International Adoption Safeguards in the United States for Adopted Children

By Jean Nelson-Erichson and Heino R. Erichson

Any adoption can be a legally complicated affair, but in international adoptions the typical issues are compounded by U.S. immigration requirements, the legal requirements of the country from which the child is originating, and the requirements of the state in which the child will ultimately live..

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) laws are strict. Adopters must have documents to prove their identities, whom they are married to, whom they are no longer married to, and how much money they have to support a family. INS will not approve advance applications for the orphan petition until the adopters get FBI clearances to prove they have no criminal records. U.S. immigration laws are designed to prevent criminal activities by foreign and U.S. citizens who are involved in the adoption process. Without a doubt, unscrupulous persons with criminal intent would import large numbers of children if they could.

A number of legal and procedural safeguards have been enacted by the federal and state governments to ensure the success of foreign adoptions by U.S. citizens.

On the federal level these actions include:

A home study performed by a licensed agency or a licensed social worker in the adopter's home state.

INS orphan immigration petition requirements.

FBI check of every preadoptive parent.

Good practice, intercountry adoption guidelines established by the U.S. Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare.

U.S. citizenship for every legally immigrated orphan.

Those actions on the state level are as follows:

Postplacement visits by a licensed social worker.

Social worker's recommendation for readoption.

Issuance of a new birth certificate (in most states).

Jean Nelson-Erichson and Heino R. Erichson are the authors of How to Adopt Internationally, a hands-on manual loaded with practical information for families who seek to complete an international adoption. The Erichsons are the founders of the Los Ninos International Adoption Center in Texas and the parents of four children adopted from South America.

Excerpt reprinted from How to Adopt Internationally: A Guide for Agency-Directed and Independent Adoptions by Jean and Heino Erichsen. Used by permission of the publisher. For more information, contact Mesa House Publishing by phone at 888-306-0060 (toll-free) or by email at