Great news! President Obama has approved two important pieces of legislation affecting adoptive families — the Help HAITI Act, signed into law December 9th, and the Adoption Simplification Act, signed November 30th.
The Adoption Simplification Act does more than simplify the process for families. It helps ensure the safety of adopted children. Previously, the U.S. required all children adopted from Hague Convention countries – including China, Thailand, the Philippines and India – to receive all their vaccinations before entering the U.S. Delivered all at once, these immunizations can be unsafe to young children. “It’s good public health,” Susan Cox, Holt director of public policy and external affairs, says of ensuring everyone receives routine vaccinations against infectious diseases. “But not for babies.”
With the passage of this act, all children 10 or younger – adopted from any country – may wait to get their shots until after they enter the U.S. Delaying immunizations has one additional effect on the adoption process – an effect important to every parent and every child eager to be united as a family. “It means the children won’t have to wait so long (to enter the U.S.),” says Cox.
The Adoption Simplification Act includes one additional provision. Families who’ve adopted from Hague signatories may now adopt their child’s siblings, up to 18-years-old. Previously, the cut-off age was 16. For the siblings who will now be able to reunite in an adoptive family, this news is monumental – as well as a major step forward in protecting the rights of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.
Another breakthrough for adoptive families – and 21 Holt families in particular – occurred December 9th. Nearly one month shy of the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s massive earthquake, Obama signed into law the Help HAITI Act, ensuring citizenship for every child brought to the U.S. from Haiti on humanitarian parole visas.
Following the earthquake, the U.S. issued these visas to approximately 1,000 children already matched with adoptive families – including 21 children living at the Holt Fontana Village, the care center Holt supports in Haiti. Unlike children adopted through the usual process – who are automatically naturalized – these children faced years of waiting for the legal protections entitled to U.S. citizens. Among the children to become citizens are Nephtalie, pictured above with her sisters, Mazie Grace Jean, who joined the Polzin family in Wisconsin, and Sthainder, who lives with his family in Oregon. Click here to read more about how the 21 Holt Fontana Village children joined their families after the earthquake.