Campaign For Orphans


With the Presidential elections fast approaching, we watch as everyone expresses their opinions on the need for reform. From the Republican Democratic Debates to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, it is obvious that there is something that everyone is passionate about to improve lives and the current state of affairs.

For us in the adoption world, we are constantly striving to improve the rights of orphans. The US has done a fantastic job of taking action to bring orphaned children to the US through the international adoption process. The aftermath of WWII and the Vietnam War brought to light the number of orphaned children in war torn countries and US families began adopting these children. The passing in 1961 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provided regulation for children being adopted internationally. The “Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative” allowed children adopted abroad by US citizens to obtain visas to enter into the US and become US citizens. The “Orphan Visa” regulations, as originally written, are still in use today to determine if a child can be classified as an orphan and a visa granted.

While this federal regulation has paved the way for thousands of children to be adopted by US citizens, there is much room for reform. The Foreign Affairs Manual’s (9 FAM), which is used to interpret the definition of orphan, language is outdated and deprives some children of the opportunity to be adopted by US citizens and immigrate to the US. The following excerpt is one example:

“…. a father may not be considered to be a child’s “sole” parent, and therefore could only release a child for emigration and adoption if he is a “surviving” parent.”

Current law only allows for the mother of the child to be considered a “sole” parent and thus surrender the child for adoption. A father is only able to relinquish custody if he is a “surviving parent.” In a nut shell, if the mother has abandoned the child and father has cared for the child and subsequently is unable to do so, he cannot consent to the adoption of the child as the sole parent.

In a country that fights against discrimination, this interpretation clearly discriminates against fathers; fathers who have tried to care for a child while a birth mother has turned her back on the child. A father who is seeking a better life for his child cannot make this decision. In discriminating against the father, are we not also discriminating against this child?

What can you do? Write to your congressman for change to this outdated interpretation and modify it to allow these children to be adopted and immigrate to the US with a father’s consent. If he has solely cared for this child, why shouldn’t he be able to consent to an adoption? Let your voices be heard on behalf of the world’s forgotten children. As Steve Jobs said, “Put a dent in the universe.” Make a difference and, speak on behalf of those who have no voice. After all, one of these children may be the next Einstein and dramatically change our world for the better.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptionsā€™ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.