Federal legislation in the 117th US Congress. This is an archived page and no longer reflects active legislation. For the most current federal legislative action go to Adoptees United.
Go To: Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 | Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act | Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act | Safe Home Act of 2021 | National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act | Children in Family Security Act of 2021
Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021
Important Update as of July 29, 2022. A stripped-down and different version of the Adoptee Citizenship Act was added to the House COMPETES Act, a largely unrelated technology bill. That bill passed the House and its companion bill also passed the Senate (though without any adoptee citizenship provisions). While a conference committee worked on differences between the two bills, the final version of a bill did not include intercountry adoptee citizenship provisions. More information, current status, and a FAQ on the issue is here. The adoptee citizenship bills listed below (HR1593 and S967) technically remain active in this session though it’s unclear if they will move toward independent consideration.
HR1593/S967 [PDF Copy] The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 is a critical piece of federal legislation that closes a discriminatory loophole in US immigration law, one that denies U.S. citizenship to thousands of intercountry adoptees who decades ago were legally adopted by U.S. citizen parents. The loophole relates primarily to the age of the adoptee, denying automatic citizenship to those born prior to February 27, 1983, though other loopholes continue to exist. Most of of the pre-1983 adoptees must either naturalize or find a different path to secure U.S. citizenship. Critically, adoptees who have not already secured citizenship or have barriers to citizenship remain subject to U.S. immigration action and possible deportation to countries they have never known. The House bill has been referred for consideration by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. The Senate bill is currently assigned to the Committee on Judiciary.
The joint press release from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Congressman John Curtis (R-UT), the joint House sponsors, is here. Senators introduced S967 on March 26, announcing six sponsors already in place. Senator Blunt’s press release is here.
Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act
S117. A bill that requires the Department of State to establish a thirteen member advisory committee to “develop, at the request of the Secretary [of State], recommendations for improvements to intercountry adoption.” The committee must include members who represent adoption service providers (ASPs), adoptive families, adoptees, adoption attorneys, social workers, representatives of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Department of State. Senator Amy Klobuchar is the primary sponsor of the bill, which has been introduced in prior sessions of Congress. It has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
HR485. This comprehensive federal child-welfare bill has already passed the House on a vote of 345-73 and has crossed over to the Senate for consideration. Part of the bill would make unregulated custody transfers a form of child abuse and neglect under federal child-welfare law, defining an unregulated custody transfer as a placement with a non-relative or otherwise unfamiliar adult, with the intention of severing the parental or guardian relationship with the child, without reasonably ensuring the child’s safety, and without legally transferring parental or guardian rights. The bill specifically references the risk of intercountry adoptees “not acquiring United States citizenship if an unregulated custody transfer occurs before the adoptive parents complete all necessary steps to finalize the adoption of such child.” HR485 also requires, among other provisions, a study on “adoption outcomes and the factors (including parental substance use disorder) affecting those outcomes.”
CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2021
S1297. As part of a larger bill reauthorizing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), S1297 includes provisions that define unregulated custody transfers (often referred to as “rehoming” in adoption) and requires assistance to states and a report on unregulated custody transfers within a year of the bill’s enactment.
Safe Home Act of 2021
HR1247/S397. Makes unregulated custody transfers a form of child abuse and neglect under federal child-welfare law. Specifically, an unregulated custody transfer occurs when a child is placed with a non-relative or otherwise unfamiliar adult, with the intention of severing the parental or guardian relationship with the child, without reasonably ensuring the child’s safety, and without legally transferring parental or guardian rights. See S1297, above, for a bill with similar provisions.
National Foster Care and Adoption Home Study Act
HR4052/S2167 This bill, sponsored in the House by Congressman Jared Huffman of California and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a voluntary national home study standard and database. It is a demonstration project, funded by the federal government.
Children in Family Security Act of 2021
S.3280. This is a rather embarrassing bill for the United States, as it ignores the serious issues concerning intercountry adoptees (see bills above) and seeks to restructure the entire intercountry adoption process in the U.S. with generally one goal in mind: increasing intercountry adoption to the United States. It restructures the Department of State’s current organization around intercountry adoption (here is a flowchart to show how it would work out), establishes a new central authority for intercountry adoption, and sets priorities in the Department of State and USAID to assist foreign countries to implement better child welfare systems—but with a specific “fully developed option” of intercountry adoption.
Prior Sessions/Dead Bills
HR1952/S938. Intercountry Adoption Information Act of 2019. Passed. These bills seek to amend the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 “to require the Secretary of State to report on intercountry adoptions from countries which have significantly reduced adoption rates involving immigration to the United States, and for other purposes.” The House passed HR1952 unanimously on May 20 and the Senate passed the Act by unanimous consent on September 30, 2020.
S363. The Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act of 2019. This is a repeat bill from prior sessions. It would create an advisory committee to make recommendations about intercountry adoptions to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The bill did not advance.
HR.5233/S.2522: Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018. This would have closed a date-based loophole in prior legislation from 2001. HR5222/S2522 would have provided automatic citizenship to nearly all adult adoptees, including those who were born prior to March 1983. The bills, however, had exceptions for adoptees—adopted by US citizens— who had been deported for specific crimes. Both bills died without having been heard.
S.2275/HR.5454: Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015. Introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar in the Senate and later by Representative Adam Smith in the House, these bills would have closed the date-based loophole from 2001 legislation. The bills would have provided automatic citizenship to nearly all adult adoptees, including those who were born prior to February 27, 1983. The bills, however, required criminal background checks, issuance of visas, and lawful admission for any adoptees who were not already lawfully present in the United States at the time of the bills’ enactment.
HR2883: Child Citizenship Act of 2000. HR2883 became law in 2001 and provided automatic citizenship to certain intercountry adoptees, specifically to those who were born on or after February 27, 1983. The law has other requirements, including those related to US citizen adoptive parents; the age at which the child is adopted; the adoptee’s lawful admission to the U.S. through an immigrant visa; and the necessity of the adopted child to reside with the adoptive US citizen parent for a specified time. The law’s loophole that excludes older adoptees from automatic citizenship has led to significant issues for many of those adoptees.