The process to adopt a child from Jamaica is very straight forward. The steps are: 1) Apply to make sure you are eligible; 2) Get matched with a child; 3) Adopt child in Jamaica; 4) Apply for Child's eligibility for orphan status; and 5) Bring child to US. I will go through each step one by one.
1. Apply to make sure you are eligible to adopt:
Your first step is to submit a pre-adoption application with the Child Development Agency so that you can be found eligible to adopt in Jamaica. This application asks for detained information about you, which the Child Development Agency (CDA) uses to asses your suitability to adopt.
If you are residing in the US, you must also submit a home study report from an approved home study provider in the US. The CDA will verify the contents of your home study by writing to the home study agency. This verifies the authorship and gets their agreement to supervise the placement in the future.
You also have the option to use a licensed adoption service provider in the US to help with the adoption. They must be licensed by the state where they operate. In Jamaica, the CDA is the only agency authorized to provide adoption services. In the US, the Department of State has information on selecting an adoption service provider on their website. Contact the CDA here. Also, you may contact my office about meeting US immigration requirements or look at the information on the forms to fill out here.
2. Get matched with a child:
Once you are found eligible to adopt from Jamaica, you can either use the CDA and Adoption Board's assistance to locate a child suitable for adoption or if you already have a child in mind (for instance, a relative) then you can have the CDA assess the child's suitability for adoption. The child must be eligible for adoption as described above and must meet the definitiion of orphan under US immigration law.
Here is the definition of orphan under US immigration law:
Orphan: The Immigration an Nationality Act provides a definition of an orphan for the purposes of immigration to the United States.
A child may be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. This child of an unwed mother or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. The child of an unwed mother may be considered an orphan, as long as the mother does not marry (which would result in the child's having a stepfather) and as long as the child's biological father has not legitimated the child. If the father legitimates the child or the mother marries, the mother is no longer considered a sole parent. The child of a surviving parent may also be an orphan if the surviving parent has not married since the death of the other parent (which would result in the child's having a step father or stepmother).
Note: Prospective adoptive parents should be sure that a child fits the definition of "orphan" before adopting a child from another country because not all children adopted abroad meet the definition of "orphan," and therefore may not be eligible to immigrate to the United States.
3. Adopt a child in Jamaica:
Here is the process in Jamaica:
- Adoption Application: You will initiate the process in Jamaica by submitting the pre-adoption application form to the CDA. They have an online application here.
-Role of CDA and Adoption Board: Once the CDA conducts their assesment, their report is forwarded to the independent Jamaican Adoption Board which decides whether the adoption should be approved. The Adoption Board reviews the report and information about you.
-Role of the Court: Once the adoption is approved, the case is sent to a family court which reviews the relevant facts and determines if the Adoption License or Order should be issued. The special Family Courts or local Resident Magistrate's Court will supervise the adoption depending on what parish the adoption is taking place in.
-Time Frame: An adoption license is normally completed in four months. An adoption order may take more time because a locally placed child needs to be supervised by local social workers for at least three months. This can be waived, as stated above, if the prospective adopting parents are Jamaican nationals adopting a relative.
-Adoption Fees: No fee. Each child will need an extensive physical seperate from the one that they will need for immgiration. Costs for the physicals vary but can be up to $100 USD. Most adoptive parents do not hire an attorney for the court proceeding, but you can hire someone local. Attorney fees vary.
-Getting the Adoption License: Documents required include:
-Application Form (available from the CDA's website)
-Home Study-If you do not reside in Jamaica, you will need to provide a certified original home study plus two additional copies to the Jamaican Adoption Board. They can be sent by the home study provider or by you. You can reuse this home study for the form I-600A.
-Medical Examination: This is an examination for you and for the child.
-Letter of Undertaking: The agency that conducted the home study submits a letter agreeing to supervise the placement until the adoption is final and beyond that as determined if needed by the CDA.
-Letter from Employer: (can be more than one) Letter should indicate what your annual income is and the nature of your employment.
-Getting the Adoption Order:
-Application Form: Available from CDA's website
-Home Study: If you are not resident in Jamaica, then you need to provide a certified original home study and two additional copies to the Jamaican Adoption Board. These can be sent by you or by the provider. This is usually the same home study as the one used for the I-600A.
-Medical Examination: This is an examination for you and for the child.
- Income Statement
- Personal References (two); and
-Letter of Undertaking - If you are resident in Jamaica then you rpovide a letter of undertaking by the Jamaican agency that conducted the home study to suprvise the placement.
The court can request additional documents at any time.
If you are asked to provide proof that a US document is authentic, you can contact the Department of State Authentications Office to assist.
4. Apply for Child's Eligibility for Orphan Status
Once the adoption is finalized or you have gained legal custody in Jamaica, the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan as discussed above. In order for them to start processing this information to classify the child as an orphan, you must file form I-600, Petiiton to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
5. Bring child to the US
Once you have adopted your child or have obtained legal custody, you will need to get certain documents together to start processing for your child's immigrant visa.
-Birth Certificate: If you have been granted an Adoption License, the birth certificate of the child will remain the same. You should get the child's original birth certificate, which lists the child's birth parents fromt he Jamaican Register General's Department. If you received an Adoption Order from a Jamaican court, the child're previuos birth record is sealed and the Adoption Order issued by the Register General's Department replaces the original birth certificate.
-Jamaican Passport: Your child will need a travel document from Jamaica to come to the US since they are not yet a US citizen.
-US Immigrant Visa:
The immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. Once the US Embassy in Jamaica receives the approved Form I-600 from USCIS, the embassy will contact the prospective adoptive parent via phone or email to schedule the immigrant visa interview and provide instructions on obtaining the immigrant visa medical exam. After the final immigrant visa interview, visa issuance generally takes at least 24 hours so make sure to plan your travel accordingly since it is not same day. Also, your child may be a citizen upon entering the US with you--make sure to inquire with an immigration lawyer and get proof of citizenship right away if they are eligible.
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about the process.