By way of background, Nepal re-opened international adoption in Spring 2009 and dozens of American families made the commitment to adopt a child in need. Nepal is the fourth poorest country in the world and leads the world in illiteracy, malnutrition and crime. It is a tough place to live, especially for orphaned children. Without adoption, these children are at high risk for human trafficking and worse.
By August 2010, the United States was suspicious of the paperwork submitted to support the immigration petitions associated with the orphans being adopted by American families and suspended all adoptions from Nepal. At that moment, there were 62 families in the process of completing adoptions and the United States committed that those cases could proceed. However, the Department of State "investigated" the orphan status of those children (62 cases in 82 days) and found that 56 of the cases were not "clearly approvable" meaning that the paperwork was insufficient to establish that the children were in fact orphans. The families all received a Request for Evidence from USCIS which required them to hire attorneys and submit additional evidence that the children were orphans and gave them 84 days to do so.
Smith Moore Leatherwood represented twenty of those families. Jeanne Foley, Annette Buss, Bill Forstner and Andrea Carska-Sheppard each made valuable contributions to these cases. We also hired four teams of investigators in Nepal to conduct investigations. Our investigators interviewed police officers, orphanage staff, and residents and business owners in the areas where the children were found abandoned. We ran newspaper, television and radio ads searching for birth families and asking for anyone with information to come forward. We learned that the Department of State, through speed and cultural insensitivity, was unable to ascertain the truth -- that each of these children were abandoned and in need of permanent homes. Jeanne Foley worked tirelessly to help me prepare our submissions to the USCIS and last Tuesday, we received the last of our approvals.
All twenty children are now US citizens and belong to wonderful loving families. Through our efforts, these children have been able to escape hunger, neglect and abuse. Through our efforts, these children have what every child deserves -- a loving permanent family.
Needless to say, this has been an incredible honor and privilege. On my office door, we hung a photograph of every child we've helped come home. They are beautiful kids and I'm so proud of what we've accomplished.