An estimated 4,000-plus children were left orphaned after the series of deadly quakes that hit the country of Nepal — and a number of well-meaning Americans (including Angelina Jolie, if you believe the rumors) are seeking to adopt them.
There’s just one problem. No, there are at least five problems.
1) Figuring out which children are truly orphans is going to take some time. As U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently cautioned, “It is not uncommon in an emergency for children to be temporarily separated from their parents, other family members or legal guardians. Efforts to reunite such children with family or legal guardians must be given priority.” No one (I hope) wants to bring a child into one’s family only to discover that its real parents want the child back.
2) What transpired after the earthquake in Haiti has left everyone cautious. In that case, many supposed orphans who’d already been airlifted to the U.S. turned out not to be orphans at all, leading the Child Rights International Network to publish this report on, “ADOPTION: EARTHQUAKE ORPHANS – WHAT NEPAL CAN LEARN FROM HAITI.”
3) The U.S. already has a rocky history when it comes to allowing adoptions from Nepal. In 2010, the U. S. Department of State and USCIS stopped processing new adoption cases from Nepal involving children claimed to have been found “abandoned,” because the documentation coming from there wasn’t reliable, and local officials were uncooperative or lied outright. (Abandonment is normally a ground for being considered an “orphan” under U.S. immigration law, along with, “the death or disappearance of, . . . desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents.”) In fact, reports from around the world have criticized Nepal for having an “industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners.”
4) Even in the best of circumstances, U.S. immigration law and procedure makes adopting an orphan from overseas a long and difficult process. See Nolo’s series of articles on “Adopting a Child From Overseas.”
5) According to a report by NBC News, so many families from China want to adopt Nepal’s orphans that any American families will basically have to stand in line.
Fortunately, U.S. news outlets have detailed other, more realistic ways to help Nepal’s quake victims.