NOTE: WHILE THE CONTENTS BELOW ARE MOSTLY TRUE, THE AGENCIES WILL NOT RELEASE THEIR OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS UNTIL THEY HEAR FROM THE FAMILY COURT. THE COURT IS EXPECTED TO RELEASE A FORMAL WRITTEN ANNOUNCEMENT IN A FEW DAYS. I WILL RELAY THAT TO THE READERS WHEN IT IS AVAILABLE.-------------------
Just received a great news from Korea today!
There will be no extended travel requirement for families according to the Family Court judges. In fact most of you will not have to show up at the Family Court. This is truly an answered prayer.
The three agencies in Korea have heard from a judge in the Family Court, and the court has cancelled the appointments for several families that were to appear before the court in April, and decided to go ahead and approve their adoptions.
This is how the process will work:
1. The court will review all the adoption documents of a family that wish to adopt a child from Korea. Before that the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) would approve the family and issue an EP, and all the documents will be forwarded to the Family Court to get reviewed and a judge will conditionally approve the family. In the past years the MOHW was the final approving authority. Under the new adoption law the final approvals will come from the Family Court.
2. A social worker appointed by the Family Court will arrange an interview with baby's birthmother to make sure that she is sure of her decision to give up the baby.
3. Once it is determined that the birthmother does not wish to keep the baby, the 14-day clock starts ticking. Like I mentioned, this is to give the birthmother the time to reconsider her decision. In most cases, the birthmothers will not want their babies back. So in a sense they are given two chances at their babies. They will be given 7 days to change their minds right after the birth. And they will be given one more chance just before the babies are adopted. In truth they have the power to take back their children anytime after the birth to the time of adoption.
4. After the 14-day reconsideration period is over, and the baby is still available, a judge issues the final adoption order, allowing the adoptive family to take their child home.
5. The agency will contact the adoptive family to travel to Korea to pick up their child right after the 14-day period is over.
So a typical family should expect to stay in Korea no more than a week. This is a huge burden lifted for most families that are not able to travel for 3-4 weeks.
During that time in Korea, most of the families will not be required to appear before the judges. I say 'most of the families' because the court reserves the right to summon any family they choose to interview.
However, there still remains the question of adoption finalization and the type of visas issued. One may question whether the adoption order issued by the Korean judges are really the finalization of the adoption process. If so, is it possible to finalize the adoption without seeing the parents in the court? Is this in accordance with the Hague Convention?
Since most of the parents will not be required to appear before the judges (based on today's news from Korea), this could mean that the adoptions are not finalized and the children won't be finalized until they are admitted to the destination countries. In the US, an adoption is typically finalized at an American court six months after the child has arrived. This is the old method of adoption finalization, and this would mean that the children will be issued IR-4 visas.
On the other hand, the IR-3 visa is for the parents have met the children. If the parents were all required to appear before the judges in Korea, then they would be issued IR-3 visas. But since the judges won't meet most of the parents this could mean IR-4 visas instead.
The agencies are not clear on how this will work, but I am sure it will all be ironed out as time goes by. This is a lot less headache to figure out than what all of you were facing before.
We can thank God for answering all of our prayers.