October 2010 Alert

October 18, 2010

Joint Council’s Statement and Recommendations on the Suspension for Intercountry Adoption in Nepal can be found by clicking here.

October 7, 2010

The Department of State has released the following adoption alert regarding pending adoption in Nepal:

FROM: OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES, DEPT OF STATE

The following notice is sent as a reminder about the upcoming holidays in Nepal, and the dates on which the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will be closed. This notice will also be posted on our website, at http://adoption.state.gov.

Upcoming Embassy Closures

October 6, 2010

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will be closed on the following days:

October 8 – Ghatasthapana

October 11 – Columbus Day

October 14-18 – Dashain

November 5 – Tihar

The Embassy’s Consular Section will be open on October 12 and 13 and will continue to work on pending adoption cases and respond to public inquiries. The Consular Section will make every effort to investigate cases, to the extent possible, during the festival period, but Government of Nepal offices and businesswill be closed for many days between October 8 and November 7, as Nepalis typically travel home to theirvillages. The actual days off will vary, so it is difficult to predict when individual Government of Nepal offices will be open. In case of an emergency, American citizens in Nepal may contact the Embassys after-hours hotline at:977-1-400-7266 and 977-1-400-7269.

Inquiries concerning adoptions cases may be directed to AdoptionsNepal@state.gov (for cases being processed by the U.S. Embassy) or to cis.ndi@dhs.gov (for cases that have been sent to the U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New Delhi). Inquiries may also be directed to the Office of Children’s Issues at AskCI@state.gov or to USCIS’s National Benefits Center at NBC.adoptions@dhs.gov.

Please continue to monitor http://adoption.state.gov for updated information on adoptions in Nepal.

August 30, 2010

Summary:

In an effort to protect the interests of U.S. prospective adoptive parents who are adopting from Nepal, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu is implementing new procedures to ensure that the adoptive child will be eligible to immigrate to the United States BEFORE the prospective adoptive parents travel to Nepal and complete the Nepali adoption process. The procedures in this announcement apply only to prospective adoptive parents who were officially matched with Nepali children prior to August 6, 2010, and whose Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, has not yet been adjudicated. If prospective adoptive parents whose cases meet these qualifications choose to follow the procedures outlined below, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will determine whether the children for whom they are petitioning meet the definition of orphan under U.S. law – one of the requirements for approval of the Form I-600 petition and visa issuance. End summary.

Background:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State have encountered inconsistent and unreliable documentation regarding the reported abandonment of children for adoption in Nepal. These problems led the U.S. government to suspend processing of new orphan cases involving Nepali children claimed to have been abandoned, effective August 6. However, a number of cases were already underway as of that date and are now being processed to conclusion.

On August 27, 2010, the USCIS delegated authority to the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu to approve any Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a Nepali child residing in Nepal who is and whose case is exempt from the suspension of processing announced August 6, 2010. The exemption applies to cases in which the prospective adoptive parents: 1) received an official referral letter from the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MOWCSW) prior to August 6, 2010, informing them of a proposed match, or 2) who seek to adopt a Nepali child who has been relinquished by known parent(s) and whose identity and relationship can be confirmed.

Prospective adoptive parents involved in a case exempt from the suspension are strongly encouraged to file their completed Form I-600 petition with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu prior to traveling to Nepal to finalize the adoption. The Embassy will then complete the required Form I-604 Determination of Child for Adoption (sometimes referred to as the “orphan investigation”) and inform the prospective adoptive parents of the results.

Procedures:

Prospective adoptive parents who wish to participate in this program should send their completed, signed Form I-600 petition and supporting documents (other than the adoption order), including a copy of the Government of Nepal’s official referral letter dated prior to August 6, 2010, if available, through their U.S. adoption service provider to their local agency representative in Nepal. Local agency representatives may deliver Form I-600 petitions and supporting documents to the Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit Monday through Friday between the hours of 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. They should tell the Embassy security guard that they are coming to deliver adoption documents. All Form I-600 petitions and supporting documents (other than the adoption order) should be delivered in person by local agency representatives. Prospective adoptive parents should not mail Form I-600 petitions or supporting documents directly to the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu.

Upon delivery of the Form I-600 petition and supporting documents, the local agency representative will be given written confirmation from the Embassy that the documents have been received. A consular officer will perform a preliminary review of the case to ensure that the Form I-600 petition has been properly completed and signed (and includes the appropriate fee, if required) and that all of the required documents have been submitted to enable the Embassy to initiate the I-604 investigation. If the petition and supporting documents are in order, the case will be added to the list of cases pending an I-604 investigation.

The MOWCSW has informed the U.S. Embassy it is willing to grant extensions on the 60 day period between the date of the authorization to travel letter and finalizing the adoptions in Nepal, to give the Embassy time to complete the required I-604 investigation. Prospective adoptive parents who have received the MOWCSW’s travel authorization letter should include a copy with the documents that their local agency representative delivers to the ACS Unit. After the Embassy confirms that the prospective adoptive parents have received an official referral letter from the MOWCSW dated prior to August 6, 2010, the Embassy will request an extension of the 60 days in writing from the MOWCSW on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents. A copy of the Embassy’s letter requesting the extension will be provided to the prospective adoptive parents by email for their records. When the Embassy receives a response from the Ministry, the Embassy will share this response with the prospective adoptive parent.

If, after completing the Form I-604 investigation of the case, the Embassy finds that the evidence establishes that the beneficiary child is an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the prospective adoptive parents will be notified in writing that they may travel to Nepal to complete their adoption.

Upon completion of the adoption, the Embassy will be able to complete the adjudication of the Form I-600. Note that the I-604 Investigation results are not the only consideration in the I-600 adjudication.

If the Form I-600 Petition is approved, further documents (such as the child’s medical report, etc.) will be required at that time for the visa interview. These documents could affect the child’s eligibility to receive an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.

Notification from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu to travel and complete an adoption following these procedures should therefore not be construed as a guarantee that the Form I-600 petition will be approved or that the child will be issued an immigrant visa. After their adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents or their local agency representative should submit the original adoption order and the child’s Nepali passport to the Embassy and request an immigrant visa appointment. If Embassy Kathmandu determines that the Form I-600 petition is not clearly approvable, the prospective adoptive parents will be notified in writing that the Embassy has forwarded their Form I-600 petition and supporting documents to USCIS New Delhi for further review and action.

With the exception of those families already in Nepal at the time of this announcement, USCIS and the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will process the Form I-600 petitions in the order that they are filed, regardless of whether the petitioner is in Nepal. If a petitioner chooses to travel to Nepal to file the Form I-600 petition after the date of this announcement, the petitioner should anticipate a lengthy stay in Nepal while the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu conducts the required investigation and while USCIS conducts any necessary review.

Domestically Filed Form I-600 Petitions for Children from Nepal:

Effective immediately, the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) will forward any pending Form I-600 petitions filed domestically on behalf of children from Nepal to the National Visa Center (NVC) and notify the petitioner(s) of the transfers. In addition, any Form I-600 petition received by the NBC after August 6, 2010 will be forwarded to the NVC. Once the NVC receives a Form I-600 petition from the NBC, it will scan the documents and forward the case to the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for processing.

August 12, 2010

Position Statement: Nepal

U.S. Government Closes Adoptions

Joint Council’s Nepal initiative stems from the joint announcement on August 6, 2010 by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stating the suspension of new adoption cases for children presented as abandoned in Nepal. Additionally, DOS has published a Q&A on the suspension. The primary cause of the closure appears to be that U.S. government has determined the documentation on the children is not reliable, the origin of child cannot be adequately assessed and the child’s adoptability cannot be assured.

A History of Concern

The closure of adoptions in Nepal follows a long history of concerns regarding corruption. Most recently, DOS announcements in March 2010 and May 2010 strongly discouraged adoptive parents from choosing to adopt from Nepal. And on July 14 2010, DOS requested the contact information of adoptive parents with the apparent intent of determining the number of families adopting Nepalese children and informing them directly of DOS actions. Nepal adoptions were previously suspended in May 2007 and only reopened in early 2009. Since the reopening, concerns regarding corruption have been raised by not only the U.S. government but also in a report by Terre des Hommes and through the decision of virtually all European countries to cease adoptions with Nepal. Joint Council has also expressed concerns. In 2007, Joint Council launched the Nepal Initiative for Families and Children which successfully contributed to the adoptions of over 400 children caught in the 2007 closure. When the suspension was lifted in 2009, Joint Council stated its concerns regarding the worldwide total number of service providers licensed by the Nepalese government. And at our Annual Conference in March 2010, Nepal was added to our list of ‘countries at risk of closing’.

Alternatives to Closure

Regarding the substantial allegations of corruption surrounding adoptions in Nepal Joint Council continues to forcefully advocate that those who are responsible for abuses be investigated, arrested and prosecuted. Failing to take aggressive action against the individuals involved only further compromises children’s rights. And when the reaction to abuse is not the prosecution of the perpetrators but rather the elimination of intercountry adoption, children are further victimized and their rights stripped away. Joint Council and all others concerned about those children who live without parental care, must be more aggressive in our role in the elimination of corruption and abuse. Whether through intentional illegalities, unintended consequences or weak oversight, our collective failure to ensure ethical adoptions and the development a full spectrum of permanency services, only contributes to the elimination of a child’s right to a family. As just one part of a more aggressive role, Joint Council joins many other leading advocates in supporting the recommendations delineated by EJ Graff in her recent article on intercountry adoption. These recommendations include laws which would make ‘baby buying’ illegal and require Hague accreditation for service providers with programs in foreign countries. Joint Council’s position on Ms. Graff’s recommendations can be found here.

Proactive Protection

Children and families can best be protected and their rights ensured through the proactive leadership of the U.S. government and a policy that states “children belong in families”. Without aggressive leadership, family-centric policies and the resources to back it up; children’s rights will continue to be slowly stripped away. And perhaps most sadly, upon the closure of adoption, the U.S. government offers no programs to support the parentless children the closure is purported to protect. A “children belong in families” policy is the goal of the Families For Orphans Act. This landmark legislation is our best hope at preventing children from being abandoned and of finding permanent families for children without parental care. Without such a ‘game changer’, existing families will continue to be forced to abandon their children, domestic adoption will continue to languish and intercountry adoption will continue to be eliminated one country at a time . Joint Council will continue to work aggressively with the governments of Nepal and the U.S. along with adoption service providers to ensure that the children of Nepal will once again have the right to a family through legal and ethical intercountry adoption. Joint Council calls on members of the international community, including the U.S. Department of State, to both assist the government of Nepal in reopening a ethical adoption system and to provide life-giving aide to the growing number of Nepalese children who remain without the love and nurturing of a safe and permanent family.

August 10, 2010

Background

Effective August 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced the suspension of new adoption cases for children identified as abandoned in Nepal. The primary cause of the suspension appears to be that U.S. government feels the documentation on the children is not reliable, the origin of child cannot be adequately determined and the child’s adoptability cannot be assured.

The U.S. Dept of State will continue to process the approximately 80 adoptions for those children officially referred to an American citizen prior to August 6, 2010. However, the review of these approximately 80 adoptions will be vigorous and it is expected that some might not be ultimately approved.

Children who have been Referred

It is Joint Council’s understanding that for the approximately 80 children referred the U.S. Embassy in Nepal may soon begin a program during which cases will be investigated by the Embassy prior to the finalization of the adoption. Joint Council has no additional information regarding this program at the time. As soon as further information is available Joint Council will distribute it via our website and blog. Given the above information it is not recommended that prospective adoptive parents travel to Nepal until given approval by the U.S. Embassy in Nepal.

Joint Council Orphan and Family Database

Joint Council is swiftly creating it’s Orphan and Family Database for Nepal. Joint Council anticipates having the database fully functioning by the end of business on Wednesday, August 11, 2010. All U.S. citizens who has been referred a child from Nepal are encouraged to take a moment and fill-in their adoption information. The database will allow Joint Council to advocate with the U.S. and Nepalese governments, as appropriate, for the cases currently in process.

Participation by all families with referrals is needed and appreciated. Our goal with this initiative, as will all of our efforts, is to help to bring the children of Nepal closer to a safe, permanent and loving family through a legal, ethical and timely process. Joint Council has created similar databases during recent crisis’ in Guatemala, Haiti, and Kyrgyzstan. Having the information of children and families involved is critically important to the efficacy of our advocacy efforts.

Contacting Members of Congress and the Department of State

It is our understanding that families are understandably advocating on behalf of the children they have been referred with Members of Congress and the Department of State. Advocating on an individual basis is obviously everyone’s right and responsibility as citizens and adoptive parents. However, from numerous initiatives, it is our experience and the experience of other child advocates that advocacy is most effective when executed collectively, with a unified voice and singular and specific goal. We therefore respectfully suggest that families can most effectively advocate by utilizing the Joint Council database and joining our larger effort.

Joint Council will continue to work aggressively with the governments of Nepal and the U.S. along with adoption service providers to ensure that the children of Nepal will once again have the right to a family through legal and ethical intercountry adoptions.

August 6, 2010

Effective today, August 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced the suspension of new adoption cases for children identified as abandoned in Nepal. The primary cause of the suspension appears to be that documentation on the children is not reliable, the origin of child cannot be adequately determined and the child’s adoptability cannot be assured.

DOS will continue processing approximately 80 adoptions for those children referred to an American citizen prior to August 6, 2010. However, the review of these approximately 80 adoptions will be vigorous and it is expected that some might not be ultimately approved.

It was also announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that potential adoptive families may transfer their case to another country at no cost (one-time).

The full announcement on the suspension and Q&A can be found at:

USCIS Announcement – Suspension of Nepal Adoptions

USCIS Q&A – Suspension of Nepal Adoptions

Joint Council is preparing a statement on the suspension which will be published in the coming days. We will also work aggressively with the governments of Nepal and the U.S. along with adoption service providers to ensure that the children of Nepal will once again have the right to a family through legal and ethical intercountry adoption.

May 26, 2010

The Department of State has released the following adoption alert regarding pursuing adoption in Nepal:

Caution About Pursuing Adoption in Nepal

The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing adoption in Nepal because of grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files. The Department also strongly discourages adoption service providers from accepting new applications for adoption from Nepal until reforms are made, and asks them to be vigilant about possible unethical or illegal activities under the current adoption system.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law recently released a report on its Intercountry Adoption Technical Assistance Program, based on a visit by a delegate from the Hague Conference’s Permanent Bureau to Nepal in November 2009, available at (http://www.hcch.net/upload/wop/nepal_rpt09.pdf). This report is the result of an independent analysis of Nepal’s intercountry adoption system under the new Terms and Conditions put in place in 2008. The report details a number of weaknesses in Nepal’s adoption system, including ongoing concern about the falsification of documents, improper financial gain, and lack of a child protection system.

Although the U.S. Embassy in Nepal has only seen a handful of adoption cases since the new Terms and Conditions went into effect, we share many of the concerns outlined in the Hague report. As a case in point, in one of the first cases processed by the Government of Nepal after the revision of the Terms and Conditions, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu found that the adopted child was not a true orphan and that the birth parents were actively searching for the child.

We encourage parents who have filed an application with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) in Nepal, but have not yet been matched with a child or received an Adoption Decree issued by the Government of Nepal, to consider a change of countries. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allow one change of country to be made in connection with one’s I-600A application without fee. A request to change countries should be made in writing to the USCIS Field Office where the I-600A was originally filed. More information about how to request a change of country can be found on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov (Any subsequent request for a change of country would require a fee.).

Hague-accredited U.S. adoption services providers, and adoption service providers that may apply for Hague accreditation in the future are reminded that their actions in facilitating and/or processing adoptions in any country (whether Hague or non-Hague) will be evaluated during the Hague accreditation or accreditation renewal processes in accordance with the accreditation regulations (22 CFR Part 96), including whether, among other things, the provider has established and rigorously followed ethical adoption practices and operates in the best interest of prospective adoptive children.

Consular Officers are required to conduct an I-604 investigation to verify the child’s orphan status prior to immigrant visa processing. We generally rely upon the host government’s diligence to protect the safety and interests of their own children through careful administration of their national adoption process and use the I-604 investigation to confirm that this process has been followed. Because Nepal’s adoption process is questionable, it can be very difficult to satisfy the requirements of the I-604 investigation. Thus, these investigations could take a matter of months. Prospective adoptive parents are advised that they need to have flexible travel plans and be prepared to stay in Nepal while awaiting the results of the I-604 investigation or plan to make two trips (one to finalize the adoption and a second after the I-604 investigation is completed to bring their child home.)

When an I-600 is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States, consular officers must then conduct an I-604 investigation once the approved petition reaches the Embassy in Nepal to verify the child’s orphan status prior to immigrant visa processing. For I-600 applications filed at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, the I-604 investigation is initiated after the prospective adoptive parents have appeared before a consular officer to sign the application.

Both DOS and USCIS recognize that it would be preferable for the I-604 investigations to be completed earlier in the process. However, under current procedures, the U.S. Embassy cannot begin the I-604 investigation until the PAPs have filed their I-600 application and have submitted the necessary documents pertaining to the adoptive child, such as police reports, newspaper announcements and certification of orphan status. The Department of State and USCIS are currently in discussion about possible ways to revise the procedures under U.S. Government control to mitigate this problem.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu continues to meet with officials within the Government of Nepal and with other foreign missions concerning the current status of adoptions in Nepal. The February 25, 2010 joint statement issued by the International Adoption Working Group (an ad hoc group of Embassies in Nepal who have an interest in intercountry adoption issues) may be found at http://nepal.usembassy.gov/pr-2-24-2010.html.

Adoptive parents may contact the Embassy at adoptionsnepal@state.gov if they have questions.

Please continue to monitor http://adoption.state.gov for updated information as it becomes available.

May 4, 2010

The Department of State has released the following statement about adoptions from Nepal:

Adoption Alert: Nepal

Caution About Pursuing Adoption in Nepal

May 4, 2010

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu was closed on May 3 and will be closed on May 4 and 5 due to a nationwide strike. The closure may continue thereafter, depending on whether the strike continues and what the situation warrants. The Consular Section has scheduled back-up appointment dates as follows: If you are scheduled for an immigrant visa interview on Tuesday, May 4th, please come for your immigrant visa interview on Friday, May 14 at 13:00. If you are scheduled to pick up your immigrant visa and travel packet on Thursday, May 6th, and the Embassy is closed, please come to pick up your immigrant visa on Thursday, May 13th at 14:00. For additional information regarding consular services, please carefully read the full announcement that is posted on the Embassy’s website at: http://nepal.usembassy.gov/pr-04-30-2010.html. Please continue to monitor the Embassy website for updated information.

The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing adoption in Nepal because of grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files. The Department also strongly discourages adoption service providers from accepting new applications for adoption from Nepal until reforms are made, and asks them to be vigilant about possible unethical or illegal activities under the current adoption system.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law recently released a report on its Intercountry Adoption Technical Assistance Program, based on a visit by a delegate from the Hague Conference’s Permanent Bureau to Nepal in November 2009, available at (http://www.hcch.net/upload/wop/nepal_rpt09.pdf). This report is the result of an independent analysis of Nepal’s intercountry adoption system under the new Terms and Conditions put in place in 2008. The report details a number of weaknesses in Nepal’s adoption system, including ongoing concern about the falsification of documents, improper financial gain, and lack of a child protection system.

Although the U.S. Embassy in Nepal has only seen a handful of adoption cases since the new Terms and Conditions went into effect, we share many of the concerns outlined in the Hague report. As a case in point, in one of the first cases processed by the Government of Nepal after the revision of the Terms and Conditions, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu found that the adopted child was not a true orphan and that the birth parents were actively searching for the child.

We encourage parents who have filed an application with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MWCSW) in Nepal, but have not yet been matched with a child or received an Adoption Decree issued by the Government of Nepal, to consider a change of countries. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allow one change of country to be made in connection with one’s I-600A application without fee. A request to change countries should be made in writing to the USCIS Field Office where the I-600A was originally filed. More information about how to request a change of country can be found on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov (Any subsequent request for a change of country would require a fee.).

Hague-accredited U.S. adoption services providers, and adoption service providers that may apply for Hague accreditation in the future are reminded that their actions in facilitating and/or processing adoptions in any country (whether Hague or non-Hague) will be evaluated during the Hague accreditation or accreditation renewal processes in accordance with the accreditation regulations (22 CFR Part 96), including whether, among other things, the provider has established and rigorously followed ethical adoption practices and operates in the best interest of prospective adoptive children.

Prospective adoptive parents who currently have active files at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and who may already have an approved I-600 (Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative) from a USCIS Domestic Field Office may experience significant difficulties and delays. When an I-600 is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States , consular officers must then conduct an I-604 investigation once the approved petition reaches the Embassy in Nepal to verify the child’s orphan status prior to immigrant visa processing. Depending upon the circumstances of a case, this investigation may take up to several months to complete, even if the I-600 petition is already approved. We generally rely upon the host government’s diligence to protect the safety and interests of their own children through careful administration of their national adoption process and use the I-604 investigation to confirm that this process has been followed. Because the Nepali adoption process is questionable, it can be very difficult to satisfy the requirements of the I-604 investigation. When we cannot do so, we must return the case to USCIS with a recommendation that the I-600 approval be revoked.

Both DOS and USCIS recognize that it would be preferable for the I-604 investigations to be completed earlier in the process. However, under current procedures, the U.S. Embassy cannot begin the I-604 investigation until the prospective adoptive parents have a signed Adoption Decree issued by the Government of Nepal, and the Government of Nepal will not issue an Adoption Decree until the prospective adoptive parents are in Nepal. Thus, prospective adoptive parents are currently faced with the need to either make two trips to Nepal or to spend an extended period in-country while awaiting the results of the I-604 investigation. DOS and USCIS are currently in discussion about possible ways to revise the procedures under U.S. Government control to mitigate this problem.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu continues to meet with officials within the Government of Nepal and with other foreign missions concerning the current status of adoptions in Nepal. The February 25, 2010 joint statement issued by the International Adoption Working Group (an ad hoc group of Embassies in Nepal who have an interest in intercountry adoption issues) http://nepal.usembassy.gov/pr-2-24-2010.html.

Adoptive parents may contact the Embassy at adoptionsnepal@state.gov if they have questions about the status of their case.

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