Children Reported as Found Abandoned in Nepalese Hospitals
Generally, children reported as found abandoned at a Nepal hospital would fall within the scope of the U.S. suspension of adjudication of abandonment based adoption petitions in Nepal.
USCIS recognizes that the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) of the Government of Nepal has stated that street children (“foundlings”) or children found in the streets are not eligible for intercountry adoption, but that this ban by MoWCSW does not extend to children reported to be abandoned in hospitals. While children reported to be found abandoned at a hospital are not within the scope of the MoWCSW ban, these casesare within the scope of the U.S. abandonment suspension on the adjudication of adoption petitions for children in Nepal reported as having been found abandoned, unless a birth parent can be identified and proper relinquishment procedures have been followed.
Nepalese hospitals currently do not have mechanisms in place to verify the true identity of a baby’s parent(s) during the hospital admission process. Under Nepali law, birth parents cannot relinquish a child directly to the hospital. Therefore, children reported to be found abandoned at Nepali hospitals generally would not be eligible for U.S. intercountry adoption processing at this time because the origin of these children is uncertain, and the identity of the birth parents cannot be sufficiently ascertained.
USCIS and the U.S. Department of State continue to strongly recommend that prospective adoptive parents refrain from adopting children from Nepal due to grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system. We also strongly urge adoption service providers not to accept new applications for adoption from Nepal.
The U.S. Government continues to encourage the Government of Nepal to work with the international community, including the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, to implement the Hague Adoption Convention and reform its adoption process to protect children and families.
There are special filing instructions in place for adoption petitions under the orphan system involving Nepali orphans. For more information, please see the page called “Special Instructions for How and When to File Adoption Petitions on Behalf of Nepali Children.”
USCIS and Department of State Roles
USCIS is responsible for the adjudication of the Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. In overseas locations where USCIS does not have an office, such as Nepal, USCIS has delegated limited authority to Department of State consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates to accept in-country filings of Forms I-600 in certain circumstances and to approve petitions that are clearly approvable. Form I-600 petitions found by the consular officers to be “not clearly approvable” are then forwarded to the USCIS office overseas with jurisdiction over that location for adjudication. The USCIS office in New Delhi, India, has jurisdiction over petitions filed with the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Joint USCIS and Department of State Delegation
In November 2014, a joint USCIS and Department of State delegation traveled to Nepal to learn more about the Government of Nepal’s current child welfare system and adoption procedures. The delegation also demonstrated the U.S. government’s support for Nepal’s efforts to seek permanent solutions for children in need of families and safeguard the integrity of intercountry adoptions. Over the four-day visit, the delegation met with government officials, representatives of foreign governments and various non-governmental organizations.
For more information about the visit, please see the alert posted on the Department of State website.
On August 6, 2010, the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services jointly decided to suspend adjudication of new adoption petitions and related visa issuances for children who purportedly were abandoned in Nepal.
In early August 2010, a joint assessment team from the U.S. Department of State and USCIS travelled to Nepal and performed a detailed analysis of the evidence being presented to document the abandonment of children in Nepal. The team found that information presented in support of orphan petitions included vague and self-contradictory testimony and documents. Local officials were often uncooperative or appeared to purposefully mislead or deter investigations. The U.S. Government committed to complete the processing of the 65 cases where U.S. families had received an official referral of a Nepali child before the announcement of the suspension (these cases are referred to as “pipeline” cases).
On January 5, 2011, Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare announced that children found by the police and considered abandoned will not be available for intercountry adoption until further notice.
In January 2012, Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare announced on its website that there may be children who could be considered eligible for intercountry adoption by the Government of Nepal as relinquishment cases (meaning that the children had become orphans by virtue of having been relinquished by their birth parent(s)). Due to the concerns regarding the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system, any future relinquishment cases received by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will require thorough investigations, which may include birth parent interviews and DNA testing. USCIS cannot estimate the time any investigations may take to complete. Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that investigations may require significant time and would likely result in an increased financial burden.
For more information about adoptions from Nepal, please see the Department of State website here.