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Alert: Suspension of Adoptions of Abandoned Children in Nepal FAQs
Q. Why is the United States government suspending adoptions from Nepal?
A. The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have decided to suspend processing of new adoption cases from Nepal that involve children who are claimed to have been found abandoned, because documents presented in support of the abandonment of these children in Nepal have been found to be unreliable and circumstances of alleged abandonment cannot be verified because of obstacle in the investigation of individual cases.
Q: Adoptive parents have received immigrant visas for their Nepali children from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu as recently as a few weeks ago. What has changed since then?
A. A review of recently processed cases established a disturbing pattern indicating that available documentation cannot be relied upon to make determinations that a child reported abandoned qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
Q: Why are cases being handled differently than the cases previously approved. Why the change in the standard of evidence being applied in abandonment cases?
A. The evidentiary standard remains the same. Each case is adjudicated individually, based on the information provided to support the child's orphan status and the consular officer's determination at that time of the validity of supporting documents.
Q: Does the suspension apply to all cases or only to cases in which a child was allegedly found abandoned?
A. The suspension applies only to cases where a child is alleged to have been found abandoned.
Q. When is the suspension going into effect?
A. The suspension is effective as of August 6, 2010, for all new adoption cases involving children from Nepal who have been reported abandoned.
Q. What is a "new" adoption case that will be covered by the suspension?
A. The suspension applies to cases in which the Government of Nepal has not issued an official referral letter to prospective adoptive parents to propose a match with a specific child from Nepal who has been reported abandoned. If the Government of Nepal has issued the referral letter prior to August 6, 2010 the case will be considered in the pipeline of existing cases and will continue to be processed. If no such referral letter has been issued prior to August 6,2010 the case will be suspended.
Q. Based on what authority is the U.S. Government suspending adoptions from Nepal?
A. The Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable. Without reliable documentation, such children cannot meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. Based on this determination and obstacles in the investigation process the U.S. Government has suspended the processing of new adoption cases that involve children who are reported abandoned.
Q. What evidence does the U.S. Government have to support the suspension?
A. The Department of State's ongoing interactions with the Government of Nepal and the review of numerous cases, including field visits to orphanages and police stations, led them to conclude that information regarding how children arrive at orphanages is consistently inadequate and that documents presented to establish that a child was found abandoned are unreliable. Investigations of abandonment cases have been hampered by the unavailability of officials involved in reports of abandonment, and police and orphanage officials' refusals to allow consular officers access to police and orphanage records.
Q. What problems has the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu encountered in attempting to verify whether a Nepali child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law?
A. Official documents are often unreliable. In some instances, we suspect that they have been generated in order to conceal relevant facts or details. In the course of our inquiries into specific cases, we encountered recurring problems with police and orphanage records.
Police reports on child abandonments are often difficult to verify. In specific cases, we have encountered the following anomalies:
- Officers often cannot are unwilling to verify or corroborate details they have written in their reports.
- Police officers often refuse to discuss the circumstances of a reported abandonment.
- Police reports often refer only to "unknown persons" as the source of key information; the reports provide no indication of whether the information provided by these "unknown persons" has been verified or investigated.
- Police officers often state that they have written a report based on the request of other police officials, without actually seeing the child or knowing if a child was truly abandoned.
- Police officers give conflicting testimony regarding the alleged abandonment. In our review of orphanage records and statements from orphanage personnel about abandoned children, we have encountered similar problems with the unreliability or unavailability of information. In some cases, orphanage directors and employees denied any knowledge of the circumstances of the child's abandonment, making it almost impossible to assess the child's situation accurately. For example:
- Directors have claimed not to remember any circumstances of a specific child's arrival at the orphanage and to have no knowledge of anyone who might have such information.
- Directors have provided inconsistent or self-contradictory information about the children in their orphanages.
- Directors have often claimed to have few or no written records to document the children's social, developmental, or medical history.
- Orphanages' officials have claimed that previous directors with years of experience and potential knowledge of a case have left Nepal with no forwarding contact information.
Q. What are some examples of problems that indicate that a child said to have been abandoned actually had living birth parents?
A. In some cases where orphanage directors claimed to have no knowledge of the biological parents' identity and whereabouts, investigations later revealed that the biological parents agreed to the child being placed in an orphanage, but never consented to the child's adoption. The biological parents later returned to the orphanage to claim and care for the child. In other examples, the child was documented as being abandoned, but investigations found that the biological parents were completely unaware that the child was being placed for adoption.
Q. Has the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu brought its concerns to the attention of Government of Nepal adoption officials?
A. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu has raised its concerns with high ranking officials of the Nepali Government, on a bilateral basis and jointly with other embassies. However, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare officials have informed Embassy officials that although it "know[s] there are problems" with the current system, they do not believe they have the authority or capacity to resolve the problems. The Government of Nepal does not appear to have the ability or willingness to address widespread corruption in the adoption process among government officials, including police officers.
The Government of Nepal exerts no effective oversight over the work of orphanage directors and adoption facilitators. Legal requirements for relinquishment by single mothers are regularly disregarded through falsified records of abandonment, with many children commonly reported as "found on the street." The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare makes no attempt to verify or investigate information provided by police and child study reports.
Q. Has the U.S. Government made any effort to address the problems with the Government of Nepal?
A. The U.S. Government, in cooperation with other countries that are active in intercountry adoptions, has consistently encouraged the Government of Nepal to ratify and implement the Hague Adoption Convention. Nepal is a signatory to the Convention. We have also urged the Government of Nepal toimplement the recommendations made by the Hague Permanent Bureau Intercountry Technical Assistance Program (ICATAP) as a first step toward fulfilling its commitment as a signatory to the Convention. We believe that the Hague Adoption Convention incorporates the best practices in intercountry adoption, which are intended to protect the rights of the children and the families involved in intercountry adoption.
Q: Will there be any exceptions to the suspension?
A. No. Prospective adoptive parents who the Government of Nepal has matched with a child reported abandoned after August 6, 2010, will not receive a decision on a petition for that child.
Q. Are there any cases in Nepal that do not involve children reported abandoned?
A. Not at the present time. However, in the case of a relinquishment by known birth parent(s), the application would be processed under normal procedures. DNA evidence may be necessary to establish the relationship between the birth parent(s) and child.
Q. When will adoptions from Nepal resume?
A. We are unable to predict when adoptions involving children who are reported abandoned in Nepal will be able to resume. We encourage the Government of Nepal to implement sufficient protections to ensure the integrity of the intercountry adoption process.
Q. What will happen to families who are already matched with a child from Nepal?
A. The suspension applies to abandonment cases in which the prospective adoptive parents have not yet been matched with a child from Nepal. The Government of Nepal's Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare issues an official "referral letter" to inform prospective adoptive parents of a proposed match. If the Government of Nepal has issued the official referral letter prior to August 6, 2010, the case will be processed to conclusion. In light of concerns regarding the validity of documents supporting abandonment cases in Nepal, the cases will be carefully investigated and only those in which there is sufficient credible evidence to conclude a child has been found abandoned will be approved. If consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu determine that a case is not clearly approvable, they are required to forward the Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, to the USCIS office in New Delhi for review. USCIS and the Department of State will process each case individually, based on the evidence presented and the results of the investigation. If additional information is required to complete the processing of any particular case, USCIS will request additional evidence specific to the facts of that particular case, and the prospective adoptive parents will have an opportunity to respond.
Q. How many cases are in the "pipeline"?
A. Based on information provided by the Government of Nepal, we estimate that there are approximately 80 cases in which U.S. families have been matched with a child in Nepal, but in which the Form I-600 petition has not been adjudicated or a visa has not been issued.
Q. We understand that the Department of State does not recommend that prospective adoptive parents in the pipeline travel to Nepal to finalize their adoptions at this time, but the Government of Nepal requires prospective adoptive parents to travel to Nepal to finalize their adoptions within 60 day of receiving the Ministry of Women and Child Social Welfare's travel authorization or they will lose their referral. Has the Government of Nepal indicated that it is willing to extend the 60 days PAPs have to finalize their adoption in Nepal?
A. The Government of Nepal has told the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu verbally that it is willing to extend the 60 day period to give the Embassy the opportunity to complete its I-604 investigation. The Embassy is attempting to get this assurance in writing from the Government of Nepal.
Q. I have heard that I can perform a "private" adoption from Nepal and/or I have heard that I can choose a child with whom to be matched. Is this true?
A. No. According to Nepalese law and regulation, all matching must be done by a blind matching committee with no input from the orphanages, adoption service providers, or prospective adoptive parents. The GON does not allow private adoptions; all adoptions must be processed through a GON-licensed orphanage and an adoption service provider authorized by the GON to conduct adoptions in Nepal. If the Consular Section at U.S. Embassy Kathmandu has reason to believe that the GON laws have not been followed, they provide this information to USCIS as part of the I-604 investigation.
Q. Can a family that has begun the process of adopting in Nepal decide to adopt a child from a different country now?
A. Yes. If prospective adoptive parents have already filed or received approval of a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, that specifies Nepal as the country from which they intend to adopt, they are permitted to request one no-fee change of country. If the prospective adoptive parents have already filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a Nepali child, they may withdraw the petition. Upon withdrawal of the petition, the prospective adoptive parents may request a change of country and file another Form I-600 petition on behalf of a different child, as long as their Form I-600A approval remains valid.
Q. What are other countries that process adoptions of Nepali orphans doing?
A. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have recently suspended adoptions in Nepal based on similar concerns.