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ORR Sponsorship Frequently Asked Questions

Published: August 16, 2012

Q. What happens when unaccompanied Haitian children arrive in the U.S.?

A. When an unaccompanied Haitian child arrives in the U.S., he or she will be met by federal immigration officials. If the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines that the child has a legal guardian (e.g., a court has issued a final adoption decree), then the child will be released to the legal guardian once all of the parties’ identities and statuses have been verified.

For unaccompanied Haitian children who have been matched with an adoptive family that do not yet have legal guardianship, they will be placed in the custody of the Federal government and become the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Q. Why is ORR responsible for the unaccompanied Haitian children?

A. ORR is currently responsible for the "Unaccompanied Children’s Services" program, which provides care and placement for all unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who are under 18 years of age, who have no immigration status, and who do not have a parent or legal guardian available in the U.S. to provide care for them. ORR provides a safe and appropriate environment for UAC from the time they are placed in ORR custody until their reunification with family members or sponsors in the U.S. ORR’s number one concern is to make sure that the unaccompanied Haitian children are cared for and that they have a safe family reunification.

Q. What do I have to do to have the child released to me if I do not have a final adoption decree?

A. You will be asked to complete the ORR family reunification sponsorship process. We understand that you are anxious to be united with the child whom you intend to adopt. Please understand that these procedures are critical safeguards to ensure that children whose adoptions are not yet finalized, and who do not yet have legal guardians, are being placed in homes that are prepared to care for them. We will do everything we can to make this process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, and appreciate your patience. The release process is normally completed within one to three days.

Q. If I am married, should both of us travel to pick up our child to the HHS release processing site?

A. HHS strongly encourages both spouses to travel. However, when this is not possible, HHS will release if only one of the parents is present.

Q. May I designate someone else to travel to pick up my child?

A. No. Sponsors should travel to the designated HHS processing site.

Q. Where do I travel to pick up my child?

A. HHS has collaborated with other federal partners and care providers to establish sites to provide temporary care for children while prospective adoptive parents complete the sponsorship process. Prospective adoptive parents may visit with their children at the site while the process is being completed.

Q. Who should I contact when I arrive to the designated HHS release site?

A. HHS staff will be present when you arrive. If you have any problems locating an HHS representative on site, you may call 202-441-7748.

Q. If I am applying to sponsor more than one child, do I fill out a separate Family Reunification Packet Application for each child?

A. Yes.

Q. If I am married, who is the sponsor for the Family Reunification Packet Application?

A. Both spouses should be listed as the sponsors.

Q. What supporting documentation do I have to provide to sponsor a child?

A. A completed Family Reunification Packet Application, a signed Conditions of Release form, valid home study, criminal background checks, and a government issued photo ID for each sponsor are required. The remainder of the supporting documentation listed on page 1 and 2 of the Family Reunification Packet application is not applicable for prospective adoptive parents applying to sponsor Haitian children.

Q. What constitutes a valid home study?

A. The home study must have been conducted for the adoption of a child from Haiti by a licensed home study agency within the last 18 months, and should be on the letterhead of the home study agency and signed. The home study must match the current residence of the sponsor(s) and current household members, with an approval for the type of child that is being sponsored (i.e. number of children, age, etc).

Q. What if I don’t have a valid home study?

A. You should have a home study update completed. If this is not possible due to time constraints, you should bring your out-of-date home study and alternate documentation to demonstrate your ability to provide for the child’s physical and mental well-being (e.g., proof of address, relationship with the child, and ability to provide for the child financially). In the event that there is insufficient information to demonstrate your ability to meet the child’s needs, ORR will provide temporary care to the child in an ORR licensed child care program, while ORR collaborates with you to complete the ORR/DUCS family reunification process. ORR/DUCS does not place children in refugee camps or in state foster care while they are undergoing the sponsorship release process.

Q. What does HHS require for criminal background checks?

A. HHS requires FBI criminal background checks conduced within the last 12 months for all sponsors. You should bring all documentation that you may have to demonstrate criminal clearances, including the I-171H or copies of fingerprint check results. Sponsors with criminal background should bring supporting documentation including police reports and court dispositions. HHS is partnering with other federal entities to conduct updated fingerprint background checks at HHS designated release sites for sponsors with expired prints. In the event that documentation of a clear criminal background is not available, ORR will provide temporary care to the child in an ORR licensed child care program while ORR collaborates with you and their federal partners assist you with updating your clearances.

Q. Do any of the forms have to be notarized?

A. No.

Q. Where can I get information on the status of my child being approved to travel to the United States?

A. Questions for the Department of Homeland Security regarding the status of adoptions in Haiti may be routed to: haitianadoptions@dhs.gov.

Q. Where can I get information on finalizing the adoption process?

A. HHS/ORR does not have any authority over international adoptions. Information is available at http://adoption.state.gov. Questions should be routed to Askci@state.gov.

Q. Where can I get information on Haitian orphans not already in line for adoptions?

A. The U.S. State Department oversees international adoptions. Questions may be routed to: taskforce-5@state.gov.