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“I don’t want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do, I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.” - J.P. Morgan

New law could improve New York adoptee birth date accuracy

A measure called the Accuracy for Adoptees Act would require federal adoption agencies to use a birth date determined by a U.S. state court. Adoption agencies currently list whatever birth date international organizations choose to give. For many different reasons, international organizations may not list a birth date that accurately reflects the child's age when drafting final adoption settlement agreements with federal agencies.

Such inaccuracies may lead to legal problems when a child is given a U.S. Passport, Social Security card and birth certificate with an erroneous birth date. For instance, if a child is developmentally ready to begin school, his or her age may be listed as younger and thus make the child ineligible. It could also lead to accusations of identity fraud.

A Philadelphia woman adopted two sisters from Haiti. She was told that one of the children was 3 years old, but the child seemed advanced with regard to speech and learning. She later learned from the child's mother that she was actually 4 years old, making her developmentally in need of a kindergarten learning environment. However, because her age was federally listed as 3, she was unable to apply for another year. In another case, a couple who adopted a child from Ethiopia were told that their new daughter was 4 years old. The girl said that she was three years older, so they took her for bone density and dental scans, which confirmed that she was actually about 7 years old.

A lot of paperwork and other requirements are involved in adopting a child, and a family lawyer may be able to assist with any concerns regarding the child's adoption. Age confusion is a common issue in international adoptions, and while the new law should lead to more consistent, accurate age reporting, a lawyer may help to expedite or clear up the process for prospective parents.

Source: USA Today, "Law aims to address adoptees' birth date problems", Kim Mulford, January 14, 2014

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