Monday, June 14, 2021

Private Adoption Overview

Private adoption is a type of adoption where the prospective adoptive parents work directly with a birth mother or birth parents to place the child for adoption. Private adoption can go by many names, such as “domestic adoption”, “direct parental placement adoption”, and “independent adoption”, to name a few.

Usually, the birth parents and prospective adoptive parents meet through a mutual friend and explore informally the idea of adoption. From there, professionals are involved for legal representation and counseling. The adoptive parents are usually present during the child’s birth. After a certain time, custody is transferred directly between the birth parents and the adoptive parents rather than custody going to an agency which then places the child with the prospective adoptive parents. In most states, the prospective adoptive parents are permitted to assist the birth mother financially with medical bills, legal fees, counseling, and other things she may need.

There are many reasons why birth parents choose private adoption for their child over placing their child with an adoption agency who then places the child with prospective adoptive parents (this is called an agency placement). Birth parents report that they like having a highly active role in the family selection process and the direct, nonconfidential interaction with the family. Being able to meet the family for their child without an intermediary may provide a sense of comfort for the birth parents. Further, the birth parents can negotiate post adoption contact and visitation agreements with the adoptive parents which ensures them that the child and adoptive parents will not vanish after the adoption[1]. In many states, these agreements are legally enforceable as contracts although the failure to comply with the contract would not upset the adoption.

In the adoptive parents’ case, there are some benefits to choosing private adoption. The adoptive parents can take their child home soon after the child is born and are often present during the child’s birth, allowing the attachment process to begin then. The openness between both parties is another advantage of the private adoption process. Adoptive parents and birth parents have the ability to decide how much contact they would like to have with each other. It is also helpful for the child later in life if the adoptive parents have met and had positive interactions with the birth parents.  Sometimes, this contact is ongoing, but if the birth parents are no longer involved in the child’s life, the information gained during the private adoption process is invaluable to the adolescent’s sense of identity. Private adoption is also usually less expensive than an agency placement, although this can vary depending on whether there is a contest with a nonconsenting birth parent.

There are a few downsides to private adoption for birth parents and adoptive parents. The lack of confidentiality does not appeal to some.  Agency adoptions tend to offer more support for birth parents and more extensive counseling about the adoption decision. Agencies may be more aware of resources in the community that would assist the birth parents. If there is a non-consenting birth parent, an agency placement may provide confidentiality to the prospective adoptive parents that would not be possible in a direct placement.

The trend has been toward private adoption in the last decades as social welfare research has confirmed the huge benefit to children, birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents of more openness and transparency in adoptive placements.  However, this is not the right approach in every situation.  Birth parents and prospective adoptive parents need to carefully consider which approach is best for them, private adoption, or agency placement. 

A good place to start is with a consultation with a private adoption attorney who can neutrally explain the pros and cons of both approaches. The Law Offices of Karen S. Law PLC conducts adoption overview meetings for birth parents and families who reside in Virginia.  To schedule one, email us at Schedule@Lawadoption.com.

If you live outside of Virginia, you can find a reputable adoption attorney through the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, a select group of attorneys who has extensive experience with adoptions:  Find An Adoption or ART Attorney | AAAA (adoptionart.org)



[1] This can also be done in agency placements in many states.


Sources:

https://www.pactadopt.org/birth/services/placement/independent.html

https://www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/private-adoption

https://lawadoption.blogspot.com/2015/07/private-placement-adoption-faqs.html


Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Intern, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2021

Disclaimer:

    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2021.

Monday, May 10, 2021

N-600K Fact Sheet

Overview

The N-600K form is used to apply for naturalization of a child who regularly resides outside of the U.S. with his U.S. citizen parent. For a child to be eligible for citizenship under the N-600K, they must: be under 18 years old, have at least one U.S. citizen parent, be residing outside of the U.S., be temporarily and legally present in the United States to complete the N-600K process for an interview, and have a U.S. citizen parent who has resided in the U.S. for five years or more. The form must be filed by the U.S. citizen parent on behalf the child. If the U.S. citizen parent does not meet the residency requirement or if they are deceased, a U.S. citizen grandparent may file for the child. Proof of residence is required to verify that the U.S. citizen parent or grandparent has lived in the U.S. for at least five years. All forms and supporting documents and filing fee will be mailed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the address designated on the Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 | USCIS. If your N-600K application is approved by USCIS, your child will be able to receive a Certificate of Citizenship at the interview.

The criteria listed below (A – C) must be met for adopted child to be eligible for naturalization under Section 322 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). Section D explains the procedure to file the N-600-K form.

Orphans Adopted Abroad Who Continue to Live Abroad with their U.S. Citizen Parents

A. Typical scenarios would be U.S. families living abroad, such as dual citizens, business people, and foreign missionaries. U.S. military members on orders are exempt and can use the Section 320 procedure.

B. Applicable Law: Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), Pub. L. No. 106-395, 114 Stat.1631, Section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952

C. Families may use provisions of Section 322 of the INA if they meet the following criteria:

1. U.S. citizen parent or grandparent, who was physically present in the U.S. or outlying possessions for at least five years, at least two of which were after the age of 14;

2. Child is under age 18 by the time the entire process is completed;

3. Child is residing outside the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the applying parent;

4. Child temporarily present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining such lawful status; AND

5. Child must meet “orphan” definition or “adopted child” or “adoptable child” definition.

D. Section 322 Procedure:

1. U.S. citizen parent or grandparent or legal counsel files form N-600-K with supporting documentation and filing fee at the address listed on the form at Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 | USCIS.

The interview can take place at any USCIS field office (in the U.S., not abroad);

2. Preliminary adjudication within 5 to 6 months—if approved, the applicant receives an approval notice on Form G-56. The time frame depends on which field office is selected for the interview.  Some offices have much longer processing times.

3. U.S. citizen parent takes approval notice to nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy, which issues B-2 visa for child. If the child already has a B-2 visa, the step can be omitted. It’s quicker if the child already has a B-2 visitor’s visa.

4. U.S. citizen parent and child come to the USCIS district office that issued approval for interview.

5. Final approval issued at interview, oath administered to child, and Certificate of Citizenship issued.

6. Practice Tip: Beware of age-outs, because the oath must be administered before the child turns 18.

Common Problems

·         The wrong person signs the form.

o   Who should sign the form? The U.S. citizen parent should sign the form, as long as they meet the physical presence requirements. The parent must have been living in the U.S. or an outlying territory for at least 5 years, two of which were after the age of fourteen. If the parent does not meet this requirement, a U.S. citizen grandparent may sign instead. A U.S. citizen grandparent is also permitted to sign if the U.S. citizen parent is deceased.

·         Wrong filing fee submitted or check not made out correctly to U.S. Department of Homeland Security

·         No passport style photos submitted (Tip, have them taken abroad and then emailed to a U.S. photo service where they are printed out and the attorney mails them with the completed application and filing fee)

·         Filing too early.

o   If the child does not qualify as an “orphan” or “Hague adoptee”, you must wait until the adoption is finalized, plus two years of legal custody and two years of joint residence. These two-year periods may run concurrently or overlap but you can't file until the last time frame is completed.

·         Insufficient evidence of two years of physical custody.

o   It is necessary to track all the addresses and provide the lease or rental agreement plus documents showing that address, the child's name, and the adoptive parents' names on them.

·         Insufficient evidence of the U.S. citizen parent's residence in the U.S. for five years.

o   Usually high school and/or college transcripts can solve this issue.

·         Not using Fed-Ex or UPS to mail your form.

o   These delivery services are more secure and will give you proof of receipt.

What to Expect After Filing

Once you have filed your application, USCIS will send you an I-797 receipt notice. There will be a case number on the receipt and you should save this number. Anytime you inquire about your case, you will reference this case number. After USCIS reviews your N-600K application, they will schedule an interview for your child. To be present at the interview, the child must have proof of lawful entry to the United States. Usually, form I-94 (Lawful Record of Admission) is submitted as proof. Lastly, if everything is in order, USCIS will approve the child to receive a Certificate of Citizenship at the interview.

 Assistance from Our Office

        This article provides general information which should be verified at Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 | USCIS.  It cannot take the place of individual legal advice about your situation and does not create a client-lawyer relationship. To establish that relationship, please contact us to schedule your consultation at www.Lawadoption.com.

Sources:

“Completing the Adoption—it’s Not Over until PROOF of Citizenship is Obtained”, Prepared by Karen Stoutamyer Law, Esquire, © 2017, Seminar https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/filing-citizenship-parentage-n-600k-application.html

https://www.americansabroad.org/naturalization-under-section-322/

Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Intern, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2021

Disclaimer:

    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2021.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Adopting an Undocumented Child


SIJS Application Pending

    Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) allows immigrant children in the state juvenile court system to obtain lawful permanent immigration status. There are specific requirements for a child to qualify for SIJS. The child must be under 21, unmarried, and be declared a dependent in juvenile court or an entity must be appointed as the child’s legal custodian. Although, if the state court loses jurisdiction over the child at 18, the deadline would be 18, not 21. According to federal law, an approved SIJS petition will not be revoked due to adoption or placement in a guardianship of the SIJS beneficiary. Moreover, the USCIS policy manual states that while it is normally required to have custody of the juvenile court for approval of the petition, there is an exception to this rule when the court loses custody due to the juvenile either being adopted or placed in a guardianship.

    Having an approved SIJS petition does not grant any status to the child, temporary or permanent. When a visa number becomes available to the child, the pending SIJS petition will allow them to apply for adjustment of status. Most children may apply to adjust status concurrently with their SIJS petition. The exception is children who are citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and sometimes Mexico. For SIJ children the wait can be years. Additionally, an approved I-360 SIJS petition does not permit the child to receive a SSN, and also does not provide authorization for employment. Usually, the application for employment authorization which gives them a lawful permanent resident card and social security card are filed at the same time as the SIJS petition.

SIJ Status and Medicaid

    The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) gives states the ability to provide medical coverage to children and pregnant women who are residing legally in the United States. Under this law, a child who has a pending application for SIJS is considered a lawfully residing alien. Provided that the child (under the age of 19) is in the United States legally and their status has not expired, they would be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid does not require that a child with a status of SIJ apply for a SSN or provide proof of application to be eligible for coverage, so long as their status remains as SIJ. However, if their status changes to legal permanent resident (LPR), they would then be required to provide proof of SSN in order to remain eligible. Furthermore, if the child is still legally a non-immigrant by the age of 19, they lose their status as a qualified alien and would have to be re-evaluated as an adult immigrant. According to the Virginia Medical Assistance Eligibility manual, “Lawfully residing children under age 19 and pregnant women meet Medicaid and FAMIS/FAMIS MOMS alien requirements regardless of their arrival date or length of time in the US.”.

Family-Based Petition Process

    To be considered to be an adopted child under this alternative process, the child must have been under the age of 16 by the time adoption was finalized, and the parent(s) have had legal and physical custody of the child for at least 2 years. Both United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are able to file a petition under this process. Given that their child meets the requirements to be considered an adopted child, they are able to file form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. Approval of the petition does not grant the child any immigration status. Once the petition is approved, the child may then apply for Legal Permanent Resident status which results in a lawful permanent resident card. There is an important caveat to the availability of this pathway to lawful status for children who are citizens of Hague Adoption Convention countries. If the adoptive parent is a US citizen, and the child is a citizen of another Hague Adoption Convention country, the state court does not have jurisdiction to finalize the adoption without compliance with strict notice to the Central Authority. The requirements for notice can be found here. The family law attorney must consult with an immigration attorney before the adoption is finalized.

A full list of Hague Adoption Convention countries can be found here.


Sources:

Automatic Revocation. GovRegs.  

Chapter 2 - Eligibility Requirements. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  

Family-Based Petition Process. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 


Links:




Drafted by Alyssa Howes, intern at the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer:

    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2021.

Monday, January 4, 2021

COVID-19 and Adoption

     The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of the adoption process for both intercountry and domestic adoptions. This has been a challenging situation for prospective adoptive parents and adoption agencies to navigate. Many parents have had their plans of adopting a child put on hold this year because of the delays in the process. Prospective adoptive parents, social workers, adoption agencies, and adoption attorneys have all had to adapt to the situation in different ways. At this point in time, it is evident that the pandemic has already had significant effects on the adoption process. However, the long term affects that COVID-19 will have on adoption are less certain.

    This situation is especially complicated for parents who were planning on completing adoptions abroad. International flights are restricted, and some countries have temporarily closed their borders to non-citizens. Due to the travel restrictions, some parents have not yet been able to meet their adopted child or complete the Court process overseas. Embassies which issue the visa after the adoption process are closed except for emergency type services. The Department of State has worked to prioritize the processing of adoption visas with many Embassies. However, the Embassies in some countries are still at a standstill in processing adoption visas.

    As a result, those children are having to stay in foster homes or orphanages for much longer than planned, with no certain end date (Dodge, 2020). Unfortunately, there is currently no data available to determine how these children and their caregivers are faring during the pandemic (Fronek & Rotabi, 2020). The negative effects of institutionalization have been well documented. According to one study, children reared in institutions were more likely to develop psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression compared to other children (McLaughlin et al., 2010). We have learned that children’s brains are irreversibly damaged the longer that they remain in institutional care. Attachment is very important for healthy child development, and institutionalized children often have problems forming attachments. The absence of a primary attachment figure early in life is likely what leads to the harmful mental health effects in institutionalized children (McLaughlin et al., 2012). One expected consequence will be that the adopted children will have greater needs for services upon their arrival in their homes to reverse this long-term damage.

    On the domestic side, certain aspects of the adoption process have had to change in order to adapt during the pandemic. Adoption agencies have had to become more flexible during the pandemic and find alternative ways of meeting with birth parents doing things in order to keep everyone safe. Home study and post-placement visits may occur over video call rather than in person due to COVID-19. Video calling is not ideal because the evaluation may not be as comprehensive as in person visit, but in some cases, it is the only available option.

    Birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents have also had to change the way they connect because they are unable to meet each other in person. Instead, they have had to meet and build their relationship via video calls, phone calls, and texting (Chertoff, 2020). Hospitals have new policies due to COVID-19, and many adoptive parents have not been able to be present for the birth of their adopted child; instead they may be on video call with the birth mother while she is at the hospital (Chertoff, 2020). Communicating only through video calls and phones may not be the ideal option during the adoption process, but we are fortunate to have this technology available as an alternative option.

    On the foster care side of adoptions, one would expect to find more families in crisis and a corresponding rise in children entering the foster care system due to abandonment, abuse or neglect. However, many times those children return to the homes of their birth families or are placed with other relatives. We would not expect to see those cases end in adoption for generally about two years. The other factor is the decline in reporting of abandonment, abuse and neglect because children are not physically attending schools in many locales. Child welfare agencies are responsible for protecting children from maltreatment, but they have little oversight and some of their methods are now ineffective due to the pandemic (Welch & Haskins, 2020).

    We do not yet have statistics on whether COVID-19 has negatively or positively changed the number of domestic adoptions. We can expect the number of intercountry adoptions to drop significantly during the next fiscal year. But, more important than numbers, we are greatly concerned for the welfare of children in need of permanent loving families who will now experience delays due to the pandemic.


Sources:

Chertoff, J. (2020, June 11). How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Adoption Community. Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/how-covid-19-has-impacted-the-adoption-community/

Dodge, D. (2020, April 01). How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy, Foster Care and Adoption. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/parenting/coronavirus-adoption-surrogacy-foster-care.html

Fronek, P., & Rotabi, K. S. (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on intercountry adoption and international commercial surrogacy. International Social Work, 63(5), 665-670. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0020872820940008

McLaughlin, K. A., Fox, N. A., Zeanah, C. H., Sheridan, M. A., Marshall, P. J., & Nelson, C. A. (2010). Delayed maturation in brain electrical activity partially explains the association between early environmental deprivation and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 68(4), 329-336.

McLaughlin, K.A., Zeanah. C.H., Fox, N.A., & Nelson, C.A. (2012). Attachment security as a mechanism linking foster care placement to improved mental health outcomes in previously institutionalized children. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 53(1), 46-55.

Welch, M., & Haskins, R. (2020, April 30). What COVID-19 means for America's child welfare system. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-covid-19-means-for-americas-child-welfare-system/


Drafted by Alyssa Howes, intern at the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer:

    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2021.