It’s the moment every prospective adoptive parent dreams about. After months and months of paperwork, countless forms, court dates, and miles of travel, you finally meet your child. You bring your child home, settle into a routine as a new family, and file your first post-placement reports. Perhaps it is then your social worker asks, “Are you planning to readopt your child?” When posed, my husband looked at me and said, “Readopt??? Didn’t we just adopt Jack? What more could we possibly do?”
The Hague Convention, signed by the U.S. in 2008, states that any adoption completed between Hague countries is legal and final. Our son was adopted from China, a Hague country, so his adoption was recognized in the United States. Upon admittance to the United States our son, Jack, immediately became a citizen under the IH-3 or IR-3 visa. And after a few months home, we received a certificate of foreign adoption, issued under federal law by the U.S. Secretary of State. Twenty-nine states recognize foreign adoption decrees (a full list can be found on the Child Welfare site) but that means 21 states do not. In those states, readoption can become a necessity.
Readoption is the legal process through which a child, who was previously legally adopted internationally, is adopted again in the United States. Though on the surface it may seem like a redoubling of your efforts, there are important legal implications of readoption. Whether your state recognizes your child’s foreign adoption decree or not, readoption is a good idea. Here’s why:
You Might Need to Change Your Child’s Legal Name
Depending on how your child’s name appeared on his or her passport and visa, you may need to legally change your child’s name. To do so requires a court process, so if you are considering changing your child’s name, it may make sense to pursue readoption as the child’s name change can be part of this process. Remember your child’s name will be listed on numerous documents and used by other federal entities like the Social Security registration, so ensuring the same name appears everywhere is important.
Your Child Will Have Proof of Citizenship
Though perhaps not immediately necessary, at some point in her life your child might have to prove her citizenship. Such proof may come through a U.S. passport, a Certificate of Citizenship, or a Certificate of Foreign Birth. Of these three items, the only one handled by Vital Statistics is a Certificate of Foreign Birth. The good thing about Vital Statistics (as you may remember from gathering paperwork for your home study) is that no matter what happens—flood, fire, misplaced paperwork—your child will always be able to prove he is a U.S. citizen. The process of readopting results in the state issuing a Certificate of Foreign Birth.
Your Child’s Inheritance Will Not Be Challenged
Only 29 states recognize foreign adoption decrees. If you live in a state that does not and a tragic event occurs, readoption allows your child’s inheritance to be protected, no matter what. In fact, the exact wording of the Final Order of Adoption reads “Jack (our adopted son) is entitled to all the rights and privileges as if born to them.” Powerful words, and more importantly, legally binding.
Though the thought of more paperwork may make your head spin, beginning the readoption process as soon as you are able will be helpful in the long run. For the readoption process, you will need to provide several documents (such as foreign adoption decree, visas, Hague certificate, certificate of citizenship, post-placement reports, etc.). It is much easier to find and file the paperwork while it is fresh on your mind than trying to go back years later and find everything. Thinking of moving? Best to handle the readoption process before you switch states and counties. It will make the process much easier and avoid headaches and red tape in the years ahead.
Ready to readopt? You can find a list of attorneys specializing in these proceedings in your area here: American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. In a small government office in China, Jennifer became an adoptive mother. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “is this really us?!?” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.