NFPA Position Statement: U.S. Citizenship For Adoptees From Outside the U.S. by U. S. Citizens

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Whereas from 1945 to the present, infants and children have been and continue to be brought to the United States (U.S.) through adoption, not all children legally adopted by U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to U.S. citizenship. Adopted children who were granted immigration visas for the purpose of entry into the U.S., possess a pathway to citizenship, although for some it is provisional and subject to the action of U.S. citizen parents following the child’s entry to the U.S.  Adopted children who were granted non-immigrant visas for the purpose of entry into the U.S. have no direct pathway to citizenship.

Whereas the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 provided a partial remedy by granting automatic citizenship to some but not all foreign born adopted children. The CCA excluded 3 groups of children legally adopted by U.S. citizens from the automatic citizenship provision of the law: 1) Adoptees who were 18 years or older on the effective date of the law (the CCA applied only to adoptees born after February 27, 1983), 2) children whose adoptions were not completed in the country of their birth and were issued visas for the purpose of completing their adoptions in the U.S. (those issued IR4 and IH4 visas), and 3) those who entered the U.S. on non-immigrant visas.

Whereas, the Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC) has determined that the problem impacts all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and Armed Forces Families. ARC estimates that the current number of children adopted between 1945 to 1998 who entered adulthood without U.S. citizenship ranges from 25,000 to 49,000 adoptees. An additional 7,321-14,643 children adopted from 1999 to 2016 are deemed at-risk of reaching adulthood without U.S. citizenship. These figures do not include children brought to the U.S. for adoption on non-immigrant visas and adoptions after 2016. The total number of children adopted by U.S. citizens living without the protection of U.S. citizenship will increase to a new estimated total of 32,000 to 64,000 adoptees between 2015 and 2033. ARC has verified accounts of adoptees without citizenship from 26 countries, Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Samoa, South Korea, St. Kitts, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Whereas, Adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and federal government representatives were inconsistent in providing pre-and post adoption assistance and information to ensure that all internationally adopted children would receive U.S. citizenship. In addition, parents may have been unaware that their adoption in the foreign country was not considered final by the U.S. federal government and that unless additional steps were taken in the U.S. to complete the adoption and/or naturalization process, their adopted children would reach adulthood without citizenship.

Whereas, if adoptive parents, who are citizens of the U.S., failed or refused to finalize the children’s adoptions and the naturalization process in the U.S., the children have no legal recourse to remedy their citizenship status before the age of 18 on their own after which it may be too late. Some adoptees without citizenship rights have been involved in adoption disruptions or other circumstances which led to their placement in foster care where they reached the age of 18 without successful action to secure their citizenship.

Whereas, without the guarantee of U.S. citizenship, international adoptees face many barriers to successful adult lives – the ability to legally remain in the U.S., the ability to vote, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to participate in or benefit from workman’s compensation or disability benefits in the event of an injury or disability, the opportunity to inherit property as a U.S. citizen from spouses or parents, the ability to adopt a child internationally and naturalize the child as a U.S. citizen, the ability to obtain a passport or drivers’ licenses, full access to veterans benefits for service related injuries, as well as equal protections and privileges afforded children of U.S. citizens under U.S. law. In some cases, adoptees have been deported to their birth countries, where they lack functional language ability, family, a support network of any kind, the ability to work and earn a living necessary to provide for their children, grandchildren and extended family in the U.S.

Be it Resolved that the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA):

  1. Supports United States Citizenship for all children legally adopted by U.S. Citizens.
  2. Requests that the federal government provide a legislative remedy to ensure that all children legally adopted by U.S. citizens who were not covered under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 be given their rights to citizenship immediately.
  3. Requests that the federal government confirm that adoptive parents and adoption agencies take the necessary actions so that all adopted children of U.S. citizens become U.S. citizens.
  4. Expects state and local child welfare agencies to ensure that in the event of a disruption in the adoption process in which children and youth require foster care, the agencies take responsibility to ensure that these children and youth have the citizenship to which they are entitled and if not, the agencies are held accountable to ensure that citizenship is granted.

This statement is commensurate with the NFPA Code of Ethics which includes that all children have the right to parental continuity and commitment, and the legal and social status that comes from having a family and country of one’s own.