Sunday, July 18, 2010

Humanitarian Parole Program Update

On July 16th, the Joint Council of International Children's Services hosted a conference call for Adoption Service Providers and adoptive families updating them on some important new developments for Haitian children admitted to the US on Humanitarian Parole visas.

The National Benefits Center:
All Humanitarian Parole A-files (your child’s immigrations file) have been transferred to the National Benefits Center. The NBC staff is going through the files to ascertain whether your child should be Category 1 (legal adoption in Haiti completed) or Category 2 (no legal adoption in Haiti).

If you know that you are Category 1, do not request your files back at this time. It will delay the process. If USCIS has already returned your child’s ORIGINAL documents to you, consult with your agency to make sure the NBC gets the documents they need to help you.

Changing categories: if your adoption is now complete in Haiti, after the earthquake:
Some of you have changed categories since your child came home, as our partners in Haiti have continued to process cases. If you now have an adoption decree, the National Benefits Center will need scans of the decree and a certified English translation. You adoption service provider should be able to assist you with the process.  The email address for the NBC is: Nbc.adoptions@dhs.gov

The one case ABI submitted for a change of category was reviewed and upgraded to Category 1 in under 24 hours!

If you are Category 1:
If the NBC determines that your case is a Category 1 case, where your child was legally adopted in Haiti, your child’s file will be sent to the local USCIS field office. The local office will contact you to set up an appointment to file the following forms:
  • I-485 change of status
  • I-600 (if you did not do so already)
  • I-693 medical clearances
Please give your local USCIS field office until September 30th to contact you. After that, your agency can contact them if you have not been given an appointment. If you had a pending I600 in process, you’ll need to keep your fingerprints current

There is an extensive list of documents you'll need to bring to your appointment, just as your Haitian facilitator would have needed to present them to USCIS in Port-au-Prince.  You agency should be able to help you with assembling the documents and providing certified translations as needed.

Forms and Fees:
Even if you already had an approved I-600, you are going to have to file the I485 change of immigrant status form. This form has a $930 filing fee. We strongly advise ABI families that you do NOT ask for the fees to be waived, as claiming that you cannot afford to pay them may cause USCIS to accuse you of fraud in your home study, where you stated that you could afford to adopt, or of not being able to support your child, which would cause them to REFUSE your request for citizenship.

If you paid the fees for your I600-A, you should not have to pay again for your I600, unless you are adopting a second, unrelated child and did not pay the $670 for his I600.

Citizenship:
In some cases, you will receive a Certificate of Citizenship for your child at your appointment. In others, it will arrive by mail within 30 days of your appointment. You will then be able to obtain a US passport and travel internationally with your child.

If you are Category 2:
If you do not have a Haitian adoption decree available to prove your adoption was completed in Haiti, you are Category 2. We’ve been instructed to have you complete your adoptions in your state of residence. Some of you have been able to do so already, with relatively little difficulty. Other states are making the process very difficult, as there has been no proof that anyone with authority has granted you custody of your child. USCIS and ORR are going to remedy that situation within the next few days. ALL HP families will receive a packet of letters, including documentation from ORR stating that your child is in ORR’s legal custody, and that ORR is granting you formal consent to adopt your child.

You do not need to keep your fingerprints current with USCIS. You will have to contact the NBC to get copies or your original documents from Haiti – they will NOT be sent to you automatically.

USCIS is reaching out to all the State court judges so they understand the program.  At a recent national conference for all State court juvenile judges, USCIS attended and presented to all of the judges so that they could understand how to grant adoptions for the HP kids.

After you have legally adopted your child in your state of residence, you will still need to file for US Citizenship. At this time, you cannot do so until you can prove two years of legal and physical custody of your child. You will need to file the forms as listed for the Category 1 families, above.

Legislation:
The Help Haiti act has been introduced simultaneously in the House of Representative and the Senate. It would allow Category 2 families to apply for an adjustment of status immediately. We’ll keep you posted on any news, and of course you can always check the Joint Council website (www.jointcouncil.org).

 Traveling Overseas:
It is technically possible to travel out of the country with your paroled child and return, using form I131. It is a discretionary request for permission to leave the US and return. However as it is discretionary, generally granted only for emergencies, and does not have to be honored by the foreign country to which you have traveled, ABI very strongly recommends that our families do not leave the US with their children until they have proof of full US Citizenship.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ABI Webinars

This week marks the six month anniversary of the disaster that brought even greater suffering to Haiti, a nation already on its knees. The state of child welfare was perilous before January 12th, with a 10% mortality rate in children under age 4 and an estimated 7% enslaved. Things are worse now. The need for permanent families for children with no options left in Haiti is great.

Historically, the French people have completed over 50% of international adoptions of Haitian children each year. The French government has now issued a moratorium prohibiting its citizens from beginning new adoptions in Haiti. The United States must help to fill the void, or children will die or be left to waste away in institutions.

All Blessings International will conduct two webinars next week with a general overview of Haitian adoptions, the outlook for the future, and caveats. These are not ‘recruiting sessions’ intended to encourage PAPs to choose our program over others, but rather a general information session for all agencies with interested families and families themselves to hear an update and ask questions. Other Joint Council member agencies with established programs in Haiti are encouraged to join in and participate in the question and answer session at the end of the call. Joint Council has several member agencies who have worked as a team to save the children of Haiti, and we will continue to do so now that the need is greater than ever.

Please share the following dates with your friends, families, staff, and local home study agencies:

Monday, July 19th at 1:00 pm CST
Dial-in Number:
1-218-936-4700 (Midwest)
Participant Access Code:
540699
SharePlus Link:
Enter SharePlus


And again on

Wednesday, July 21st at 7:00 pm CST
Dial-in Number:
1-218-936-4700 (Midwest)
Access Code:
540699
SharePlus Link:
Enter SharePlus

If you are having trouble viewing or following the links for the webinars in this email, please email mandy@allblessings.org for an invitation.

Please, help us help them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Terrible News for Haitian Adoptions

We who work in adoptions in Haiti have the opposite frustration of many of our colleagues. In other countries, prospective adoptive families must often wait months or even years for the referral of a child. The waiting is hard on those anxious to become parents. But in Haiti it is very often the children who wait months or even years for somebody to love and trust. The worst part of my job is trying to answer a child's heartbroken questions: "Why haven't you found me a family yet? Will I ever have a family?"

I fear I may have to answer that one more frequently in the months to come.

Historically, the French people have adopted over half of the children placed in intercountry adoptions from Haiti. France has now suspended new Haitian adoptions for her citizens. Those in process may finish and bring their children home, but no new adoptions may be begun. A friend of Haitian children at the State Department shared the following link:

http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/actions-france_830/adoption-internationale_2605/pays-origine_3233/fiches-pays_3895/haiti_9607.html

Terrible news indeed. The need for adoptive families is greater than ever. Even more families are homeless. Relatives are lost. Mothers have died. Haitian culture is often not comfortable with the disabled - children missing limbs or even just a hand or a foot may be rejected by society.

Thankfully the US has no intentions of closing Haitian adoptions (see the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues website) at this time, nor does the Haitian government seem to have any wish to close them on their end. However, now that the French cannot serve Haitian children in need of permanent families, the need for adoptive families from other countries is more urgent than ever. We cannot abandon them to grow up warehoused in institutions. Even the best orphanage on earth... is still just an orphanage. Every child deserves a family. Love is perhaps the most fundamental human right.