August 16th, 2007
Posted By:’s Adoption Week e-magazine (which is free and full of great stuff) had a great article in it this week about teens in Missouri helping orphans in Uganda find loving adoptive homes in the United States.

The story comes out of Kansas City, Missouri and is titled “Teens Help Ugandan Kids Find U.S. Homes”.

The article is about Bethany Hartzler and her friend and college classmate, Amy Wolf, who helped navigate the international adoption process in Uganda for eight orphaned Ugandan children, including 10 year-old twin boys who are now Bethany’s new little brothers.

It is hard to imagine two college girls handling the complex procedures of international adoption, especially ones from an African country without an established adoption program, however, that seems to be what happened in this case.


Like many African countries that American and other adoptive parents would jump at the chance to adopt from if possible, Uganda has a three-year residency rule for adoptive parents. In 2005-2006, 12 children were adopted from Uganda by U.S. citizens, which shows that it is possible, but that the process is prohibitive enough that it is not an option for many parents at this time.

Hartzler and Wolf went to Uganda on an orphanage mission trip, fell in love with the children there and became determined to help get them adopted, even though they had no idea how to go about doing that at first.

The girls were able to find a way around the three-year residency rule, by getting the Ugandan court system to declare the adoptive family the child’s legal guardian. Then it is expected that the family will finalize the adoption in the United States under the state laws of the adoptive family. This is how most adoptions from South Korea have traditionally worked, with the parents being granted guardianship and then finalizing in the U.S. The children are able to get U.S. passports and visas legally this way.

Hartzler and Wolf admit that the process was not easy or simple and describe it as a “huge challenge”, and said that they had to find and hire a Ugandan social worker and lawyer, and spent several months and about $5,000.

All eight children involved in this adoption story now live in the Kansas City area.

The article also goes in to some of the issues involved with adopting older children from different cultures, such as language and cultural differences, and the struggle for these kids to adapt to American life.

The blessings of international adoption are also made clear in this story, as the children involved were living in very destitute conditions without any family or love, and are now thriving with the love and care of their new adoptive families.

The U.S. Department of State International Adoption Uganda web page states that:

Ugandan law places restrictions on the ability of foreign citizens to adopt Ugandan children. The Children’s Act states that a foreign citizen may, in exceptional circumstances, adopt a Ugandan child, if the foreigner has resided in Uganda for at least three years and if the foreigner has also fostered the child for 36 months. However, High Court judges have made some exceptions to these three-year residency and fostering requirements on a case-by-case basis if it was deemed in the best interests of the child.

Ugandan High Court judges have also exercised discretion in approving legal guardianship decrees (which may permit the child to emigrate for full and final adoption abroad) in certain cases where the prospective adoptive parents were unable to meet the requirements for adoption in Uganda.

There is a lot more detailed information and resources on adoption from Uganda on the U.S. Dept. of State website listed above.

23 Responses to “Adoption from Uganda”

  1. UgandaGrace says:

    Hooray! Finally something on Uganda adoption! There are around 2 million orphans here in Uganda and the babies and children’s homes are all just bursting at the seams. It’s a shame that the Uganda Adoption and Fostering Laws and lack of clear information can discourage people into seriously looking at Uganda when it comes to adoption. It’s very do-able and so worth it!
    Kudos to these girls who actually helped 8 children find permanent families! Too bad there weren’t more people like them.

  2. maroua says:


    I am certain that we ran into Bethany and Amy several times at the court house and the US embassy as we were in Uganda in June/July to obtain legal guardianship of our new daughter. Congratulations to them, and to these children who hopefully are doing well now in their new homes.

    Yes, the process was challenging, and we have learned a lot.
    Mostly, we could not take our daughter home with us and leave behind her village with 1400 more orphans, without trying to figure out ways to continue to help. We also want our daughter to remain connected to her heritage and her culture, in a way so that she can be Ugandan and American, both, and won’t have to miss the memory of her first eight years of her life. Since our return from Africa, we have founded an organization called “Embrace Uganda”, with a mission to benefit two specific ministries within Uganda. The organization that cared for our daughter when she became orphaned is one of our partners there. International adoption is only a small part of what will need to happen to help this whole generation of orphans that are yearning for family, for hope and for a future. Please, visit, if you would like to learn more about our story, and the steps we have taken since, to try raise awareness here in the U.S. for the kids in her village and in her country.

    We would also be happy to share more about our adoption story, if there is interest. Through conversation with our US senator here in NC, we have learned that it will take years for the US government to ease the hurdles that US CIS is placing on prospective adoptive families, all as a result of 9/11 and the world that we live in today.

    • awolfshackelford says:

      Hello! What is your name? I am Amy Wolf…now Amy Shackelford that helped organize all the adoptions out of Uganda when I was in Uganda. I was looking up Uganda adoptions and found this site.

      All the children are doing very well and have grown so much. I recently got to see all of them at a wedding!

      If anyone has any questions on Uganda adoptions, I would love to help!

  3. sarahbear says:

    I’m a little confused about what I just read. I have been talking with Cheryl Carter-Shotts from Americans For African Adoptions (AFAA) an Indiana based adoption agency. I was originally interested in adopting from Ethiopia, but was informed their Ethiopian program was on hold due to an overwhelming amount of agency’s rushing in to adopt children. She then referred me to their Uganda program, but I wasn’t made aware of any laws regarding living in Uganda for 3 years, or the fact that as a single woman I would only be permitted to adopt a girl. I see that this was posted last year, are the laws still the same? I don’t want to get lost in some never-ending struggle to bring my child home. Has anyone heard of AFAA? Does anyone have any advice?

  4. auntiesasa says:

    I have friends living in Uganda, and they have told me that the 3 year foster rule is not often enforced (at least in some areas). It all depends on the judge, so it is important that the organization you work with be in good standing with the government. If you are interested in Ethiopia, there are a lot of reputable agencies with open programs there.

  5. packofpenners says:

    My husband and I returned home the end of September 2008 with our two Ugandan children.

    If you have questions about obtaining legal guardianship of Ugandan children, we would be happy to answer any questions.

    The process is still VERY fresh in our minds!

    Keith and Jena
    bapgap at triad dot rr dot com

    • kendra says:

      Keith and Jena,
      My husband and I have three boys and are trying to find the right country and agency (if need be) to bring a little girl (or two) into our home.Expenses are a BIG concern and I know that flying to Uganda two times versus other countries only being once, will hold us back.Did you research as far as expenses go with other countries and agencies? I wonder if the prices are comparable? I have many more questions, but I just want to make a decision and get started! She’s waiting!

      Thanks! Kendra

    • hawanamiiro says:

      Hello packofpenners,

      How did you do the legal guardianship in uganda? Thank you,


  6. carissareiniger says:

    Hi all,

    Thank you for all of these comments- they are quite helpful.

    I have been working with a group of 52 children in Kasese, Uganda for over 3 years. I have gone down to visit them twice and we have formed an organization in Canada that raises all of the funds for the children and manages staff that work on the ground in Kasese. We are working in partnership with a Canadian organization as well as a local Ugandan organization to ensure that the children are cared for, go to school, eat good meals and are setting up leadership and personal development courses and plans for the kids.

    As we have gone through the very long process of getting this all set up properly we have been working to do all of the formal paperwork with the local government to ensure that we have care orders from each of the 52 children’s distant relatives or legal guardians so that we have the legal right to care for the children.

    There is one child in particular who I have grown quite close to. He is now 5 and it has come to our attention that he is the only child that we cannot trace to any distant relative or tribe, leaving him firmly a child of the state. If anything were to happen, we would have absolutely no control or say in how he was treated or where he went.

    I would like to do whatever I need to to become his legal guardian or to formally adopt him if that is what I need to do to protect him. We have a safe and solid in Uganda that I would leave him at for now because I do think that this better for him in the short term, but if the time or situation was right, would of course, bring him here. I want to make sure, though, that if anything ever went wrong in Uganda or with the project I would have the ability to go to Uganda and bring him here as his legal guardian or parent. It is also important to note that I have the support of the local government, the Canadian team supporting the 52 children and our staff and team on the ground in Kasese.

    Although I am not new to Uganda I am new to this process of trying to formalize the care of Moses and you seem to be quite knowledgable about this. Is this something you could help me with or do you know where I could find more information or the right people to help me with this? If any of you would be willing to share some insights I would really appreciate it- you can email me anytime at

    Thank you for your help- I really appreciate it.
    Carissa :)

  7. kitenda says:

    I should think that since you do not want to bring him here, go through the normal process (Uganda) get legal custody of the child, while he/is there. So that if anything ever happens you will have the right to take him where you want.

  8. Galiel says:


    I am 18 and have lived in Uganda for a year now. I was wondering what it takes to adopt a child here?

    I have one that I would like to adopt already. Her mother died at birth and she is now 3 months old. She is now in the care of a local outreach called Potters Village. I have fallen in love with her and would like to make her my child. I plan to live here for many years and so taking her out of Uganda is not something that would happen soon.

    If you have any advice on this matter please do tell. I welcome any and all comments, good or bad. I need to look at all the pros and cons.

    Thank you all.

  9. Bay Roberts says:

    hello everyone! I am so excited to find this site. We are in the process of adopting an 11 year old girl from Uganda. I am the director of a small non profit called One School at a Time ( and we work with impoverished schools in Uganda. That is how I met Juliet. We first became her legal guardians. This was not hard to do and I have an excellent family lawyer in Kampala, Uganda who I could recommend highly. She has tremendous integrity and is hard working and persistent. After becoming legal guardian, then you can go through a legal adoption in Uganda, bring the child home to the US with an I600 visa and finish the adoption in the U.S. There is no longer the rule that adoptive parents have to live in Uganda for 3 years before adopting the child. the process with the lawyer has costed about $5,000. Good luck everyone!
    Bay Roberts

    • bking says:

      I am currently living in Uganda, and intend to adopt from here. I would love to have your recommendiation for the family lawyer you refer to.
      Thanks so much!

    • drclark says:

      I am interested in adoption in Uganda, as are two of my siblings. We have friends that are there for a year caring for 16 orphaned girls. Could you give me more information on the process, the expected length of time, and the name of your family lawyer in Kampala. My friends are willing to do whatever they can to help from there location. I am considering visiting them in July, but would like to get the process moving forward as soon as possible. Is the cost $5000 per child or less if you are planning to adopt more than one? Thank you for your assistance. I was saddened when I initial read that you had to live there for 3 years. Happy their’s hope!
      Darlene Clark

  10. lynnmatthews says:

    Hi everyone there. We are just excited having got guardianship Order from High Court of Uganda with the assistance of a young and brilliant lawyer. At first we were becoming impatient with the waiting for the ruling. Finally we have our 6 year old Sam in our custody. We intend to stay in Uganda for sometime after which we shall go back to Canada. Goodluck with your application and court process.

  11. lynnmatthews says:

    I will be willing to give your info. on how to get that needy child a home. COntact us on Email: robins dot cooke19 at gmail dot com.

  12. sue123 says:

    I have a 23 1/2 year old daughter who did her student teaching in Uganda and fell in love with a 3 year old orphaned boy. She is working full-time as a teacher here in the states and lives at home with us (the parents). What are the chances of her being able to adopt with child on her on? A boy? If adopted the child would live here too.

    • awolfshackelford says:

      As far as I know you have to be over the age of 25 and you can not be single parent and if you are it has to be same sex. Unless this has changed, that is my understanding.

  13. awolfshackelford says:

    Hello! I am Amy “Wolf” Shackelford who is part of the story posted above. If anyone needs help navigating the system I can give you what I know. I love Uganda and the children are doing very well!

  14. ammorgan26 says:

    I would love to get more info on adoption or legal guardianship in Uganda. While I was there a month ago I fell in love with a 4 month baby girl living at Sanyu Babies Home. I know that they do international adoptions but I honestly don’t know where to start. I am 26, single and hope to adopt this little girl. Whether that is by bringing her here or moving there for a short time I haven’t figured that out.

    Is it easier to go the route of becoming a legal guardian and then finishing the adoption or trying to do a straight adoption? I would appreciate any advice or info that you can give! I am hoping to get moving on the process as soon as I can!


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  16. sharonscu says:

    Hi Bay,

    Thanks for all that information you have shared. I am wondering if you can give me Victoria’s address (practise) and maybe office telephone. I have emailed her but since am also in Kampala, i would rather go see her face to face.

    Thanks again,



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