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Legal Considerations

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Observing the Law in International Adoptions

International adoptions are subject to the laws and regulations of the state where you live, U.S. federal laws and regulations, and the laws and regulations governing the international placement of children in your child’s country of origin. While this is certainly more complex than domestic adoption, the protection of children being moved across national boundaries is of paramount importance.

I don’t believe anyone disputes the statement that children are a country’s most precious resource. When we choose to adopt internationally, we are not only forming our own family with the addition of a beloved child who brings a unique and separate culture and history, but we are also making a promise to that country to raise that child with (among other things) solid values. So a "laws-be-damned" attitude has no place in our families... right?

I was very disappointed to read a news story in the Washington Post about gay marriage in the Netherlands which said, "The only restriction that same-sex couples here now face is that they are prohibited from adopting foreign children. But that law is easily circumvented: One person adopts the foreign child and obtains registration for the child as a Dutch national; the spouse goes through the adoption process later on."

This attitude of laws-be-damned-as-long-as-I-get-my-child isn’t exclusive to other countries, or to gays and lesbians. Some adoptive parents in the U.S. and elsewhere have ignored laws of their child’s country of origin by not registering their children where required to maintain mandated dual citizenship, by not submitting follow-up reports where required, and by ignoring or circumventing other laws.

So who does it hurt?

(Aside from the fact that families may be starting with a lie and/or an illegal act...) At the very least, it hurts every person who hopes to adopt in the future. Country programs become more restrictive and can even shut down. In recent years:

  • China has drastically limited single parent adoptions, requires a statement from singles that they are not homosexual, and restricts adoptions only to those agencies that carry out follow-up visits;
  • Ukraine adoptive families in the U.S. are now subject to inquiry from the Ukraine Embassy about their follow-up reports;
  • Vietnam has cut back to adoptions only with countries that enter into specific agreements (limited to France, Italy, and Ireland at this time);
  • Kazakhstan has stopped independent adoptions, and will work only with authorized agencies that follow-up with child registrations;
  • Marshall Islands adoptions were halted in part because the mandatory open adoption laws were being ignored and it was perceived that Marshallese families were being exploited because of their cultural views.

It can hurt agencies that may be held responsible for their clients’ non-compliance and, as a result, lose their authority to act in a particular country. And at some very basic level, it hurts parents’ relationships with their children - to show such a disregard and contempt for the laws of their child’s country of origin.

If you are hoping to adopt internationally, I hope you will be very angry when you talk to those who have adopted before you who have not complied with the laws of their child’s country of origin. And I hope you will leave a better legacy for families who come after you.


Visitor Comments (1)
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Nic - 8 months ago
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Can you please put a date on your articles so readers can judge how current and relevant it is? Thanks #1
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