Overview of federal legislation that impacts adopted people in the United States. Legislation pending in individual states is here.
Summaries and analysis provided by Gregory D. Luce, current as of December 5, 2022. Bills with a globe icon indicate that the bills impact intercountry adoptees in the United States.
Go To: Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 | Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act | Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act | Safe Home Act of 2021 | National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act | Children in Family Security Act of 2021
Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021
Update as of December 5, 2022. Efforts to add a stripped-down and different version of the Adoptee Citizenship Act to a larger Congressional bill failed. The adoptee citizenship bills listed below (HR1593 and S967) technically remain active in this session though it’s unclear if they will move toward independent consideration or be added to an omnibus or appropriations bill. More information, current status, and a FAQ on the issue is here.
HR1593/S967 [PDF Copy] The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 is a critical piece of federal legislation that closes a discriminatory loophole in US immigration law, one that denies U.S. citizenship to thousands of intercountry adoptees who decades ago were legally adopted by U.S. citizen parents. The loophole relates primarily to the age of the adoptee, denying automatic citizenship to those born prior to February 27, 1983, though other loopholes continue to exist. Most of of the pre-1983 adoptees must either naturalize or find a different path to secure U.S. citizenship. Critically, adoptees who have not already secured citizenship or have barriers to citizenship remain subject to U.S. immigration action and possible deportation to countries they have never known. The House bill has been referred for consideration by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. The Senate bill is currently assigned to the Committee on Judiciary.
The joint press release from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Congressman John Curtis (R-UT), the joint House sponsors, is here. Senators introduced S967 on March 26, announcing six sponsors already in place. Senator Blunt’s press release is here.
Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act
S117. A bill that requires the Department of State to establish a thirteen member advisory committee to “develop, at the request of the Secretary [of State], recommendations for improvements to intercountry adoption.” The committee must include members who represent adoption service providers (ASPs), adoptive families, adoptees, adoption attorneys, social workers, representatives of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Department of State. Senator Amy Klobuchar is the primary sponsor of the bill, which has been introduced in prior sessions of Congress. It has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
HR485. This comprehensive federal child-welfare bill has already passed the House on a vote of 345-73 and has crossed over to the Senate for consideration. Part of the bill would make unregulated custody transfers a form of child abuse and neglect under federal child-welfare law, defining an unregulated custody transfer as a placement with a non-relative or otherwise unfamiliar adult, with the intention of severing the parental or guardian relationship with the child, without reasonably ensuring the child’s safety, and without legally transferring parental or guardian rights. The bill specifically references the risk of intercountry adoptees “not acquiring United States citizenship if an unregulated custody transfer occurs before the adoptive parents complete all necessary steps to finalize the adoption of such child.” HR485 also requires, among other provisions, a study on “adoption outcomes and the factors (including parental substance use disorder) affecting those outcomes.”
CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2021
S1297. As part of a larger bill reauthorizing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), S1297 includes provisions that define unregulated custody transfers (often referred to as “rehoming” in adoption) and requires assistance to states and a report on unregulated custody transfers within a year of the bill’s enactment.
Safe Home Act of 2021
HR1247/S397. Makes unregulated custody transfers a form of child abuse and neglect under federal child-welfare law. Specifically, an unregulated custody transfer occurs when a child is placed with a non-relative or otherwise unfamiliar adult, with the intention of severing the parental or guardian relationship with the child, without reasonably ensuring the child’s safety, and without legally transferring parental or guardian rights. See S1297, above, for a bill with similar provisions.
National Foster Care and Adoption Home Study Act
HR4052/S2167 This bill, sponsored in the House by Congressman Jared Huffman of California and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a voluntary national home study standard and database. It is a demonstration project, funded by the federal government.
Children in Family Security Act of 2021
S.3280. This is a rather embarrassing bill for the United States, as it ignores the serious issues concerning intercountry adoptees (see bills above) and seeks to restructure the entire intercountry adoption process in the U.S. with generally one goal in mind: increasing intercountry adoption to the United States. It restructures the Department of State’s current organization around intercountry adoption (here is a flowchart to show how it would work out), establishes a new central authority for intercountry adoption, and sets priorities in the Department of State and USAID to assist foreign countries to implement better child welfare systems—but with a specific “fully developed option” of intercountry adoption.
Voluntary Specialized Accreditation for Background Studies and Home Studies Act
S.5101. Another disappointing bill in the context of regulating intercountry adoption to the United States. Sponsored jointly by Senator Roger Wicker and Senator Amy Klobuchar—and introduced on November 15, 2022—the bill is specifically intended to “ease intercountry adoptions” by allowing adoption agencies to provide specific services without requiring full accreditation as an agency involved in intercountry adoptions.