The California legislature sent a bill to Governor Gavin Newsom last week that promises to provide additional protections for intercountry adoptees adopted by US citizens and who reside in California. Championed by California Assembly Member Steven Choi, here’s what AB677 does:
- Requires California residents who have “finalized an intercountry adoption in a foreign country” to “readopt” the child in a California court within 60 days of arriving in the United States or by the child’s 16th birthday, whichever is earlier;
- Makes the adoption agency handling the matter responsible for the readoption in California court if the adoptive parents fail to do so, giving the agency 90 days after the child’s entry in the United States to do so;
- Makes adoptive parents liable to the adoption agency if they fail to complete a readoption in a California court and the agency is compelled to complete the final adoption;
- Requires courts to report to authorities any suspected human trafficking in relation to the child;
- Requires specific documents to accompany a petition to readopt in California court, including an updated post-placement home study, certified copy of a foreign certificate of birth, and proof of lawful entry into the United States.
- Requires the adoption agency handling the adoption to report the adoption to the California Department of Social Services within 14 days of the child’s arrival in California;
- Impose enforcement actions against adoption agencies that fail to adhere to the law.
The added protections attempt to compel a critical last step for automatic US citizenship for many intercountry adoptees: finalizing the adoption in a US court. The bill, though, does not directly address adoptions for which the child enters the country generally on an IR-4 or IH-4 immigrant visa, one that is issued when there was not a full and final adoption in the country of origin. Generally, under current law, children who were fully and finally adopted in the foreign country and enter the US on an IR-3 or IH-3 immigrant visa become citizens automatically upon entry, without the need to finalize the adoption in the United States. Those who are not fully and finally adopted in their country of origin receive an IR-4 or IH-4 visa and do not receive automatic US citizenship until the adoption is finalized in the United States.
By its terms, the bill does not appear to apply to a core class of intercountry adoptees who have been vulnerable to lapses or negligence on the part of adoptive parents—i.e., adoptees who were not fully and finally adopted in their country of origin and whose adoptions must be finalized in the United States. In such cases, the adoptive parents are instead granted custody of the child for purposes of emigration and adoption but must then finalize the adoption once the child is in the United States. It’s not clear how the bill, if enacted, will be used to require a final adoption of such cases in a California court.
Assembly Member Choi was motivated by the saga of Adam Crapser, a Korean intercountry adoptee whose adoptive parents had not taken measures to secure his US citizenship before he became an adult. He was later deported to Korea after being convicted of a criminal offense. The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 is currently pending in Congress and would close the loophole that prevents tens of thousands of adult intercountry adoptees from becoming automatic US citizens.
Deb Madey says
I am interested in learning your position on adoption of children through foster care. I am a kinship adoptee, Kinship adoptive parent, and GAL. The frequency of legal battles between foster caregivers who seek to adopt the child placed with them and kinship who seek a transition of placement of the child to a relative home is growing at an alarming rate. Many hopeful adoptive parents who are unable to conceive, and find private adoption or IVF expensive or otherwise not viable, seek to become foster caregivers solely for the purpose of adoption. When kinship surface, in support of RU of the bio family, or permanency if RU is not achieved, they are frequently met by foster caregivers who fight transition to kin. As an adoptee and attorney, what is your viewpoint on this ever increasing case?
Gregory D. Luce says
It’s a solid question and I have to answer it in two ways: 1) my work focus is on adult adoptees, exclusively. So that means adopted persons who are having issues generally with identity documents and citizenship. So, my professional focus is on the “backend” of adoption, when the adoptee is an adult; and 2) personally I believe strongly in family preservation and kinship care if the core family cannot currently care for a child. I’ve been a GAL myself in the past as well as an attorney for older children in CHIPS proceedings and foster care. My focus at all times was on family preservation and pushing for kinship care or, if the child aged out of foster care, making sure extended benefits went with that child, who was soon to be an adult.
I recently became interested in citizenship issues as they are related to adoption. I’m far more concerned with the adopted person’s loss of citizenship in their home countries than I am in them gaining citizenship in the countries where they are taken to live. Over 3000 American born individuals lost were stripped of their US citizenship when they were adopted out of the welfare system and taken abroad. A staggering 333,000 individuals lost citizenship in their countries of birth when they were taken by force from their home countries and brought to the United States. I mean the only other reason countries will take away someone’s citizenship in their country of birth is high treason. Taking away someone’s citizenship is right there next to execution in terms of punishment that a government can dole out and yet it’s done to minors with regularity by governments simply to offload the financial burden of caring for wards of the court. It should not be like that. Minors should not have to pay for their care and keep by having their basic rights stripped from them so that they can be recycled into new people in old bodies. If children are taken from their home countries to be raised by someone other than family, they should retain their names, identities, legal rights withing their families and also their citizenship in their home countries. If they want to change their names or want to become United States citizens, that should be their personal choice made when they are legally adults and can understand the gravity of the situation. I think it should be an easy and uncomplicated process for adopted adults to become citizens if they choose to do so, but it should be entirely up to them, when they are adults. They should not have to loose their citizenship in their home countries just to receive food and shelter and care until they are 18. There are programs where people can ‘try out’ an orphan for a summer….why can’t that be for longer than a summer and then they can choose to change their name and citizenship without having to change their birth certificates?