I wrote up the following adoption process summary as a "talking point" for families to use as they petition their senators and congressional representatives regarding the "issues" that U.S. families have currently in order to obtain visas for their adopted children from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.
The following summary is intended to be informational so that our elected representatives have an understanding in regards to the lengthy process and the difficulty in processing these adoptions. Please feel free to insert the detailed MOI process that I have posted in an previous posting as this summary does not have the MOI process as detailed.
After the prospective adoptive parents have completed their adoption approval from their home state and USCIS, most of their dossier documents have to be appostiled and authenticated by the Haitian Consulate or Embassy in the United States.
When the dossier has been submitted to Haiti, the adoptive parents’ documents have to be certified once more at the Haitian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Port-au-Prince.
Once a child has been identified for adoption, multiple steps have to be taken to compile the child’s adoption dossier to submit the entire dossier to IBESR (Haitian Social Services Ministry) to obtain an Adoption Authorization.
The child’s birth certificate, the birth mother’s birth certificate, identification card and/or death certificate (if applicable), and the birth father’s birth certificate, identification card and/or death certificate (if applicable) has to be obtained.
At that point, the orphanage determines what documents are available and which documents have to be obtained. For example, if the mother does not have the child’s birth certificate, it has never been made, then the orphanage has to determine if there is a mother and father or just a mother or father. The mother and/or father have to go to the Tribunal (i.e. area court house) to obtain a birth certificate for the child.
Birth Certificate: Sometimes, the birth parent(s) had a birth certicate issued but have lost the certificate. When this happens, the orphanage has to try to obtain an Archive birth certificate document from the Port-au-Prince Archive Office, if the certificate is at least two years old. (There is only one Archive Office for all of Haiti. All birth and death certificates are supposed to be recorded in a log book at the local Tribunal. Once per year, the book is supposed to be taken to the main Archive Office. However, often the log books only arrive in the Archive Office every two years and/or the book is lost. When this happens, to obtain an Archive birth certificate can take several months. When the particular log book cannot be found, the Archive Office has to issue a “negative” which certifies that they cannot issue the particular Archive Birth or Death Certificate. Then, a notary document at the Archive Office is produced with the information that is supplied or a copy of the certificate, and then a brand new birth certificate or death certificate can be issued. This process can take several months.)
There are three types of birth certificates issued in Haiti, a father’s declaration, a mother’s declaration or a third-party declaration.
If the father is dead, then it cannot be a father’s declaration, if the mother is dead, then it cannot be mother’s declaration.
According to the Articles 55 and 56 of the Minor 3 of the Haitian Civil Code, if the child is “natural” (when father and mother were not married) the child can only be declared by the mother if the father is not willing to declare the child as his own at the Tribunal. At that time, only the mother can declare the child in a mother’s declaration birth certificate.
(This is an important point because currently, the U.S. Embassy is making birth mothers "declare" to them who the child's father is. This is in direct opposition to the Haitian law. It is my understanding from reading the Foreign Services Manual that the U.S. consular officers are to work within the local law requirements.)
If the father claims the child or is married is married to the mother, then a father’s declaration birth certificate is issued.
If there is not mother or father alive, the child is completely abandoned or a relative or friend makes a birth certificate, then a third-party birth certificate is issued.
It is very common that children do not have a birth certificate. Also, it is common for the parents to not have a birth certificate either. Many of the relationships in Haiti are of short duration, long enough to produce child, and the father will not chose to declare the child or is long gone before the birth of the child.
Often, if the birth mother and/or father have had a birth certificate as a child and it has been destroyed or lost over the years, which is common, they often do not know where the original had been issued. Without this information, the Archive birth certificate cannot be issued.
Death Certificates: If the father or mother dies during this relationship and the family does not choose to produce a death certificate for the person, then a death certificate is not available. If there is a funeral, the person paying for the funeral will receive a certificate from the funeral director to obtain a death certificate. Often, the girl friend who has a child or is pregnant with the dead father’s child is rejected by the family and is refused the certificate. Often, the mother of the child will not know the information required to have a death certificate issued without the assistance of the dead birth father’s family.
Like the relationships being short term, rent is usually paid every six months. If somebody does not pay the rent, many times their property is confiscated or destroyed, leaving the parents with no personal records of their own.
A person has to have an identity that is only proven via a birth certificate. Without a birth certificate, the parents do not have an identity card. Without the parent having a birth certificate, therefore he/she does not have an identity card.
At this point, the parent may obtain a delayed birth declaration for themselves and or their child. The late declaration birth certificate is often not acceptable to the U.S. Consulate, however, it appears that the consulate may not understand the reality of the situation regarding birth certificates in Haiti.
The children who become available for adoption come from the lowest economic circumstances in Haiti and tend to come from families who are homeless, uneducated and who do not have existing documents.
When a child becomes available for adoption and the circumstances of lack of documents is presented, some documents have to be late declarations in order to obtain an identification card for the parent(s). Also, in those cases, the child’s birth certificate will be a late declaration.
Court Declaration: After the birth, death and/or identification documents are obtained, the parent(s) must go in front of a judge at the Tribunal (local court) and the parent(s) declare to the judge that they intent that they intent to give the child for adoption. The parent(s) is/are obligated to sign the declaration. Parent(s) who cannot sign the declaration because they are illiterate, will sign log book the document is registered in by fingerprint.
At that point, the orphanage has custody of the child and has permission to place the child for adoption.
Child’s Dossier: Then the parent(s) or the “tutor” (if the child no living parents who is appointed by the Tribunal from relatives or friends) meet with the social worker and tell the entire history of the child, their family, etc. and circumstances. The social worker questions the person and is part of the decision process to determine if the child is really in need of adoption or not.
There is an additional assortment of documents that are signed by the parent(s) or tutor, some from the orphanage, some from the adoption agency, according to particular people involved. All signatures are witnessed or notarized by a member of the court or legal notary.
Once the birth and/or death certificates have been obtained, the birth parent(s) and child have a blood test done to screen for certain illnesses. The child has a physical and psychological exam.
Different official offices involved in the process have certain requirements to be fulfilled. Once the documents are obtained, the legalizations have to be completed. This includes legalization by the Tribunal, signed and sealed by the Parquet, the Justice Department, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. All these offices have criteria to evaluate the authenticity of the documents. These requirements must be met before the documents are signed and sealed.
Some of the documents have to be presented to the Archive Office.
IBESR: Once the documents are completed and compiled, the entire dossier, containing the adoptive parents’ documents and the prospective child’s documents are submitted to IBESR (Haitian Social Services) to be studied, and approved by four different officials at the IBESR. This approval comes in form of a Adoption Authorization document.
Usually, it takes several months for the IBESR approval process to be completed.
Tribunal: Once the Adoption Authorization is issued, the entire dossier is taken to the Tribunal where all the dossier documents are evaluated for authenticity and the authorization to type up the adoption decree and judgment decree is given.
Parquet: The dossier and unsigned adoption and judgment decree are taken to the Parquet where the dossier is examined one more time. If all is found in order, the judge at the Parquet issues a letter of approval and the adoption decree and judgment decree are signed and stamped. The Parquet also legalizes the Court Declaration (Tribunal document).
Department of Justice: The adoption documents are submitted to the Department of Justice for further authentication.
Foreign Affairs: All adoption documents are submitted to Ministry of Foreign Affairs for additional authentication.
Archive Office: At this point all adoption documents are submitted to the Archive Office where the documents are registered. The Archive Office issues an authenticity certificate that certifies all the adoption related signatures of the officials from the Tribunal, Parquet, Department of Justice and Foreign Affairs.
Notary: The notary looks over all the documents and the original power of attorney that the adoptive gave and determines that all the requirements have been met to present to dossier to the Immigration Office and Ministry of Interior to obtain an adoption passport approval. A fee has to be paid to the Department of Contributions (DGI). This receipt has to be submitted to the Immigration Office with the adoption related documents.
Immigration Office: The adoption dossier has to be submitted to the Immigration Office which in turn forwards the entire dossier to the Ministry of Interior.
Ministry of Interior: Once the dossier is brought via courier to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) from the Immigration Office, it is registered and all documents are examined by lawyers for mistakes or inconsistencies. An orphanage representative has to attend an appointment at MOI to verify all information on the documents.
If there is a mistake or an inconsistency on any of the documents, the orphanage representative is given the document(s) for correction or re-issuance. Sometimes, the MOI lawyers may not “like” a certain stamp or simply may find a spelling error. The documents have to be corrected. Sometimes, MOI requests additional judgments, for example, if the mother is deceased and has a delayed registration of the death certificate, MOI may request a judgment where relatives of the dead mother have to attend court to make a sworn statement about the birth mother’s death.
For many adoptions the MOI step has taken 12 or more months because MOI is very thorough in its examination of the documents.
A letter of authorization is issued by the Director of Political Affairs to the Immigration Office that permits the issuance of an adoption passport for the adopted child. The adoption dossier and letter is sent back to the Immigration Office via courier.
Immigration Office: Once the file has returned from MOI, the orphanage representative collects the adoption dossier, fills out a passport form and passport photos of the adopted child for passport issuance.
Once the adoption process has been completed and the adoption passport is issued, the child has his/her visa physical and the documents are submitted to the U.S. Consulate for the “orphan investigation” (I-604) if the adoptive parents applied for the I-600 in the United States.
If the adoptive parents participated in the Adjudication Orphan First Program or applied for the I-600 in Haiti, the USCIS office in Haiti conducts the “orphan investigation”.