U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ October 28, 2008
U.S. Embassy Offers Orphan First Program
Due to the high rate of adoption fraud in Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar is offering prospective adopting parents the opportunity for a preliminary, unofficial review of a child's orphan status. Under the "Orphan First" pilot program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in conjunction with the Department of State (DOS), will determine whether or not a child meets the definition of orphan prior to the adoptive parents completing adoption proceedings at the parents' request. It is hoped that this program will prevent situations where U.S. citizens find that they have adopted a child from abroad but the child is not able to immigrate to the U.S. because the child does not meet the definition of orphan under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
*Note: The formal, final determination of whether or not your child meets the definition of orphan still cannot be made until after you have a legal obligation to your child.
Prospective adoptive parents who would like to take advantage of this offer, should fax (011-221- 822-5903) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) the following documents, if available and applicable, to the U.S. Consul when they request this unofficial review:
1. Completed I-604
2. A copy of the child's official intake form completed at the time the child was brought to the orphanage. The intake form should indicate the circumstances under which the child was brought to the orphanage and any actions taken to confirm the facts.
3. A copy of the child's birth certificate.
4. A copy of a death certificate for any parent who has died.
If the child has one sole or surviving parent, a copy of the statement the biological parent made at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs irrevocably relinquishing parental rights.
If a parent has abandoned a child or disappeared, copies of the police report, the report by Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs detailing efforts to locate the parent and severing parental ties of the missing parent, and/or a court order making the child a ward of the state.
After reviewing the documents, the U.S. Consul will inform you whether the child you hope to adopt is an orphan if all of the documents are authentic, whether the child is not an orphan, or whether it is likely that a field investigation would be required in order to confirm orphan status.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown is responsible for field investigations. Due to workload constraints, field investigations are not conducted until the U.S. Consul in Dakar receives a copy of a court order from the High Court of Sierra Leone granting either a full and final adoption (IR3) or leave to adopt (IR4) and evidence of orphan status. Field investigations can take between 3 and 6 months, depending on workload and the availability of witnesses to confirm evidence of orphan status.
With addition questions, contact the U.S. Embassy in Dakar or the Office of Children’s Issues.