Adoption.com’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.