Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Amendment #1222: Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment

This is a very important  and good news...Thanks to my friend Daniel Lee, Attorney at Law for providing me with this great information. - Steve Morrison
Amendment #1222: Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment
Sponsored by Senator Landrieu,
Co-Sponsored by Senator Coats, Senator Blunt and Senator Klobuchar
Passed the Senate unanimously by voice vote on June 18, 2013
The bipartisan Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment provides technical but important fixes to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) so that that the automatic citizenship provisions of this bill apply to all foreign born adoptees of American citizen parents. The amendment also makes two technical fixes to the CCA and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
What the Amendment Does...
Ø Provides automatic U.S. citizenship to all foreign-born children lawfully adopted by U.S. families who turned 18 years old before the effective date of the CCA (February 27, 2001).
The intent of the CCA was to ensure that all internationally adopted children of American parents receive automatic U.S. citizenship just as they would have received citizenship if they had been born abroad to the same American parents. However, the CCA currently only applies to adoptees that were under the age of 18 when the bill went into effect on February 27, 2001. Adoptees over the age of 18 on the effective date, whose parents had failed to naturalize them during their minority, did not receive automatic citizenship. All adoptees are entitled to citizenship as children of U.S. citizens, and due to no fault of their own, many did not receive it during their minority and as a result have trouble applying for a passport, license, student financial aid and in some cases have even been deported to the country in which they were born. The Landrieu Amendment eliminates the age limit in the CCA so that the law retroactively applies to all international adoptees of American citizens, versus just those adoptees who were under the age of 18 on February 27, 2001.
Ø Clarifies language in the CCA so that eligible children need only be "physically present" in the U.S. versus "residing" in the U.S. for their citizenship to accrue.
This provision is a technical fix that amends the CCA requirement that an adoptee be "residing" permanently in the U.S. in order for his or her citizenship to attach to simply being "physically present" in the U.S. for citizenship to attach. This clarification benefits adoptees of American families whose work requires them to live overseas such as those in the military or on the mission field.
Ø Modifies the INA so that only one adoptive parent—not both—must travel overseas to visit a child during the intercountry adoption process for the child to qualify for the type of visa that leads to automatic U.S. citizenship upon entry (IR-3).
Currently, the INA requires that an adopted child be personally seen by both adoptive parents (if married), in order for the child to receive an IR3 visa that confers citizenship as soon as the child enters the U.S. (instead of entering on an IR4 visa, which requires re-adoption before citizenship attaches). This is particularly significant since adoptees who enter the U.S. on IR3 visas receive automatic U.S. citizenship under the CCA. Those who enter on IR3 visas do not have to go through the unnecessary expense of re-adopting domestically or pay the hefty fees and file the paperwork for a Certificate of Citizenship. This amendment requires that only one adoptive parent—not both—must travel overseas to visit a child during the intercountry adoption process for the child to qualify for the IR3 visa.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Brian Conyer and the Connect-A-Kid Program

I met Brian Conyer, an adoptee who founded the Connect-A-Kid, a mentorship program matching adult adoptee mentors with kids adopted from Korea, sort of big brother/big sisters type of program.  MPAK is very proud to partner with Connect-A-Kid, and help Brian and his team with this unique program.  Brian's dream is to go national on this as he had a successful pilot program started in Denver, and another one starting soon in the LA area.

Here Brian shares his adoption experience, and how the Connect-A-Kid got started.


Start of Connect-A-Kid

By: Brian Conyer

I was just minutes away from what was to be the most intense and emotional experience of my life.  I remember riding the escalator to the lobby floor of the Korean train station emotionless and detached from the situation.  The state of calm ended abruptly, however, as five tiny Korean women bombarded me before I even had the chance to take both feet off of the escalator.  These crying women with blood-shot red eyes pulled on me from all angles as they yelled at me in a foreign language.  I could faintly hear my social worker in the background translating unfamiliar words; however, none of this commotion and chaos mattered to me. 

My attention was focused on the figure standing five feet in front of me.  My breathing became erratic and chills coursed through my body ending at each of my extremities. Regardless of the feebleness in my body, I never broke eye contact with this man that stood directly in front of me.  I remember thinking how the man resembled a mirror image of me, but thirty years in the future.  The name of the man that stood in front of me was Cho, and he was my biological father.

The experience of meeting a biological parent is not a conventional achievement for most people.  For an international adoptee like me, the event is quite the accomplishment in both an impractical and emotional sense.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to have gone through and successfully completed the adoption birth family search. 

For the majority who search, the typical result is an unsuccessful reunion in which the adoptee is left frustrated and hopeless.  Then again, the intentions behind my search for my biological parents may have been different than those of the typical adoptee.  I did not search with the intention to establish any sort of future relationship; in fact, I have not had any communication with my biological birth father since meeting him years ago.  I did not search out of resentment or solitude.  I believe I sought out my biological father for closure on a chapter of my life that, for the entirety of my adolescence, I didn’t realize needed closure. 

The experience of meeting my biological father, although overall positive, helped me to realize how fortunate I am to be adopted.  I learned on my trip that my birth father and I have very different outlooks on life.  I recognized how difficult my life could have been had I grown up in his household.  At the end of our meeting, I politely smiled at him and thanked him for giving me up for adoption.

I had a lot to think about when I returned home from my trip to Korea.  Throughout the following months, I found myself reflecting on the sacrifices made by my adoptive parents in order to give me a better life.  For the first time, I truly appreciated my parents and recognized their selflessness and generosity.  
Brian Conyer when he was a kid, with his two older sisters also adopted from Korea.
Brian Conyer's Family
I also thought about the influence of my two older sisters, who were also adopted from Korea, and the overwhelming support they provided me at every stage in my life.  I now had a deep-seeded appreciation for adoption and I was compelled to become involved in the adoption community as a way to express my gratitude for the opportunities I was given.  

My personal adoption journey eventually led me to Connect-A-Kid, a nonprofit organization I founded that provides team-based mentorship to adopted children.  I can speak firsthand to the benefits of having older adoptees around.  The positive influence of my two older adopted sisters undeniably shaped the man I’ve become.  
My vision is to have every adopted child connected to an adult adoptee.  Connect-A-Kid will connect the adoption community through mentorship, embrace cultural diversity, and celebrate adoption.  After a successful six month pilot program in Denver, Connect-A-Kid is proud to announce the official kickoff in Los Angeles on August 24, 2013. 

Adoptees and parents that participated in the Connect-A-Kid pilot program in Denver.
Connect-A-Kid: Mentoring the Adoption Community
At an early age in my life, I learned that families are not necessarily defined by blood, but by love. It is this fundamental belief that inspires me to make Connect-A-Kid available to all adopted children. Several years ago, I experienced something life-changing: I reunited with my biological parents. The experience of meeting my birth parents, although overall positive, had an unexpected outcome. Rather than wanting to establish a relationship with my biological parents, I instead wanted to further strengthen my relationship with my (adoptive) parents. The experience reinforced the importance of adoption in my life and, as a result, my appreciation and passion for adoption increased exponentially.
Connect-A-Kid is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by a Korean adult adoptee that provide a team-based mentorship program for internationally adopted children. The primary goals of the organization are to connect the adoption community through mentorship, embrace cultural diversity, and celebrate adoption. We serve the child first, but we are also a resource to the entire family.
How Connect-A-Kid Works: Our team-based approach to mentoring gives adopted children the unique opportunity to engage with multiple adult adoptee role models and make friends with other adopted children who will hopefully turn into lifelong connections. Each Connect-A-Kid team consists of eight members: four adult adoptee role models, and four adopted children of similar ages. Every team meets monthly for a planned activity. (A $20 donation fee from participating families directly funds the monthly activities.)
Where Connect-A-Kid Mentors: After a successful pilot with our Denver Connect-A-Kid Team, the organization is ready to launch in the following U.S. cities:
- Los Angeles, CA
- Orange County, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- New York City, NY
- Washington, DC
- Chicago, IL
- Detroit, MI
- Orlando, FL
- Hartford, CT
Save the Date: We are launching our Southern California Connect-A-Kid Mentor Teams (Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego) onAugust 24th, 2013! The event will be hosted by the LA Fire Department in San Pedro, CA. There will be lots of games and activities, including a special surprise from the LAFD, for the kids! Our Southern California Launch is an event that you don’t want to miss! There are still a few open slots, so please visit www.connectakid.orgto enroll your child.
Cheers to adoption!
Brian Conyer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Report From the Family Court

I heard a report coming out of the family court in Korea.  The judges were very touched by the kind words of encouragements expressed by many adoptive families that have responded to the MPAK's blog.  MPAK gathered many comments and they were sent over to them.  Thanks to Junhyung Lee for the translation.  This feedbacks to the judges was the second one I sent.

Since the first group of parents was summoned by the judges on May 31st, they have met many ICA adoptive families.  The judges were very impressed with the adoptive families they met.  A judge confessed that in some cases she was moved to tears when witnessing the love displayed by the visiting adoptive families.

On May 29th, there was a discussion in the family court regarding adoptive parents’ medical reports. The judges were concerned about few parents that might have history of substance and alcohol abuse. While their doctors at home may have declared them healthy from substance abuse and alcoholic problems, the judges wanted to make sure the ‘healthy’ declaration is not just temporary condition but permanent ones. 

As for the ICA, the court has decided that children should receive IR-3 visas to make sure they get the citizenship immediately. As for IR-4, while the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 guarantees the receipt of citizenship upon finalization of adoption, and there is no chance of deportation to worry, the judges felt that making sure that receiving the citizenship with certainty and immediately upon entry is desired, and that’s the least that the Korean government can do for the children. Judges felt that despite the fact that there are increased workloads and delays for choosing IR-3, they felt that this was a burden that they need to bear.

As for the long term stay in Korea, the judges will do their best to speed up the finalization process.  They have decided to eliminate some procedures required for birthmothers by not requiring them to show up in the court.  If the birthmothers do not wish to be notified of adoption, the court will not notify them.  If they wish to be notified, the court will work with them on how and when they should be notified.

When the agencies receive adoption relinquishment agreements from birthmothers, they will note how the birthmothers wish to be notified, where, and what form of communications is preferred.  This will save some time in determining the court dates as they will not be required to be summoned.  However, there were some birthmothers that decided to change their minds after being notified of adoptions.  Just in April and May, there have been five cases of birthmothers cancelling the adoptions, and deciding to keep the babies.

As for the issue of adoption delays, when the judges examined the adoption cases last week, there were some cases where the parents waited 18 months before the cases reached the judges in April this year.   It appeared that the delays happened long before reaching the court, thus the court does not feel responsible for the delays.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Faster Adoption Process in the Works?

A special meeting was held between the Family Court and the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) on revising the Special Adoption Law.

Seoul’s Family Court has decided to allow the birth parents’ opinion on adoption of their children through documents rather than for them to show up personally at the Family Court, which was required under the Special Adoption Law, thus potentially making the adoption process to flow with quicker speed.
The Family Court of Seoul met with the MOHW on May 29th to find a way to speed up the adoption process.  This special meeting was to evaluate the progress in adoption under the Special Adoption Law that was enacted nine months ago.
Since the enactment of the law on August 5, 2012 and up to May 21, 2013t, there have been 103 cases of domestic adoptions, and only 4 cases of intercountry adoption.  (Note that on May 31st, the court has started the hearings for intercountry adoptive families to grant additional adoptions).
Up to now, the court has used the social workers to contact the birth parents personally to notify and to get the opinions from them directly.  But the birth parents have already been in communication with the adoption agencies, and because the birth parents do not wish to show up at the Family Court, it was decided the court will forego their personal appearance at the court and get their opinions through paper works instead.
Also, if the birth parents do not wish to be notified regarding adoption decisions by the judges, then the court will bypass this process or just notify them by phone or through mail, thus making it simpler.  This also eliminates letting birth parents know the information about the adoptive families involved.
A judge expressed that this new procedure will simplify the adoption process, and the court dates can be assigned sooner, thus allowing faster services for all the adoption processes.
As much as the court considers an efficient process is needed, on one hand they will examine the adoptive parents’ 5-year medical history, and if necessary they may request comprehensive psychological health examinations as well.
The Family Court will also work with MOHW on how to resolve the issue of birth registry to keep the information on birth parents private.  I think they are trying to come up with a way to protect the identity of birth parents without revising the Special Adoption Law.  This may be a good sign that perhaps MOHW is now slowly beginning to admit that there is a problem regarding the privacy of the birth parents brought upon by the requirement of the birth registry.
My opinion is that the only sure way to solve this is to revise the law itself to remove any questions.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Family Court Schedule is Set for June

The initial group of adoptive families have met the judges of the family court on May 31st.  This initial meeting of the adoptive families by the judges is to personally verify the families through the interviews and checking all the paper works.  The judges have taken approximately 20 minutes per family as they processed through one family after another.

The judges usually do not grant the approval on the first meeting (there have been some exceptions), and it will take anywhere from 1 - 3 days for judges to grant approval for adoption.  From this day, the 14-day waiting period begins.  Some couples have chosen to go back to the home country and return once the waiting period was over, and some have opted to stay in Korea the whole time.

In addition to the May 31st group, there are other groups scheduled for 6/4, 6/14, 6/19, and 6/28. I understand that all the groups that are being processed in June are the remaining EPs from the year 2012.  It is expected that by the end of June all the EPs from 2012 will be processed by the family court, and the last expected date for families to pick up their children would be around July 15th after the waiting period ends.

It does begin to look like the family court is slowly getting used to the process. The only challenge is how the four judges can process the quota of 743 set for the year 2013.  I expect that some of the EPs from 2013 may flow over to the year 2014, but I'm hopeful just a few will overflow if it does.

There is still some chances that the judges may not summon some of the families, thus the children will be issued IR-4 visas.  The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 allows children that have been adopted through IR-4 visas would get automatic citizenship once finalized in the US, which normally takes around six months.  In this way, there is no issue of any adoptees will be deported in the future. Since the CCA of 2000, all the adoption agencies in the US report that every single one of their children processed have gone through adoption finalization, thus no concern for any deportation in the future is expected.