International Adoptions in California May Begin Again from Central Asia

February 14, 2013
By Thomas M. Huguenor on February 14, 2013 11:01 AM |

Kyrgyzstanmap.pngA group of prospective adoptive parents from around the United States, including California, learned that they may be able to adopt the children they have grown to know and love after multiple years of waiting. The government of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia announced that it has amended its Family Code to allow international adoptions, after blocking the American families several times. International adoption has been a popular procedure among Americans in recent years. California law also provides several methods for adopting within the state or the U.S.

Kyrgyzstan suspended all international adoptions in 2008 due to multiple allegations of fraud in its social services programs. At that time, American families were waiting for final approval to adopt sixty-five Kyrgyz children. Those families, now known as the "Kyrgyz 65," have continued to wait for more than five years. During that time, Kyrgyzstan experienced a revolution in 2010 and a civil war between the country's Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority groups. A few of the Americans gave up during that time, and a few of the children were adopted domestically.

The Kyrgyz government lifted the ban on international adoptions in 2011, allowing some of the adoptions to go through. It reinstated a ban on most of the remaining adoptions in progress in 2012, pending further corruption investigations. Many international adoptions rely on the Hague Adoption Convention, which sets international standards for adoptions between countries, including safeguards of children's welfare and protections against fraud, corruption, and abuse. The U.S. signed the Hague Convention in 1994, shortly after its creation, and it gained the full force of law here in April 2008. Kyrgyzstan has not signed the Hague Convention, but many of its reforms since freezing international adoptions are purportedly intended to bring the country's system in line with the Convention. As of February 26, 2013, the country has lifted the ban.

California recognizes four kinds of adoptions of children: stepparent or domestic partner adoption, independent adoption, agency adoption, and international adoption. California law currently allows a child to have two legally-recognized parents. In order to adopt a child who has a living parent, that relationship needs to be terminated, either by voluntary relinquishment or by a court order.

In a stepparent or domestic partner adoption, the child retains a legal parent-child relationship with one birth parent. That parent’s spouse or domestic partner takes on the adoptive parent role. Unlike other forms of adoption, this does not require a preplacement home study by a social worker. It does require a six-month period of evaluation before a court may finalize the adoption.

Agency adoptions generally involve children who are living in foster care, and whose parents are either deceased or have signed voluntary relinquishments of their parental rights. Private agencies licensed by the state may screen prospective adoptive parents, or the California Department of Social Services (DSS) may be directly involved. This type of adoption includes preplacement reviews of the family and the home environment, as well as ongoing review by DSS pending court approval.

Independent adoptions do not involve DSS or an agency in any direct capacity. These usually involve one or both birth parents who voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, and who may personally select the adoptive parents. The court must approve the final adoption after all of the home reviews and social studies have taken place.

Thomas Huguenor is a divorce and child custody lawyer certified by the State of California. For more than 35 years, he has represented people in San Diego finding their way through the California divorce process. Contact us today online or at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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California Couple in Ghana to Adopt Children Accused of Child Trafficking and Jailed, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, November 15, 2012

California Bill Would Expand Criteria for Legal Designation as Parent of a Child, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, August 9, 2012

Judge Upholds Child Support Order Against Woman Who Returned Adopted Son to Russia, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, July 26, 2012

Photo credit: By CIA (CIA World Factbook) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.