Should There Be Dual Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children?

My last blogs were about the boy sent back to Russia and in which jurisdiction the abandonment occurred. (You can click here if you missed last week’s update .) I learned from his adoption agency’s website that children adopted from Russia to the U.S. have dual citizenship in both countries.

This was news to me. Adopting from Korea, we were advised to inform our agency when the adoption was finalized so that they could sent a request to South Korea to remove her from the Korean citizenship rolls. This was especially important because all male citizens in South Korea serve in the South Korean military for two years. There was a case a few years ago involving a Korean-American who went to teach English in South Korea for a year. Apparently his parents were unaware that his grandfather had enrolled him as a South Korean citizen. The position of the Korean government at the time was, they had no problem acknowledging that he was an American citizen with certain rights, but from their point of view he was also a South Korean citizen with rights—and duties.

You can imagine how this would seem to a young adult raised in the U.S. who never knew that he was a South Korean citizen. I imagine it would seem like kidnapping and being sentenced to two years’ labor—especially for youth from countries which have an all-volunteer military and never imagined themselves serving in it.

Although my Korean-born children are girls, I figure you never know which countries will draft women in the future. Many adopted Koreans are now choosing to live in Korea as young adults, at least for a while, so I can easily see this issue arising.

Now, some of these adults adopted from Korea are pressing Korea to grant them dual citizenship. I wonder what they think of the draft requirement for Korean males—are they hoping to get an exemption, something for nothing?

Some young adults feel that Korea owes them something after having sent them away. Korea care well for its children. Babies and toddlers, at least, are in foster homes rather than orphanages. I think adoptees are owed medical records and the opportunity to make contact and correspond with their birth family if they wish, either directly or through an intermediary. I think the Korean agencies are correct that their role includes finding translators and interpreters as well as performing records searches.

But, I am not convinced that South Korea owes them citizenship. The agencies in South Korea were very diligent in finding the right adoptive families for each child.

Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, was quoted on television after the Russian child was sent back last month. He said,

“Adoption is not child rental.”

I couldn’t agree more. Sending countries have sometimes made a great show of “welcoming adoptees home” and touting the role they can play as a bridge between countries and cultures. I don’t think this is their role. Sending countries have not rented out their children anymore than adoptive parents rent children. There is full and complete transfer of sovereignty in adoption—to the adoptive parents and to their new country.

Please see these related blogs:

Mommy, Can I Be the President Some Day?

Natural-Born Citizen Act

Certificate of Citizenship: Why Isn’t a Passport Good Enough?

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!