This post is a follow-up to the previous post, called “I-600 in the News”.
As you may know, the approval process for Ethiopian adoptions occurs in two steps:
1) Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs declares adoptive parents as the legal parents of an orphan; then
2) The US Embassy agress that the child meets the US definition of orphan, and the family is now allowed to return to the United States.
In March, the Ethiopian government announced a slowdown in the first step of this process as an effort to reduce any possible wrongful placements in reaction to claims of poor practices or coercion. In addition to this slowdown in case processing, new regulations were placed on orphanages and agencies to make sure the children being placed with adoptive families were in fact orphans. Both of these events led to an increased wait time for families waiting for referrals and court dates. (And as fewer children were being referred or approved, fewer children were able to go to orphanages if they were at capacity.)
The Office of Child Issues of the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) did recently post an announcement concerning delays in the second step of the approval process for Ethiopian adoptions. Specifically, many of the I-600 forms, which are Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, have been lacking sufficient evidence (by these new standards) to prove a child’s status. As Angie said in the previous post, “If this paper is not properly documented with the required evidence given, the child is not eligible for adoption under the United States decree.”
My understanding is that the US Embassy is working diligently with families and agencies to make sure each child’s status is properly investigated. They are taking extensive measures to prove a child was either abandoned or that the birth family is truly unable to care for the child.
From my lay perspective, it does not appear that any one agency is experiencing these delays or deeper investigations. They are simply the result of increased scrutiny and the desire of all parties to do what is in the best interest of the children.
In response to this, the USCIS is holding a stakeholder conference call on Friday, October 28 at 10:30am EST. During this call, they will discuss the processing of Ethiopian adoption cases that the US Embassy is declaring “not clearly approvable.” They will explain what this status means, as well as how these cases will be handled from that point. For more information, please click here.
Overall, I am convinced that these additional measures are making the Ethiopia adoption program stronger and better for the children. I imagine these investigations can be very difficult for adopting families. (I realize this is easy for me to say; I am not living through this limbo phase.) However, I have seen cases recently, among friends, that have been approved after extensive investigations.