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Adopted children born abroad wake up with citizenship


The Gazette (Cedar Rapids-Iowa City)

Marion woman with Russian-born children has mixed emotions

Author: Dave Rasdal; Gazette staff writer

With her two Russian-born children now growing more accustomed to life in Marion each day, Beth Markham has mixed feelings about them automatically becoming U.S. citizens once their adoptions are final.

Sure, it'll be nice not going through the paperwork and paying the naturalization fees. But Markham remembers her sister's two Russian-born children waving flags during their naturalization ceremony last summer in Omaha.

"That was kind of neat," Markham says. "But it's one less thing to worry about."

The latter is probably how most parents of an estimated 75,000 foreign-born children feel this morning as the Child Citizenship Act, passed by Congress last year, takes effect.

The law grants automatic citizenship to most adopted children born abroad, provided they are under 18 and at least one parent or legal guardian is a U.S. citizen. There are about 20,000 such adoptions every year and the average wait for Immigration and Naturalization Service citizenship processing has been two years.

The law removes a bureaucratic and psychological hurdle for parents who may well have waited years and paid up to $25,000 for international adoptions. The INS application, which seeks similar paperwork on parents and children, included birth and marriage certificates, photo identifications, alien registration cards and certified English translations of documents written in other languages.

"I think it's an excellent law, one adoption agencies have tried to get passed for a long time," says

Marlys Ubben, director of New Horizons Adoptions Agency

in Frost, Minn. The company - licensed in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota - has a branch office in Cedar Rapids.

Ubben adopted three foreign-born children, two Korean girls and a boy from Chile, and went through the naturalization process when they were younger. She said the new law also will save adoptive parents $400 or more.

In Marion, Markham says her children - Nicholas Roman, 4, and Joanna Alina, 15 months - are becoming more and more comfortable with their new home.

"He's speaking more and more English all the time," she says. "Kids are amazing."

Markham, 42, a teacher in the Marion Independent district's home-school program, brought her children home two months ago. The court will not finalize their adoption until sometime this summer, she said. "It would have been kind of fun (to go through naturalization)," Markham said, "but we can make a special deal when the adoption is final."

2001 Feb 27