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Americans for African Adoptions Inc. - Policies and Procedures

AFAA POLICIES & PROCEDURES

Americans For African Adoptions, Inc. (AFAA) is a licensed, non-profit, international adoption agency. AFAA was the first licensed, American agency to work with African orphans for adoption and the first licensed, American adoption agency to be approved by the Government of Ethiopia to place their orphan children. AFAA has been continuously licensed since 1986.

The AFAA basic principles for the adoption of African orphans:

  1. To assist needy African orphans in need of adoption and sponsorship.

  2. To assist families to adopt and/or sponsor an African child.

  3. To assist AFAA adopting families with an awareness of U.S. federal and state education laws and U.S. Immigration regulations.

  4. To provide one or more $1,000 educational scholarships ("Nimit Moore Scholars") for families adopting through AFAA. Scholarship sponsors are needed to put this program into effect.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR AFAA APPLICANTS

APPLICATIONS
Adoption applications can be accepted from couples and single women anywhere in the free world. Presently, only American citizens can adopt from Ethiopia. Applications cannot be accepted from pregnant women. Applicants must notify AFAA immediately if they receive an adopted or foster child through any other source.

LEGAL RESIDENCE
Families living in the U.S. must be a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization. American citizens living abroad can adopt an African child. One parent must be a U.S. citizen.

For non U.S. citizens it is critical to learn if the country you reside in will allow an African child to enter your country as your adopted child. Adoptions are finalized by proxy in Africa. It is your responsibility to learn the rules of your country. AFAA welcomes Canadian citizens.

APPLICANT'S AGE
Age guidelines are 21 to 60 with a preference of no more than 43 years difference between the age of the child and the oldest parent. Single American women must be at least 25, per U.S. Immigration regulations. Exceptions have been made in Africa.

APPLICANT'S EDUCATION
A minimum high school degree or a GED high school equivalent certificate is preferred. A trade school diploma is accepted.

LENGTH OF MARRIAGE
Minimum 2 years preferred.

CRIMINAL HISTORY CLEARANCE
State or local police must do a criminal history check on everyone in the home 18+. Police clearances must be on Police Department letterhead and must show the full name and address of the individual and must be dated.

STATE CHILD ABUSE REGISTRY
A State Child Abuse Registry clearance for everyone 18+ residing in the home is necessary. If your state does not have a child abuse registry the social worker preparing your homestudy must make note of this in your homestudy.

SINGLES
Female single applicants are accepted in Liberia and Ethiopia.

APPLICANT'S HEALTH
Applicants must be in good physical and mental health, verified by a licensed, medical physician, using an AFAA medical form, or a medical form from your homestudy agency. The exam must be current (within 6 months of being submitted). If an applicant has a serious medical or emotional condition controlled by medication, the doctor must provide a statement about the problem, including a prognosis.

APPLICANT'S FINANCIAL SECURITY
Applicant's financial documents must be provided for review. Home ownership is not a requirement. Copies of the past 3 years U.S. federal tax returns and W-2's must be provided for the U.S. Embassy with an I-864 U.S. Immigration form (send to AFAA at a later date). AFAA will need these documents for the U.S. Embassy to process your child's U.S. visa. We also need current bank letters (not monthly statements) providing bank balances for the African government and a current bank letter and employment verification at the time of your child's U.S. visa interview.

PARENTS TRAVEL
We recommend that adopting parents do not travel to Liberia - Ethiopia is okay, depending on the situation at time of travel. Adopted children will be escorted to the adopting family's state. Please see "Escort Expenses" in this AFAA Policies & Procedures.

APPLICANT'S LIFESTYLE
AFAA will need to be notified of a significant change in the applicant's life, i.e., loss of employment, a new home, death, serious illness of an immediate family member, additional persons in the home and/or family members leaving the home.

DOSSIER APPROVAL
Home studies must be completed by a licensed adoption agency in the state or the country of the family's residence. Arranging the homestudy is your responsibility. Acceptance to adopt through AFAA comes after your homestudy agency has studied and approved your family, and after the AFAA Executive Director, Denisa Reberger, has reviewed and approved your paperwork.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

The "AFAA Application" must include the following documents. (If some documents are not available at the time you mail your application please send them ASAP – you do not have to wait until you have all documents before applying, however applications must be held, until ALL documents are received in the AFAA office and are approved by the AFAA Executive Director, Denisa Reberger.

  1. AFAA Adoption Application – (original and one copy).

  2. State or country birth certificate photo copies for applicants. If applicants are not citizens of their country of residence by birth, proof of naturalization must be included – (3 copies).

  3. State or country photo copies of marriage certificate – (3 copies).

  4. Divorce decree(s) photo copies, if applicable – (3 copies).

  5. Financial information, i.e., AFAA notarized financial form, signed photo copies of the last 3 year's tax returns, 3 years of the last 3 year's W-2's or 1099's and a bank letter providing applicants' checking and savings account balances. Please be certain tax returns are signed.) – (4 copies.).

  6. AFAA medical form for each person 18+ residing in the home – (original and 2 copies).

  7. Color photographs of each individual residing in the home, and the interior and exterior of the main rooms of your home – (2 sets).

  8. Passport size photos of each adopting parent – (2 of each parent).

  9. Current home study (not more than six months old) – (2 notarized originals and 2 copies).

  10. Autobiographies of both parents with important life experiences, i.e., childhood, education, courtship, marriage, children, etc. – (original and one copy).

  11. Current employment letter for each applicant – (original and 3 copies).

  12. U.S. State Child Abuse Registry Clearance for each person 18+ residing in the home – if your state does not have a Child Abuse Registry your social worker must state this in your home study – (original and 2 copies).

  13. Local police clearance for each parent – (original and 2 copies).

  14. Three reference letters from non-relatives – (original and 2 copies).

  15. A letter to the government of the African country you wish to adopt from, dated and signed by both adopting parents. Your letter should be one typewritten page, explaining why you want to adopt from the specific country. Please do not explain why you want to adopt a child or why you want to adopt from Africa. African government social workers would like to know why you want to adopt from their country - we can guide you with this, it sounds complicated but it is not – (original and 2 copies).

  16. Proof of medical insurance for the adopting parents and the adopted child. This can be a copy of your medical insurance card and a copy of the pages indicating coverage of adopted children, or a letter from your insurance company stating that both adopting parents, or the single parent is covered and when the adopted child's coverage will begin – (2 copies).

  17. If a child was ever placed in your home for adoption, and no longer resides with you, or a foster child was removed from your home, please explain the reason why the child is no longer with you. IF a court or child welfare department was involved please provide a copy of the court order covering the child's removal. This information must also be in your homestudy. It can be addressed in a homestudy addendum – (original and 1 copy).

  18. If either applicant is paying child support or alimony, please include a statement with the amount of the support payments. – (original and 1 copy).

  19. Power of Attorney: This AFAA form authorizes an AFAA representative to process your adoption on your behalf. The form must be signed by both parents and be notarized. The POA is sent to you after AFAA reviews and approves your dossier – (2 originals and 2 copies).

Applicants must be approved by the licensed adoption agency preparing the homestudy, the AFAA Executive Director, immigration in the adopting family's country, and the involved African government. Homestudy agencies are responsible for securing reference letters. Your social worker must include financial information within the study. Your social worker must sign the last page of the study and have his/her signature notarized.

Please share this information with your social worker

HOMESTUDIES MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Personal and family stats (important background information and physical descriptions).

  2. Educational background for each adopting adult.

  3. Information about the finances of prospective adoptive parent(s), wages, bank accounts and investments, value of the family home, value of life insurance, etc.

  4. Duration and stability of prospective adoptive parents' marriage.

  5. Assessment of the physical, mental, emotional and financial capabilities to parent a foreign child.

  6. Information about biological and/or adopted children already in the home including country of origin – family homestudy needs to include children no longer living in the home and a brief explanation why.

  7. Information about how cultural and racial differences are viewed by your family, how they will be handled, and African cultural resources available or being sought by your family.

  8. Information about discussions between the social worker and family pertaining to adopting an older international child, siblings, a child from an African culture, a child viewed as a black child, a child viewed as a bi-racial child, a child who may have spent considerable time in an orphanage, a child who may have lost their biological family because of abandonment, famine, drought or war.

  9. Explanation about a previous rejection for adoption or prior unfavorable study, if any.

  10. Living accommodations of the adopting family.

  11. History and treatment of substance abuse, sexual or child abuse, and/or domestic violence, if applicable, for anyone in the family, even if it did not result in an arrest or conviction. This includes acts committed on the adopting family, or committed by the adopting family (this information is mandated by U.S. Immigration.)

  12. Summary of adoption counseling provided and plans for post-placement counseling.

POST-PLACEMENT SUPERVISION

Your African adoption is a full, legal, binding and complete adoption. New United States regulations (2/27/01) state that a child adopted in a foreign country by an American citizen, who has been seen by the adopting parent(s) prior to the foreign adoption, and who is under the age of 18, will automatically become a U.S. citizen. If the child is not seen prior to the foreign adoption, the child must be readopted in the U.S. or the adoption decree must be registered in the family's state in order for the child to receive U.S. citizenship. As soon as the child's U.S. adoption is complete, or the adoption is registered with your state probate court, your child will be an automatic citizen and you can request a certificate of citizenship or you can apply for a U.S. passport for your child. Canada accepts the proxy foreign adoption. European families need to determine citizenship regulations of their country.

African governments insist on post-placement reports, prepared by the family's local adoption agency, at the following intervals. Post-placement reports must be accompanied with a minimum of four, close-up photographs of your child.

  • three months after the child has left Africa - prepared by family's local social worker.

  • six months after the child has left Africa - prepared by family's local social worker.

  • 12 months after the child has left Africa - prepared by family's local social worker.

  • annually until the child reaches 18 - prepared by the adopting family.

  • all reports must include a minimum of four, close-up, current photographs.

These reports are mandatory.
Not providing them seriously affects other African children from being adopted.

UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION (INS) PROCEDURES & FEES

Homestudies & INS: Your homestudy should be sent to your U.S. INS office through your homestudy agency and/or the child welfare department in your state of residence. If you reside outside of the U.S. please consult with your homestudy social worker about processing your study.

Your homestudy must be less than six months old when submitted to U.S. INS.

  1. ALL authentications are handled by AFAA – the cost is included in your agency fee: After the AFAA Executive Director reviews and approves your dossier, AFAA processes your family dossier for authentication by the Indiana Secretary of State, the U.S. Department of State in Washington and the involved African Embassy. After completion AFAA couriers your dossier to Africa for processing by African committees, departments, translators, foreign affairs offices, courts, African immigration offices and the U.S. and/or other involved Embassies. A cover letter is added to non-U.S. dossiers and processed through U.S. authentication procedures. Families do NOT do ANY authentication processing.

  2. U.S. INS I-600A (orange form) is for an unidentified child. U.S. families begin with ONE of these forms. The family pays the U.S. INS fee of $525. This form approves the family, not the child. An additional fee of $70 for fingerprints is required for each person 18+ residing in the home.

  3. U.S. INS I-600 (blue form) is for an identified child. If you have filed the I-600A form there is no additional charge to file the I-600 form. This form cannot be filed until AFAA has secured all of your child's African documents. AFAA files this form for you. You fill out the front, sign the back and send it to AFAA - we process this form. You need one form for EACH child you adopt.

  4. There is no U.S. additional immigration fee if additional children are siblings. There is a $525 fee for each child if the children are not siblings.

  5. U.S. INS forms must be accompanied by a copy of each applicant's proof of citizenship, (birth certificate or valid passport), a copy of your marriage certificate and divorce decree(s) if applicable. Your homestudy can be sent later but INS processing will not begin until your homestudy is received. A current, local child abuse registry clearance must be submitted with your homestudy. If your state does not have a child abuse registry your homestudy must explain that. Any foreign language documents must have English translations. INS will notify you of a location, date and time to take your fingerprints.

  6. U.S. Immigration requires an I-864 form which is an affidavit of support, proof of current employment and signed copies of last three years of income tax returns, W-2's or 1099's. Do NOT give the I-600 and I-864 documents to INS - send them to AFAA. We will process these forms on your behalf.

U.S. Immigration forms can be copied from the INS website. INS officers have said it is helpful if the I-600A form is copied on orange paper and the I-600 form is copied on blue paper. This is not mandatory but it is easier for an INS officer to quickly identify the forms.

U.S. Immigration website is: www.USCIS.gov

The next step is the hardest - patience, patience, patience. Please remember your application is one of thousands across the country that U.S. INS must process. Orphan cases are supposed to have U.S. INS priority. PLEASE do not push us, to push the process in Africa. There isn't a single U.S. government office that would allow a foreigner to dictate how quickly they process anything. Foreign governments do not like foreigners trying to do the same. (You may have to push U.S. INS however.)

TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS & ESCORT EXPENSES

Children's travel and escort expenses are NOT included in AFAA adoption fees.


1. Escort Expenses for Ethiopia:

2.Escort Expenses for Liberia :

$ 1,600

$ 2,300

The expenses for an escort include air travel, hotel, meals, ground transportation, laundry, visas, Malaria medicine, innoculations, parasite medications, passports, airport charges and incidentals. Escort expense, per family, is $1,600 for each family adopting one or two children. Additional escort expenses must be added for three or more children adopted by the same family at the same time.

3. Child's airfare from Africa to Newark - under 12 years, approximately:

$750

    12 and over, approximately

$1,300

Children are met by adopting families in Newark OR the child is brought to your state by an escort. All travel arrangements are handled by AFAA. All adoption, foster care, escort fees and airfares must be paid before your child is able to leave Africa.

Fees do not cover any legal expenses in your country,
or a child's medical tests beyond the referenced tests.
Fees do not cover any hospitalization for your child if ever required in Africa.

ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE IN U.S. FUNDS ONLY

There are NO surprise, hidden or extra fees,
nothing is added as you process through the adoption.

The Application Fee covers the initial application to AFAA, establishing your file, a review of all application papers, long distance phone calls, faxes, postage, etc.

AFAA Child Fees cover search expenses, long distance and international phone, fax and e-mail, overnight services, courier charges, and medical, visa and identification photos. Also U.S. visa fees, U.S. and African authentication charges, translations, photocopies and in country travel expenses by African representatives, African government, court, legal and immigration expenses, African passports, exit visas, European transit visas if needed, in-country departure airport taxes, birth and death certificates, physical exams, tests for HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B, Syphilis and TB if indicated. Also U.S. and African staff time.


1.

AFAA Application Fee:

$250

 

This is paid with your application, is not refundable and is valid for one year from the date of your application. This fee is per family, not per child.

2.

AFAA Ethiopian Fee:

$7500

 

$3,500 is paid when a family is approved by AFAA. $3,500 is paid when the Ethiopian government approves the family. The first $3,500 is not refundable if applicant(s) decide not to work with AFAA. The second $3,500 is refundable if the applicant(s) decide not to work with AFAA and AFAA receives a written statement 90 days prior to an escort's departure. AFAA cannot continue to process applications when fees are outstanding.

3.

AFAA Liberian Fee:

$5,000

 

$2,500 is paid when a family is approved by AFAA. $2,500 is paid when the Liberian government approves the family. The first $2,500 is not refundable if applicants decide not to work with AFAA. The second $2,500 is refundable if the applicant(s) decide not to work with AFAA and AFAA receives a written statement 90 days prior to an escort's departure. AFAA cannot continue to process applications when fees are outstanding.

4.

Sibling or additional, unrelated Ethiopian child fee:

$3,750

 

For each additional child when placed at the same time as the first child.

5.

Siblings or additional, unrelated Liberian child fee:

$2,000

 

For each additional child when placed at the same time as the first child.

6.

U.S. Immigration Fee

$525

 

One INS fee for siblings adopted together. An additional fee of $525 for each unrelated child. The I-600A form should be filed immediately - it takes about three months.

7.

U.S. Immigration fingerprint fee, for each adult 18+ living in the home

$70

 

Canadian families should address questions to their local provincial authority and their local Immigration office. Canadian families and families from other countries are responsible for handling the immigration process for their country.

8.

African Artifacts:

$100

 

AFAA will bring artifacts from your child's country, including but not limited to national clothing, books, jewelry, drums, baskets, dolls, cloth, table covers, music, etc. Items selected for your child are determined by availability.

9.

Foster Care:

 

 

Children often need to be placed in African foster care. AFAA manages the Ethiopian "AFAA House" which cares for 30 to 35 children at a time.

 

Ethiopian babies on baby formula - monthly cost of:

$200

 

Ethiopian children not on formula - monthly cost of:

$175

 
 

Foster care for Liberian children:

 

Liberian babies on baby formula - monthly cost of:

$200

 

Liberian children not on formula - monthly cost of:

$175

CHILD IDENTIFICATION AND INFORMATION

  1. Children's ages and situations: The age of African children ranges from a few weeks to 15 years at the time of acceptance and includes some sibling groups, twins and a few handicapped children. Infants are quickly assigned but definitely available - older children are often overlooked. ALL children are processed by the involved African government. Some children live in orphanages, some in an "AFAA Foster Home", a few live with extended family, some with neighbors. Children's ages are approximated by African social workers, doctors, orphanage staff, foster mothers, and relatives - ages are estimated and are not guaranteed.

  2. Waiting children: There are always children waiting for a family, especially older children (5 and up).

  3. Children's health: African children are "healthy by Third World standards". Children may have head lice and parasites and also possibly malaria or TB. Malaria has proven controllable with medication. TB can be eliminated. Some children will be malnourished or under-nourished.

    In many Third World countries children born in hospitals are innoculated with the BCG vaccine for TB - if done a child's TB skin test will be positive. Advise your doctor that your African child may have received the BCG vaccine. Parasites often include "Giardia". Children are tested for HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B and Syphilis. TB testing, if indicated, is by chest x-ray. If a child tests positive for anything, the decision to accept is the adopting family's.

    Rejecting a child does NOT jeopardize your AFAA application. African physicians recommended by U.S. or Canadian Embassies do medical exams and tests on children. Waiting children are predominately healthy. A few are handicapped, usually orthopedic, blind, deaf/mute and/or heart problems. African children are often the strongest of the strong. In good times, one out of every three African children dies of diarrhea, malaria or malnutrition before the age of five. In bad times every other child dies from the same ailments before age five. Shriners Hospitals provide free medical care for burns, orthopedic and cleft lip/palate problems.

  4. Child selection: As an AFAA family you will select your child. You will be asked to narrow your choice, based on age and sex and we will provide photos of a few children at a time. You will select your child from photos and brief information.

  5. Waiting period: The time estimate for a child's arrival is six to twelve months after all of your documents are received by AFAA.

The waiting period is a time estimate - please do not hold our feet to the fire.

We have no control over how long the process takes in Africa.

AFRICAN RELIGION AND CULTURE

  1. Religion: There are no restrictions on the religion of the adopting family.

  2. African culture: Your African child is a native African. Serious consideration should be given to keeping your child's African name. Their name, pride, culture and a few artifacts are all they can bring to you.

    African boys are more assertive than African girls. African boys are often chauvinistic. Children often as young as four do serious chores. The children have not seen dogs inside a home. African children sometimes know about their ethnic culture and their personal heritage, however, if they have been raised in an orphanage they will know little about their culture and nothing of their background. Children like to attend school – they view education as their only opportunity to gain employment. The children usually study hard and wonder why their peers do not do the same. African children may sometimes say they have been beaten, this may be true but it may also mean a slap to the hand or buttocks which is described as a "beating." African children are physically tough. They do not always have shoes to wear. They rarely have anyone to take their bumps, bruises and scratches to for help.

    To date, we have seen no serious, negative effects from malnutrition with the children we have placed. We believe it is a condition of the strongest being the survivors.

    African children are all colors of the tan/brown/black rainbow, from very light to very dark, to Arab, to bi-racial, to black, in coloring and features. Children's features are indicative of their tribal or ethnic backgrounds, often mixed between two or more groups. Some African children, both male and female, have been circumcised. While female circumcision is appalling to a Westerner, fortunately or unfortunately, the child will not know the difference. Since 1986 we are aware of three of the teenage girls we brought to North America who were circumcised.

AFRICAN COUNTRY ADOPTION PROGRAMS

  1. Ethiopian program: Ethiopia is in East Africa and was never colonized. Life for the average person is very poor. Children's ages are one month to 14 years at time of assignment. Time estimate from the time AFAA approves all of a family's documentation until the time a child arrives is approximately eight to twelve months. Families select their child from photos and brief information.

  2. Liberian program: Liberia is in West Africa. Liberia was the country established for released slaves returning to Africa. In recent years Liberia has been decimated by civil war. There is no electricity, running water or mail service without a generator and a well and few telephones. Time estimate from the time AFAA approves all of a family's documentation until the time a child arrives is approximately three to six months. The majority of children are in extremely poor orphanages, sleeping on a thin mat on the ground. Children have often been found wandering in the street. Occasionally birth parents have abandoned their child to the orphanage in an effort to get them fed.
    (Liberia is a new program.)

  3. Sierra Leone program: Sierra Leone is in West Africa. It was a former British colony and English and the Sierra Leone language of Krio are widely spoken.
    (Efforts are underway to reopen this program.)

  4. Other African country programs are being explored.


People can be divided into four groups:

  • Those who make things happen,

  • those who watch things happen,

  • those who wonder what happened, and

  • those who didn't realize anything happened

WHICH ARE YOU?





"The world is our neighborhood, our city and our country...
we are all citizens of the world!"

Peace, good food and clean water,

Denisa Reberger, MS, LMHC
AFAA Executive Director

Cheryl Carter-Shotts
AFAA Managing Director