How to Adopt an Immigrant Child from the Border

Immigrant child: illustration with person offering support to child
Immigrant Child: Image of infographic illustration with the person offering support to a child

 

Considering adopting a child who has arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents?

Wondering about the process?

While adopting an immigrant child from the border is not straightforward, it becomes possible with adequate guidance and support.

This article delves into the steps, challenges, and benefits associated with adopting an immigrant child from the border.

What is an unaccompanied immigrant child?

An unaccompanied immigrant child is a young person under 18 years old who has entered the United States without legal status and without a parent or guardian to care for them.

These children often flee violence, poverty, or natural disasters in their home countries, coming to the U.S. to reunite with relatives and friends or seeking asylum and humanitarian protections.

Alone in a new country, they face an uncertain future as they navigate the complex immigration system.

What are the different processes for adopting an immigrant child from the border?

the different processes for adopting an immigrant child from the border
Infographic: The different processes for adopting an immigrant child from the border

 

The United States immigration system has established three pathways for adopting migrant children, depending on whether their home country participates in the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption or not.

This international agreement seeks to ensure that intercountry adoptions are handled ethically and prioritize children’s well-being while preventing abuses like fraud, abduction, and human trafficking.

Since the United States follows the Hague guidelines, adoptive parents have a different process to follow if a child is from another member nation compared to a non-member.

Understanding these nuanced legal procedures for adoption across borders can be complicated for any caring individual who simply hopes to provide a child in need with a loving, permanent home.

The Hague Process

Adopting a migrant child from a Hague Convention country involves navigating a specific legal process with multiple steps:

  1. First, you apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be approved as eligible to adopt.
  2. Next, you work with an accredited agency to be matched with a child in need of adoption who fits your family’s hopes.
  3. Once matched, you must obtain provisional approval from immigration authorities to proceed.
  4. Then, you apply for a visa at the embassy in the child’s home country before traveling there to assume custody and finalize the international adoption.
  5. Finally, you return to the U.S. together, where the adoption is completed domestically or the existing foreign adoption is recognized officially.

While complex, this pathway allows adoptive parents to welcome children in need into their families across international borders.

The Orphan Process

Adopting a migrant child from a non-Hague country involves a different legal process.

  1. First, you petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to classify the child as an orphan. This can be done before or after identifying a specific child.
  2. Next, once the petition is approved, you obtain a visa from the embassy in the child’s home country.
  3. Then, you travel there to assume custody, finalize the international adoption, or gain legal guardianship for immigration and adoption purposes.
  4. Finally, you return together to the U.S., where the adoption is completed domestically or the existing foreign adoption achieves formal recognition.

Though the steps differ, this pathway also lets adoptive parents open their hearts and homes to a child in need across borders.

The Immediate Relative Petition

Adoptive parents who have already completed an adoption domestically or internationally can also petition for their child to gain legal permanent residency or citizenship through another process:

  1. First, you file paperwork and supporting documentation with Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish your relationship with the adopted child and validate the adoption.
  2. Once approved, if the child is overseas, you obtain a visa from the embassy in their home country before traveling there to assume custody.
  3. Then, back in the United States, you can apply for a green card on the child’s behalf or for a certificate of citizenship if they qualify immediately.

While each situation is unique, this avenue creates a path to stability and belonging for vulnerable children joining adoptive families.

What are the challenges of adopting an immigrant child from the border?

challenges of adopting an immigrant child from the border
Infographic illustrating the challenges of adopting an immigrant child from the border

 

Adopting an immigrant child from the border poses challenges, including:

  1. Finding an Eligible Child: Not all unaccompanied immigrant children are available for adoption, with about 90% reuniting with sponsors in the U.S., typically relatives or friends.
  2. Navigating Legal Requirements: Adhering to the U.S. and the child’s country of origin laws, along with potential compliance with the Hague Convention if applicable,. This involves collaboration with various authorities and the submission of necessary documents, fees, and evidence.
  3. Addressing Emotional Needs: Welcoming a child who has undergone trauma, violence, or neglect requires creating a safe, stable, and loving environment. Providing access to professional counseling, therapy, and support services is essential for the child’s healing and well-being.

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What are the benefits of adopting an immigrant child from the border?

Despite the challenges, adopting an immigrant child from the border offers significant benefits:

  1. Providing a Better Life: Offering a child a permanent family, a home, and a supportive community fosters a sense of love, value, and support. This adoption opens doors to educational, healthcare, and personal development opportunities that may be limited in their home country or immigration facilities.
  2. Enriching Your Life and Family: Welcoming an immigrant child into your family introduces joy, diversity, and learning. Sharing your culture, values, and traditions while embracing theirs creates a mutual exchange. Overcoming challenges and celebrating achievements during the adoption journey contribute to personal and parental growth.

Conclusion

Adopting an immigrant child separated at the border is profoundly meaningful, though not without complexity.

You open your heart while navigating legal procedures that protect the child’s interests based on their homeland.

Preparation is essential; gain knowledge of the steps involved, from temporary foster care to permanent placement.

Seek support as your family adjusts emotionally, psychologically, and practically to this new chapter.

The journey can be challenging yet deeply enriching, as a vulnerable child finds caring guardians and as you discover new meaning through parenting.

If you feel called to adopt, contact nonprofit organizations like Bethany Christian Services, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, or Catholic Charities.

They guide qualified parents in welcoming a child without family into the warmth of home at last.

Focus on your readiness to give of yourself in small moments daily, rather than grand dreams for the future. With compassion and dedication, you can help a child thrive.

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