January 29, 2006
US Re-Adoption 101: PART 1
Welcome to our new discussion series on Re-Adoption. We'll be tackling such issues throughout the year and I hope that they are helpful!
PART 1: While most families (and I say this loosely) have very few issues associated with Readoptions, Domestications, Name Changes, Recognitions, etc.; there are a number of courts and judges that have refused to grant legal requests based on seemingly nonsensical requirements. Some of these requirements conflict with US Immigration Law, the legal adoption process in Guatemala and even State law. Because parents are exhausted from the emotional ride of their international adoption, they are less equiped to fight what seems like another personal battle. Afterall, how many of us would have thought there would be problems within our own states? Yet, the laws are so different state to state, it is in our best interest to know the readoption landscape EVEN BEFORE WE START OUR ADOPTION!! Regardless, many parents are becoming aware of these challenges at the courthouse steps and are being blindsided by a system that does not understand Guatemalan adoptions. OK...so we (Guatadopt.com) cannot provide legal assistance. We CAN, however, discuss the pros and cons of attempting to meet the courts' requirements vs fighting with knowledge. Since this is such a broad subject, we will dedicate a category of discussion dedicated to Domestication & Readoption Problems.
So what's going on?
* Courts/Judges are requiring that all original documentation be permanently relinquished to the court!
* Judges are refusing to grant name changes!
* Courts are requiring consent of the birth father!
* Courts/Judges are not recognizing the adoption decree without a signature of a judge (IR3 and IR4)!
* Judges are refusing to grant a readoption based on his/her own opinion about the Guatemalan adoption process!
Wow...where should we even start? Well, I titled this particular article "Re-Adoption 101" with a little sarcasm. Most adoptive parents think of Re-adoption as an elective course (as I did up until a couple of years ago!). In fact, it probably should be a pre-req for "Guatemala Adoption 105!". So, we have a small problem in starting this class. We have students who are just starting research into International Adoption sitting along side those who have completed their international process! In addition, there are going to be some very different approaches to handling the process from state to state and courtroom to courtroom. I realize that there are many more details to laws that govern our adoption. However, we are going to take this from a layman's perspective and then drill down to the legal nitty gritty as needed. But before you post a comment about the "easy way" or "I did this...", please understand that this discussion is going to have an underlying theme: "How can our actions make it better for other adoptive parents who come after us?" and "How do I protect my family's rights and the rights of my adopted child(ren)?" Furthermore, we can get stuck in the technicalities of the legal system. So, I would rather have legal "clarifications" come from attorneys and only if it seems relevant/useful to the article. So, after a lot of false starts, lets get some basics under our belt.
Guatemala vs. Federal Law vs. State Law.
US Government: As many of you know, there are two types of Visas that are issued to children adopted from Guatemala. The IR-3 Visa is issued to families who have physically visited their child(ren) prior to the Finalization of the Adoption in Guatemala (when the Protocolo is signed). The IR-4 Visa is issued when the family has NOT physically seen the child prior to the Protocolo. This recognition of the Visa Status doe NOT equal "finalization of adoption" but it does play a very important role. The issuance of the Visa (in either case) recognizes the *legality* of the adoption in Guatemala. In other words, the child has met the orphan classification and the Embassy has reviewed the case.* In the case of an IR-4, the US Government is requiring in some manner that the child's adoption be "finalized" in their state of residence.
Guatemala. As far as Guatemala is concerned, the adoption is final when the protocolo is signed. They do not send children to the states on a trial basis. So, in their eyes the parental rights of the birth family HAVE BEEN TERMINATED and have been transferred to the adoptive parents. PGN (equivalent to the Attorney General's Office) must approve the adoption prior to the signing of the Protocolo. Furthermore, a gentleman's agreement with the US Embassy ensures that an adoption will not be finalized unless the Embassy has "pre-approved" the case. Prior to any adoption being finalized in Guatemala, the Attorney General's Office and the US Embassy have been given the opportunity to protest/deny the adoption. It is their responsibility to research possible corruption, conflicts in stories, attorneys representing the adoptions, etc. This is quite important as it shows that the child's adoption paperwork "appears" to be in order and is recognized as being a legal adoption.
States: But at the state level, things get messy. Each state has the right to decide the laws surrounding the recognition of a foreign adoption. On first appearance of the laws surrounding recognition, it seems like it would be rather straight forward to do a readoption in most states AS IT SHOULD BE! But the devil is in the details. Since most states require some sort of formal court process to recognize the adoption, parents are at the mercy of the court system. When researching your own re-adoption, a good place to start is NAIC. From there, we will talk about the "intent of the laws" and rights of the parents.
Advantages of IR-3
One of the biggest advantages of visiting your child prior to the protocolo is the IR-3 Visa and the child coming home as a US citizen. On the state level, this may affect the process that your state requires to "recognize" the adoption. An IR-3 visa may be less important in states which automatically recognize the adoption and more important in states which require a judicial process (where you are at the mercy of the court/judge). Regardless, every parent should weigh the advantages of a visit before the adoption is finalized in Guatemala. Furthermore, this decision MAY effect what agency/attorney you choose. Some agencies/attorneys have strict visitation policies, scheduled visitation or may have a policy AGAINST pre-adoption visitation. If you plan to visit, you really need to make sure you understand the policy of your agency BEFORE signing the contract!
US Citizens living abroad should definately visit the child prior to the Protocolo. Otherwise, it may be rather difficult to obtain the child's US citizenship. In addition, the parents should plan to make a stop in the US when bringing their child home in order to complete the immigration process for their child.
Advantages of Readoption/Domestication
As mentioned above, many states will require some sort of formal domestication/readoption process in order for the state to acknowledge the adoption regardless of whether your child came home on an IR-3 or an IR-4. Some of the benefits are:
1 - In many states, readoption ensures automatic inheritance rights for your child.
2 - You will have a state issued birth certificate which is easier to replace and use.
3 - You have a local certified copy of an adoption decree or domestication which is also easier to replace and use.
4 - Your documents are in English and there is no need for a translated version.
5 - The possiblity that there are other state benefits or recognitions associated with the readoption/domestication.
6 - US Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause ensures that an adoption recognized in one state is also recognized in all other states. If you plan to move, you may want to review the readoption process in both states.
The most obvious benefit that I have seen is the state issued birth certificate. Already, we have lost a birth certificate to paperwork (I don't know if it was school, insurance or the US Passport process!). But it is reassuring to know that I can easily replace it! In addition, I am reassured that if we move to another state, that state will HAVE to recognize my adoption under the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
But now that we have discussed the basics, lets talk about how you can improve your chances of getting the re-adoption completed on the first try!
1 - Include a cover letter that outlines what you have included in your petition. Whether or not you are using an attorney, this might prove invaluable to the court.
2 - Know the state law. You can print a copy of the basic
3 - Know how your court handles readoptions. Some may "require" an attorney to represent you. While this may be costly, it may be the best way to avoid the hassle.
4 - Include a clear translation of the documents. Oftentimes, the judge will accept it based on a notarized letter from the translator stating that Spanish is their native language. However, some may still require a certified translation. Again, having a clear cover letter detailing what is included (and its meaning) may make a huge difference in the petition.
5 - Print a copy of the adoption process. It may even help to have someone make a written statement that this is the legal adoption process recognized by the Embassy in Guatemala. But if the judge is well versed in Guatemalan adoptions (where you find that many other parents have had no problems with readoptins in the county), then be conservative...its probably not necessary.
What can be done if you run into problems?
The first thing to understand is that you are not alone. You may have to backup and evaluate the situation, but its not the end of the world. Here are a few pointers:
1 - Do not show anger at the people you are dealing with. Even if you are destined for a legal battle, it does no good for you to lose your temper.
2 - Keep a journal of the things that you have done in order to resolve the issues. This history may come in handy if not resolved quickly.
3 - Evaluate whether other parents may be adversely affected by your actions. In several cases, there may be an "easy way out"....but does it hurt the rights of future adoptive parents? Does it undermine the Guatemalan system? Are you waiving your own legal rights?
4 - Form a plan of attack. Depending on the issue, there may be a logical chain of command. Don't deviate or you may burn your bridges.
5 - Keep the attitude that you are showing them why they are wrong instead of humiliating them or insulting them. (This is definately tough for me as my temper flares when I hear about some of the issues parents have faced). But if we want to convince someone of our point of view, it probably does not help to resort to name calling or insults.
6 - Be prepared to offer additional documents that may "educate" them about the process and/or the reasons for your request.
Oftentimes, a request/rejection may be a side effect of missing documentation. Review your petition and supporting documentation from the view of someone who knows nothing about the process. Fill in the holes.
I realize that this is just a tip of the iceburg. So, we'll be taking a look at some of these cases where rejections/requirements have caused a lot of problems for the adoptive parents.
Part 2: We'll be talking about a case in Rockdale County, GA: Permanently relinquishing your adoption documents? I don't think so!
Posted by Kelly at January 29, 2006 12:17 PM
Our baby girl came home on an IR-4 visa. We did a readopt in California. When we had our citizenship interview, the immigration officer said that our daughter became a citizen ON THE DAY SHE WAS READOPTED.
My husband DID NOT visit our son prior to the protocolo being signed, although I did, three times! We have another young child at home and we determined it best if I went alone.
We are waiting on PINK now. Do you know if we will be qualified for the IR3?
Teri - Unfortunately, both parents must visit prior to the Protocolo in order to qualify for the IR-3.
Have a wonderful trip! Having your child home is the most important step!!!
IR-4 and Readoption -
Yes, that is ABSOLUTELY TRUE. From the US Government's point of view the child becomes a US citizen once the child is readopted in the states. The child's adoption is also AUTOMATICALLY recognized by all states because of the Full Faith and Credit. I'll put a note in the article to clarify that better.
The interesting part (to me) is that even though a child may come home on an IR-3 and be a US citizen, the state does not necessarily have to recognize the adoption. In most cases, this should be (and it appears to be) just a formality. But as mentioned before, some courts are not making it easy.
Its somewhat like the CoC. WHen I completed my adoption (IR-3 visa), I still only received a perm. resident card for my daughter. My daughter is "technically" a US citizen but to prove it I have to pay close to $200 to get documentation that will prove it to other government offices :-)
We brought our son home with an IR4 visa. We consulted an attorney about readoption and were advised that this was not necessary in the state of MO. We applied for a MO state birth certificate and received it. We applied for a Coc and received that also.
We just followed our attorney's advice. Is having his CoC and a birth certificate showing us as parents evidence that he has a "full and finalized adoption?"
Molly - Missouri is probably the easiest state in that they recognize a foreign adoption without a formal re-adoption process. I wish all states were like this!! Because they recongnize your adoption, the US government automatically views your adoption as finalized.
One thing I have always wondered about MO, is whether they automatically issue an adoption decree in English or if this is ONLY done through the court.
I have been asked to present my an adoption decree twice so far. I would love to hear from parents with older children about their experience with their paperwork and problems they have had in the past.
The only thing we got from MO was a birth certificate. No English adoption degree. We did not involve the courts.
Also, To get the birth certificate we had to send our adoption decree in Spanish and translated copy. But the lady in charge of issueing the b.c. told me exactly what needed to be done. She was very helpful.
I live in Michigan and have my Michigan birth certificate for my daughter. She was escorted from Guatemala on an IR-4 visa. I have done all of the paperwork and applied for the COC. Do you know how long Michigan is taking for issuance of the COC? Michigan recognizes international adoption. Thanks, Kim
I am so glad this topic is being raised and discussed indepth. After many a false start I am finally "readopting" my children in a state that does recognize the foreign decree and provides that the parents "may" (not shall) request the court to make findings regarding the date/place/parentage of the child which is then filed with vital statistics (I presume to entitle the parent to the state issued BC). Heres the rub, locally adoptive parents have been doing fullblown adoption proceedings complete with filing their homestudies and record of expenses with the court, obtaining a waiver of participation from the state child welfare office, and actually asking the court to find the parents suitable. Well, what if the court didn't? I think this is exactly what the foreign recognition statute was meant to avoid. I am going to file my petition and findings and conclusions ciiting the statute and explaining the Guatemala adoption process and see if I can make it easier for adoptive parents in the future. I have not posted here before, don't know if I did it rite, was this too long?
Our daughter came home in July 2003 on an IR3 visa. We re-adopted her in NYC on November 15, 2004 ("Adoption Day" in the courts) without an attorney but did use a paralegal to prepare the documents. We received a State-issued Birth Certificate and later went on to obtain a US passport. We never applied for the COC. Does anyone know if this is a necessary step for us?
We are currently working on this here in ALABAMA. There isn't much to go by for our state. So far we have hired an attorney and petitioned the court. The Judge set a hearing in March. So we wait and see. Thanks for bringing this subject up. Oh our daughter came home on a IR4. They also wanting to see the homestudy!
I live in Florida and my first daughter came home a year ago January on IR 4 and we had to readopt and then were given a permanent resident card and even though she has been re adopted we have to pay $215 to apply for citizenship for her. We are waiting to be PINK on our second daughter and I am assuming we will have to go through the same thing. After all you go through to adopt it is frustrating to have to then pay another $1000 to readopt which is basically for the lawyer to draw up a document and file it with the court and you have one hearing where the judge "domesticates" the adoption. It seems ridiculous but I guess you have to do what you have to do.
I adopted two Guatemalan children in 2005. I was told by the social worker doing my homestudy that I could not readopt in Nevada until the children had been in my home for six months, so I didn't pursue it right away. To be honest, after more than a year of gathering, notorizing, authenicating, FedEx-ing and otherwise following a paper chase I was glad for a bit of a breather. The children have now been home just over six months and I am anxious to have their adoption recognized. I was hoping to file the petition myself and had assumed that it was a formal but straightforward process, but I am having a problem finding ANY information regarding applicable regulations, the documents required to be filed and the process. The NAIC indicates Nevada has no state statutes regarding the recognition of foriegn adoption. So I am not sure where to start....
We adopted a little boy and came home with him 2 years ago on Saturday :). We have readopted him in the State of Iowa, with no major problems. Do we still need to get the Certificate of Citizenship? We have an Iowa Birth Certificate for him. Thanks.
CoC: It wasn't my highest priority because I applied for the US passport right after our recognition. But if you think of all the government workers that do NOT understand laws or statutes much outside their area of work, then you can see that the CoC is good to have. At some point, I would be willing to bet that someone out there looks at your child's birth certificate and says "Well, it says here that he/she was born in Guatemala. Do you have anything that proves he/she is a citizen?" While you could go into an explanation of WHY your child was automatically a citizen, pull out supporting laws, etc... you still have to piece together the puzzle for them. Its much easier to say "Here ya go!" and hand them the CoC. Furthermore, *adopted* families often have to provide more documentation than biological families. So, what might be fine for a biological child might be inadequate for an adopted child (BECAUSE state laws differ so much!)
I *could have* applied for a US Passport without my Georgia readoption paperwork (my daughter came home on an IR3). But I would have to temporarily relinquish all my adoption paperwork from Guatemala. Instead, I used a *replaceable* certified copy of the Readoption and a replaceable state birth certificate while my Guatemalan paperwork remained locked in our safe :-)
Yes, even with the passport (which is only good for 5 years before reapplying), I would get a copy of the CoC. If laws change in the future, lacking a CoC may present a hassle to adoptive families.
I agree with you, Kelly. The Certificate Of Citizenship is extremely important to have for many reasons, especially when they get older and may need it to seek any type of employment. You are right about the ignorance of government workers when it comes to the laws and statutes regarding foreign adoption and it is not limited just to them; you can run into road blocks like this in just about any situation. I think that having the COC accompany the birth certificate for identification helps to exclude most, if not all, of the questions that may come your way on the legality of your child(ren)'s presence in the United States. We were extremely lucky because we live in Kansas, which is like Missouri in that they automatically recognize the foreign adoption and re-adoption is not necessary. We brought our daughter home on an IR-3 Visa and all we had to do was wait for the COC to be mailed to us. I even went one step further and filled out the form to request the packet of documentation back from USCIS (the packet that is given to you at the Embassy in Guatemala and you are not allowed to open). I am so glad that I did because they sent me the entire packet with the original documents, which included documents I had not seen before, as well as two more pictures of our baby and her birth mother that I did not have.
It is interesting how these things differ from state to state. I live in Wisconsin, and completed the readoption here. Then applied for and received the COC. I also requested the packet from USCIS, and all I received from them was the return of the documents I had sent in for the readoption. These were Wisconsin documents. I received nothing at all from the documentation packet that I received in Guatemala and turned over to the USCIS at the airport in Atlanta, our point of entry. These documents must have made it to Wisconsin, because they needed them to issue my daughter's COC, but yet they did not send any of it to me. I then submitted the G884 with a letter, and received the return of the Wisconsin readoption documents. I sent another letter months later, and have received absolutely nothing in almost a year--not even a reply to my letter. I don't understand how the USCIS offices can be so different from one state to another. One state will rightfully return the documents, another believes that they are the property of USCIS!!!!! A social worker from a local adoption agency who has a direct phone number for USCIS here, called for me at least twice and one time was told that the documents were coming and they just didn't get to it yet (soon after I received the readoption documents returned to me)and the most recent time she called, they told her that I had no right to these documents and that they were the property of USCIS and that I should write the supervisor. I did that, almost a year ago, and still no response at all. Wish all of the state offices would get together and talk to each other and be consistent! I would love to hear from anyone in Wisconsin who was sussessful at getting this packet returned to them.
Mama to the beautiful, precocious, 2-year-old Anarosa, home since May 26th, 2004.
Does anyone know if it is ok to photocopy the COC to show people, like at schools, so that the original can stay at home?
Nebraska requires the difficult and formal readoption process. We adopted our daughter, Emily, from Guatemala and came home to the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day 2003. Emily came home on an IR-4 Visa. She received a "Green Card early in 2004. We also obtained a Social Security number for her, just after that. After the necessary 6-month residency time had passed, I began to prepare for readoption. The cost of hiring another attorney after so much expense getting her home did not look good. By using the wording from documents successfully filed by a co-worker, I put together a readoption packet and went to the Sarpy County, Nebraska Courthouse to file it. I was nearly turned away by the Clerks of the Court since I am not an Attorney. After much difficult discussion, they took my filing and I paid the fee $27. About 10 days later my wife, daughter and I were rewarded with a court date. The actual court process on July 20, 2004 was much easier than trying to file, and the Judge granted our adoption petition. We paid another fee of around $25 at the Courthouse after the readoption court was complete. We then received a Nebraska Birth Certificate for her within a couple of weeks. After that, I filed for a Certificate of Citizenship (C.O.C.), paid the $200 fee and waited until December 24, 2004 to receive it. With that, we filed for a U.S. Passport early in 2005, as our family was to travel to Alaska, via the AlCan Highway in the late spring. We also went back to Social Security with the C.O.C. and had that updated to reflect her citizenship. Regarding foreign travel, the Canadians were fine with the passport, but we really had a hard time at Tok, Alaska trying to come in with just a passport, for we had left her birth certificate at home, thinking that the passport was enough. Returning to the U.S. at Haines, AK and later at Glacier NP, Montana was fine with only the passport, so I'm not sure why the inconsistency. Be sure to bring both the birth certificate and the passport when traveling outside the U.S. with your child just in case.
It is REALLY important that you are very clear about documentation when explaining your experiences. Saying the "passport" or "other passport" is confusing.
I remember talking about this before, but I will do another little blurb about traveling after the homecoming. So, quickly here is a rule of thumb....
If you plan to travel internationally (or across another country) with a GUATEMALAN passport, you MUST take either the Perm. Resident Card or the CoC. But you must also find out whether there are different rules for Guatemalans and US citizens. Why? Because other countries do not necessarily recognize CoCs or Perm Resident Cards. The immigration of another country will primarily look ONLY at the origin of the passport.
If you have a US passport for your child, then you should be able to travel anywhere that US travelers are welcome. If immigrations or airline folks ask for anymore documentation they are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Escalate it to a supervisor. My feeling is that if anyone questions a US passport because of the color difference of skin, then this is racial and uncalled for....
Just a clarification on my post regarding Passports.
When we traveled in and out of the U.S and Canada last summer, Emily had a U.S. Passport that we got for her after we had her C.O.C. It was the Border Guard east of Tok, Alaska that told us that just a U.S Passport was not ok for her and also not ok for our 2 birth children that are under 18. He said that we could not prove that any of them were actually our children without a birth certificate. When we told him that we had to present a birth certificate to get a U.S. Passport, he said that it didn't matter to him as the State Department was a different agency and Homeland Security wants to see both to readmit children under 18. We did ask to contact his supervisor. A co-worker came in just after that exchange and he told us to go on our way. Has anyone else had this problem getting back into the U.S. with minor children recently? As I mentioned in a previous post, the Border Guards near Haines, AK and Glacier, MT were fine with the children's U.S Passports, as were the Canadians at all 3 crossings.
Thats interesting. I am also curious if there are any other places that have decided you need birth certificates for all children. I've traveled with my daughter and several other families internationally and have not heard of anyone deciding you need to tote around a birth certificate when a passport is available. Most of the time, it is used if you DON'T have a passport for the child.
While I am not usually suspicious of every government worker....I still think that some people make the rules as they go. I would be curious if other families with JUST biological children ran into this.
Is there any reason why they would not believe this is your child (do your children have a different last name than you?)???
We actually have 5 children, all of which have the same last name, which was clearly shown on the passports. Emily's younger brother Samuel was adopted from Russia a year after we adopted her from Guatemala. He had 7 passports to look at, 2 parents, an adult son (age 19), oldest daughter (15), middle son (12), Emily (2) and Samuel who had just turned 2. It could be that having 2 toddlers so close in age not looking alike singled us out for special scrutiny. We had considered bringing birth certificates, but Samuel had not yet been readopted, so his birth certificate was in Russian from a region in Siberia. Emily had been readopted and had her Nebraska birth certificate, but given that Samuel didn't have a U.S. birth certificate we decided to rely on the passports alone rather than try to present a document from the other side of the Bering Strait. The interesting thing is that even our biological family may not look that related, as I am part American Indian and my wife is completely of European decent. The two girls look more alike, as my 15 year old is darker like Emily and could pass for a Guatemalan, while Samuel is lighter like his 2 older brothers and my wife.
Has anybody done a readoption in Nevada that could clue us in on how the procedure works? There is hardly any information on the subject available. Nina
Is there a place on the web where I can get info on my state's readoption process? (We live in CT).
IS THERE A WEBSITE WHERE I CAN GET FLORIDA'S READOPTION PROCESS? I HAVE HEARD YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE FATHER'S CONSENT; EVEN IF THE CHILD WAS LEGALLY ADOPTED IN GUATEMALA????????/ THANKS, TERRIE
I am totally lost...the dossier was easier than this! I second terrie....where can we find the readoption processes for our state? I am in California and I can not find anything! ugh!
My husband and I are living as expats in Switzerland, and we would like to adopt a child from the Ukraine. After the adoption we will bring the child to the US in order to get a US citizenship and a US passport. Then we would like to do a readoption. We currently reside in Switzerland, however we have a US address (bank account), and eventually plan to return to the US. Is it possible to readopt since we currently are not residing in Georgia? Thanks for any help and suggestions!
hi, we brought our daughter home in sept. (10 months old at the time) with a IR-3 visa. we changed her name so we had to do a readopt. we hired a lawyer who charged us $450 for the whole thing. she submitted all the paperwork and told us when to come to court. about 4 weeks after giving her the paperwork , we met with the judge (it was very casual) and answered a few questions and we were done. the adoption decree came in a few weeks and the new Pennsylvania b/c came about 7 weeks later. reading all of the other posts it sounds like we got off easy. we just applied for a new passport as we are going back to guatemala in a few months and i guess now i need to apply for a new CoC...