PAKISTAN ADOPTION PROGRAM
Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign nation in South Asia. With a population exceeding 209 million people, it is the sixth most populous country and with an area covering 307,374 square miles, it is the 36th largest country in the world in area.
According to the World Bank, 60% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. However, most abandonment of children is due to illegitimacy especially when a child is female. Pakistani culture values a male heir who can earn more money than a woman, will care for his parents when they are elderly and will not cost the family a bride price or dowry. Hundreds of female infants are killed or left to die each year. Some are taken to orphanages or left at a safe place where they can survive such as at the Edhi Foundations “jhoolas” or baby cradles placed publicly for unwanted children to be abandoned safely.
QUALIFICATIONS TO ADOPT
The western concept of adoption is not recognized in Pakistan so there are no adoption laws. Pakistan places children under the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890 which governs parents accepting guardianship of a child. The “best interests of the child” is the standard applied by the District Court in making a determination of guardianship.
The following are New Star’s requirements for our Pakistan Adoption program:
- Nationality – At least one Prospective Adoptive Parent should be of Pakistani descent as evidenced by a Pakistani birth certificate, NICOP/CNIC Pakistani Identity Card. These can be obtained from NADRA, the national vital records database. There are no provisions prohibiting adoption by non-Pakistanis however obtaining documentation for the child after the decree of guardianship may be extremely difficult for non-Pakistanis.
- Age – Prospective adopting parents must be at least 25 years of age.
- Marriage Status – Prospective adoptive parents must either be a single female or a married couple. Pakistan does not recognize same sex marriages or domestic partnerships.
- Income – Parents must be able to afford to raise the child
- Religion – Under the Guardian and Wards Act, religion is taken into account in determining the best interests of a child which includes placing children with guardians of the same faith. Pakistan is 96% Muslim. Abandoned children are presumed to be Muslim and so in practice only Muslim parents will not be able to pursue guardianship.
Under Sharia law, a child’s identity and lineage, if known, must be preserved and the child must know he or she is adopted. The guardianship (and subsequent adoption in State Court for US legal purposes) does not create the legal fiction of creating a complete parent–child relationship “as though” they are blood related kin. Nonetheless, the child can and should be nurtured, protected, educated and loved just as a birth child would be.
CHILDREN IN NEED OF ADOPTION
Muslim Children are available from newborn to age 16 with and without special needs. Most abandoned or orphaned children reside in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. There are also children in remote villages. The vast majority of placements are through Edhi foundation in Karachi.
New Star Kafala only works with reputable, licensed, established organizations in Pakistan that place children without charging a fee. We never utilize child-finders or private attorneys who identify children for adoption.
Children must meet the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) definition of an orphan in the same way as an unrelated child would need to. The child must be proven to be abandoned or orphaned with the same evidence. The standards are complex. It is important that US citizens do not accept guardianship of a child prior to determining if the child will qualify for a visa. Without this legal determination, guardianship could be awarded despite the inability of the child to qualify for a visa to come to the United States.
New Star accepts relative adoptions on a case by case basis.
THE GUARDIANSHIP PROCESS
When an abandoned or orphaned child that fits the family’s request is available for placement, the parents are notified by New Star or directly by the placement entity. Placement procedures differ depending on the organization with legal custody of the child. In Edhi Foundation cases, the child’s physical custody is given to the Adoptive Parents at the time the child is referred. Parents must take the child for medical examination and evaluation immediately in order to determine if they will accept the referral. No background or medical history is available.
With other organizations, a referral package with medical and social history is sent. In all cases, adoptive parents will have ample opportunity to have the child examined and to consult with Adoption Medical Specialists and make a decision to accept the referral.
THE COURT PROCESS
An attorney of your choosing may be retained but we strongly recommend that you use the services of an experienced international adoption attorney or one referred by the placing entity. We can provide the contact information for a qualified attorney. A guardianship attorney will usually charge about $1,000 for their preparation of documents and representation in Court. Your attorney will petition the local district court in Pakistan. He or she will obtain the necessary documentation including birth information and/or abandonment report from the placing entity. The court will first hold a hearing to determine if an order of termination of parental rights is and then set a date to hear the guardianship petition. A guardianship order and permission for the child to leave Pakistan will be issued.
Obtaining Vital Records – Your child will need a Pakistani birth certificate ( Child “B Form”) and a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (“NICOP Card”) from National Database and Registration Authority (“NADRA”)and a passport.
THE VISA PROCESS
After obtaining vital records and passport for the child, any documents in Urdu or Arabic must be translated into English for the Embassy in Islamabad where the visa is issued. These documents, along with others in your dossier, will be submitted to the Embassy with your Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (“I-600 application”), Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (“DS-260”) and the Affidavit of Support (“I-864”).
We will assist you in preparation and electronic submission of these documents. Your documents will be tentatively reviewed by the Embassy in Islamabad and they will schedule your submission of the original documents for the visa interview. Once the Embassy approves your case, your child’s visa will be issued by the Embassy – the very last step in the guardianship process in Pakistan!
New Star staff will be in contact with you after arrival home and then at various intervals during the first year. We want our families to contact us ANY time they need support, information or assistance. We will monitor your post placement reports completed by your home study Social Worker between 3 months to 6 months and again at 6 months to 12 months after placement. We will invite you to our adoption support group and annual reunion. Every New Star Kafala family becomes a member of our community of Muslim adoptive families.
It is essential that you “finalize” your child’s guardianship. You have obtained your child’s custody as a guardianship, not an adoption. Once you enter the U.S. on the IR-4 visa, the child will automatically become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and a legal permanent resident card (“Green Card”) will be mailed to you. But this status does not confer citizenship or adoption. The child must be adopted in state court to be a legally adopted child and US citizen.