Overview of federal and state legislation that impacts intercountry adoptees in the United States.
Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021
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.
National Foster Care and Adoption Home Study Act
HR3359. This bill, sponsored in the House by Congressman Jared Huffman of California, 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.
2021 Adoptee Rights Legislation (Intercountry)
Active State Bills
SB1221. Notice Requirement for Intercountry Adoptions. This bill would require child-placing agencies to notify adoptive parents that they are required to apply for U.S. citizenship for their adoptive child. There is no penalty or consequence for failure to notify the adoptive parents, nor does it require adoptive parents to assure all steps to establish U.S. citizenship for the child are completed. It has been referred to the Committee on Families, Seniors, and Veterans.