Deportation of Adoptees? We Must Do Better
There is a man right now in the United States facing the possibility of deportation. His name is Adam Crapser. Some people may start reading this and wonder why the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) is writing about this. We are writing about this because this is not simply a citizenship issue, it is an adoption issue. Or rather an issue of how some adoptions have been transacted in this country. For many years, DAI and others have been researching and investigating the issues that matter most to our community and yet, with all that we know, there are still cracks in the foundation and critical problems with laws, policies and practices surrounding adoption. Adam Crapser’s experience constitutes a failure of the adoption system and the adults who promised to care for him.
Born in South Korea and adopted by US citizens as a toddler, Adam was abused and neglected by his adoptive family who ultimately abandoned him when he was 10. Adam spent time in foster care, was adopted a second time, abused again, and then abandoned by this second family as a teenager.
Adam has had tumultuous years in life. Surely we can all agree that a chaotic and abusive upbringing could challenge any one of us. A series of poor choices led to Adam’s involvement with the criminal justice system and he paid the price for his crimes by serving time in prison. He has shared in interviews that he has now turned his life around. But in seeking to turn his life around, Adam is facing yet another battle. A battle that could have been avoided all together had a basic key principle been upheld when he was adopted: the best interest of the child.
Because even though both families legally finalized Adam’s adoption, no one followed through to ensure Adam’s permanency in this country through the filing of citizenship paperwork. In 2000, the United States passed the Child Citizenship Act granting automatic citizenship to any child who was adopted by US citizens with one caveat; the law only applies to adopted persons who were under the age of 18 when it came into effect.
Adam was an adult in 2000 so the law doesn’t apply to him.
Adam is not the only person adopted into the United States from another country who has faced deportation as an adult. Although no specific statistics seem to be kept on these tragic situations, advocates estimate that this is an issue that could impact thousands and has already impacted at least 40 adopted persons to date.
Adam was abandoned physically, psychologically and emotionally by his two adoptive families as well as the system of adoption. Now, the United States is turning their back to him. Adam didn’t ask to be brought to the United States as a child. He didn’t ask to be adopted. Adults made that happen. Adults who are seemingly absent now as Adam struggles to have his very existence acknowledged in a country that promised him a ‘forever family’ so many years ago.
Adoption either provides the same legal rights and protections as any other family or it doesn’t. We cannot have it both ways.
Ideally, in any adoption there is a system in place to provide oversight and protection in ensuring the child’s best interests are being met. This means that the child is being well cared for, is free from abuse and neglect, and also that the necessary practical steps have been followed to guarantee the appropriate paperwork has been filed. In international adoption, this means that all steps have been taken to ensure the child benefits from all the privileges and rights of citizenship in the country they will know as home through adoption. For some reason this part of Adam’s adoption was left undone.
There are a variety of solutions to this injustice. To begin with, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 needs to be amended to grant retroactive citizenship to all persons adopted internationally to the United States, including those who are now adults. This amendment needs to allow those adopted persons who have already been deported to return to this country if they wish.
We hope every person in this county right now would write to their legislators to tell them this amendment needs to be enacted immediately. You can visit Keep Us Home to learn more about the steps you can take to support Adam and those who are working so hard to stop his deportation.
There are also other factors at play that require our attention. Some have speculated that at times families may not file citizenship paperwork because they weren’t aware they needed to do so, or, they may have found the paperwork too burdensome so they put it aside. The former is the responsibility of the professionals who engage in the transactions of adoption placements. Pre and post adoption education and support services must become stronger to ensure families are prepared in every regard to parent through adoption. This includes certifying that families are aware of all steps necessary to ensure safety, well being, and permanency for a child.
The notion though that the filing of necessary paperwork may be perceived as burdensome by some families leaves us without words.
Facing a possible deportation trial is burdensome. Trying to get your life on track after living a childhood fraught with abuse, neglect and upheaval is, at a bare minimum, burdensome.
And it is within this idea that some elements pertaining to the adoption of a child may be perceived as so laborious they can be ignored, that a cultural shift is absolutely needed in adoption. There are a variety of papers that need to be completed and filed surrounding any adoption matter. There will be oversight, home visits, phone calls, and court dates. A person who becomes a parent through adoption signs up for that. Professionals who engage in the work of adoption placements sign up for that. A child does not. Adam did not. It is the adults then that are responsible for the follow through; ensuring the total well being of a child cannot and should not ever be perceived as burdensome.
Deportation proceedings against Adam Crapser need to be immediately dismissed. After this, the United States should as a collective society, offer our sincerest apology to Adam and every other adopted person in this country who has suffered because their ‘best interest’ was secondary to the fact that certain transactions were deemed unimportant or burdensome.
After years of research and lived experience we know what is needed to make adoption work, and to ensure the lifelong well-being of adopted people we need it to work. We write about Adam, in the hopes of shedding some light, offering support, and most pressingly so every single one of us, whether you have a connection to adoption or not, will stand as a united community to send the message that what’s happened to Adam and others like him is not okay.
From here we must all engage in the transformation necessary to ensure that adoption, at every step of the way, remains not only in the child’s best interest but also in the best interest of the adult they ideally will become.