you receive word that the in-country court has scheduled the final guardianship or adoption hearing. You make travel plans with your family to be in-country for just a few weeks. After all, once you appear for the in-country court proceeding, you are sure that this very long process will be almost over. You assume that the last step--procuring a visa from your own government, the United States--will be quick and painless.
Sometimes it is, and you are soon on your flight home, exactly as scheduled, with the newest addition to your family. Other times, your family is not so fortunate, and you spend weeks or months, thousands of dollars, and every ounce of patience trying to prove to the U.S. Department of State and ultimately, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), that your child is truly an orphan under U.S. law and eligible for a visa to enter the U.S.
In our experience, what agencies and adoptive parents don’t know about the orphan definition can hurt them and may risk the family’s completion of a successful intercountry adoption. This article is Part I of a two-part series that will provide an overview of the most common perils and pitfalls involved in designating a child as an orphan under U.S. law and emphasize best practices for agencies and adoptive families when pursuing adoptions in countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.2 A complete and thorough understanding of the perils and pitfalls of the orphan definition—in the beginning, before the case gets off the ground in-country—offers adoptive families and adoptees the best chance of avoiding heartache, disappointment and delay, protects birth families, and offers agencies the best chance of formulating policies to support favorable case completion when inter-country adoption is in the best interest of the child.