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Melissa A. Featherston

Adoption Oversight Results In Deportation

Adam was abandoned in Seoul, South Korea, when he was three years old. Within months, he was adopted by a married couple in the United States - only to have them frequently whip him and force him to sit in a dark basement. Six years later, he was abandoned to the foster system.

After bouncing through foster homes and boys' homes, he was adopted again - this time by parents who housed up to 10 adopted children at a time. Sadly, these parents turned out to be more abusive than his first adoptive parents. They slammed his head against door frames, taped his mouth shut with duct tape, broke his nose, burned his hands and hit him with a two-by-four. At 16 he was kicked out of the house.

Today, Adam is a 41-year-old married father of three - and he's being deported back to South Korea, a place he doesn't remember and hasn't seen since he was an infant. Why? Because neither of his adoptive families nor the adoption agency that facilitated the international adoption bothered to file for his U.S. citizenship. 

The fact that this simple paperwork was left undone will forever change the lives of Adam, his wife and his children. And unfortunately, it's not all that uncommon - according to the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, approximately 35,000 intercountry adoptees, through no fault of their own, don't have U.S. citizenship.

Stories like this remind us just how imperative it is that all adoptions - not just intercountry adoptions -be handled correctly to avoid dire consequences. It is extremely important that all the legal requirements for adoption are satisfied, requirements that include:

· Consent - unless parental rights have been terminated, a child's birth parents must consent to the adoption for it to be legal

· The Home Study - adoptive parents must undergo an investigation to determine whether they are fit to raise a child

· The Adoption Petition - every adoption must be approved by a court, and the first step in gaining this approval is through the proper filing of an adoption petition

· Notice and Hearing - after an adoption petition is filed, the court will schedule an adoption hearing. Before the hearing, all interested parties - including the biological parents, the adoption agency and the child's legal representative - must be given advance notice of the hearing. At the hearing, the court will determine if the adoption is in the best interest of the child and either approve or deny the adoption request.

· Intangibles - a good adoption lawyer can recognize and address any intangibles involved in the adoption (such as U.S. citizenship) and immediately address these issues to avoid problems down the road.

If you or someone you know is considering adoption - be it stepparent, grandparent, agency or intercountry - make sure you contact an experienced adoption attorney to lay the proper legal groundwork. Let's put an end to stories like the one endured by Adam and thousands of others. 

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