Family adoption from the US

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My son, who was a resident of the United States (US), unfortunately died in a motor vehicle accident in May of this year. He had a 14-year-old daughter who resides with her mother and a younger sibling in central Jamaica. My granddaughter currently attends high school in Jamaica.

My granddaughter is the complainant in a matter currently before the parish court in central Jamaica, due to an alleged breach of the Sexual Offences Act. Her mother is not currently employed and has never had stable employment.

My deceased son's two siblings (sisters) and his mother are residents of the US — both siblings are married and the elder of the two is a US citizen.

My granddaughter's mother has been approached by the elder sibling to adopt her, which she has provisionally agreed to.

We would be grateful if you can advise us on the process of the adoption and if the current matter of which my granddaughter is a complainant will mitigate against the adoption process.

I must hasten to add that the alleged incident of which my granddaughter is a complainant occurred outside of the control and supervision of her mother.

Let me deal with your major concern first. The fact that your granddaughter is the complainant witness in a criminal matter should not impede the progress or the processing of your eldest daughter's application to adopt her niece. However, I trust that your granddaughter agrees with the plan for her to be adopted and consequently that your daughter would then legally be in the place of her mother and that her surname would be changed to her adoptive parent's name. She is old enough to understand and she must be asked, and everything should be explained to her.

Once the application has been submitted, I would suggest that the clerk of court, having carriage of your granddaughter's case, be informed that she is going through an adoption proceeding. This is to ensure that the clerk will understand if and when dates have to be chosen which are convenient for her and make every effort to complete the matter expeditiously.

I also want you to consider this — the Adoption Board acts in the best interests of the child when it makes a decision about the adoption or otherwise of a child by prospective adopters. In your granddaughter's case, it seems to me that it is not only in her best interests to be adopted by your eldest daughter and be taken to reside with her in the USA, but that it is a matter of urgency that this occurs, as this will take her out of an environment of danger and she can receive the appropriate therapy necessary for the incident which made her a complainant as you have mentioned. This is a sound argument for your daughter's application to be processed as quickly as possible. Your granddaughter needs to be removed from the environment as quickly as possible.

Consequently, I suggest that your eldest daughter retains a lawyer to prepare and file an application for custody, care and control of the child immediately and assist her with the hearing of the matter. By this means, on the making of these orders, your eldest daughter will be fully in charge of her niece's upbringing and welfare and will have the right to have her go and live with her in the US as soon as she can make the entry and residence arrangements. The order of custody would give her the right to make all decisions, especially important ones, affecting her niece's welfare. The order giving her care and control will give her the right and obligation to have her niece live with her and to care for her day by day. A certified copy of such an order must be submitted to the Adoption Board with all the other documents required to be submitted with your daughter's application form, for example, her medical and police records, a certified copy of her birth certificate and certified or notarised copy of her marriage certificate (the latter if she married in the USA), and her husband's written consent to the adoption, if she is indeed married. An original letter of employment showing her position, length of service and salary, a certified copy the child's medical records, a certified copy of her birth certificate, single photographs of herself and of the child, a note of the full name and address and phone contact of the child's mother, a notarised copy of your son's death certificate, and any other required documents would be submitted as required. Your daughter would also have to ensure that her home study report is submitted directly to the Adoption Board.

I have listed the submission of a certified copy of your daughter's birth certificate because proof of the fact that she was born in Jamaica, would, though she is a US citizen, prove that she has ties to Jamaica and can be granted an adoption order here. If your son's name and particulars were not included in your granddaughter's birth records and certificate, then a application for a declaration of his paternity by the mother must be made to the Family Court of their parish as a matter of the utmost urgency. You would be a most valuable support witness of the fact of your son's paternity for such an application, a certified copy of which must be submitted with your daughter's application. If he is on the records and birth certificate, then a declaration will not be necessary.

My suggestion for your daughter to apply for orders of custody and for care and control does not mean that I am suggesting that she must do so and delay her application to adopt her niece. My concern is to shorten the time wherein your granddaughter has to continue to remain in what has proved to be a dangerous environment for her. Your daughter should really contact the Child Development Agency (telephone 1-876-922-1751) of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, which receives and processes adoption applications for the Adoption Board and ask their advice, especially for how long it would take for her to be able to have her niece travel and live with her in the US after the submission of her application, and she should ask them for a copy of their guidelines for adoption applications in Jamaica. She could get it and the relevant forms sent to her by e-mail (e-mail adoption@cda.gov.jm).

I have purposely not gone through the procedural processes of an adoption application because the guidelines and advice and assistance provided by the agency to prospective applicants are very comprehensive and free of charge. I did not want you all bogged down with technicalities. The processing of her application will also be free of charge and the only cost to your daughter would be for the cost of her home study report and the provision of certified and notarised copies of all required documents, and her attorney's fees, if she decides to retain one to assist her.

I hope this will assist your daughter to move forward as quickly as possible to apply to adopt her niece, who has seemingly suffered not only the traumatic event of her father's sudden death, but also the violation which resulted in her becoming the complainant in a case under the Sexual Offences Act. I do hope that what is necessary is done in order to provide a secure, settled and loving home for your granddaughter.

All the best wishes and God's blessings to you all.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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