On September 27, 2020, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice for the United States of America. The nomination serves to fill the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away on September 18, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. Ginsburg’s passing left eight Justices on the High Court, and of those Justices, four are Conservative and four are Liberals which could leave many decisions in a deadlock. If confirmed, Barrett would currently fill the Ninth seat and be the fifth woman, overall, to serve on the highest court in the land. The previous four women were the following: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Amy Coney Barrett has been a Federal Court Judge since 2017, where she serves on the 7th Circuit Court of appeals.

Life and Background

Amy Coney Barrett was born Amy Vivian Coney on January 28, 1972, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is of French descent. She was one of seven children born to Michael and Linda Coney. Barrett grew up a devout Catholic. She even attended a Catholic High School. Barrett completed her undergraduate work at Rhodes College where she was the Student Body Council Vice President. She then completed her Graduate work at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

Ms. Barrett graduated from Notre Dame University Summa Cum Laude in 2002 and is now a professor at Notre Dame University. She was a Law Clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia who died in 2016. She teaches one day a week at Notre Dame. Some of the courses she has taught are Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Theory, and Statutory Interpretation.

Ms. Barrett is a mother of seven who is able to work full time while caring for her family. Barrett is currently a member of People of Praise, a Charismatic Catholic community. Her youngest child has Down syndrome. In an interview with her sister, she stated that Barrett starts every day with a workout and then gives her youngest child a piggyback ride down the stairs to the breakfast table. Two of her children, Vivian Barrett and John Peter Barrett, were adopted from Haiti. Vivian (which is also Ms. Barrett’s middle name) was adopted in 2005, and John Peter was adopted in 2010 after the massive Haiti earthquake.

International Adoption

Ms. Barrett and her husband, Jesse, participated in international adoption twice, adopting from Haiti. International adoption is defined as a citizen from one nation seeking to adopt a child from another nation. International adoption is vital to developing nations because it prevents poverty, human trafficking, and sex trafficking. Many adoptees become available to adopt due to poverty, war, genocide, or natural disaster.

If you are pursuing an international adoption, you are engaged in enormous tasks. In international adoption, there is a substantial amount of paperwork, background checks, and travel. It can be very expensive and should not be taken lightly. International adoption involves lots of resources, planning, and patience. This unique type of adoption can be cost-prohibitive for many families but may be possible for others.

Other than Haiti, the most adoption-friendly nations are South Korea, Kenya, Ukraine, Mexico, India, and Jamaica. These nations have a friendly relationship with the U.S. and do not have as many restrictions as other nations do. Historically, Russia and China were prime countries to adopt from. However, the ever-changing political structure of the world and other reasons have caused adoptions from these nations to significantly decrease.

Here is the general process for international adoption. Please note, the process listed below may vary from agency to agency and from one foreign nation to another foreign nation. Also, the process may not necessarily be in this order.

Adoption Agency

The first place to start is deciding what adoption agency to partner with. Choosing a good adoption agency can be the difference between a pleasant, informed, and prepared experience and having lots of bumps and bruises along the way. An adoption agency helps adoptive parents with the application process, will write an adoptive home study, will help match you with a child, will help the adoptive family wade through the international paperwork required, will refer you to a good adoption attorney, and will present you with resources on the nation you choose to adopt from. There are many different types of agencies to choose from. The decision you make should include the location of the agency, the cost of their fees, the nations that they specialize in, and the expertise of their adoption workers. An example of a good adoption agency is the Gladney Center for Adoption. Located in Texas, Gladney has multiple locations in the U.S. Gladney specializes in international adoption as well as domestic.

Application

An adoption agency application is the first document needed to start your adoption journey. An adoption agency requires this to determine whether the applicants will be eligible adoptive parents. If an applicant cannot pass a background check, has red flags on an application, or just generally cannot complete the process, the adoption agency will stop the process. Applications will generally request address history, employment history, financial history, health and medical history, prior adoption history, criminal history, references, biographical history, including other items. Adoption agencies are under no obligation to accept every applicant and should be paid for the time they spend processing an application.

Attorneys

You will need a lawyer to help you to navigate the maze that is international adoption. Attorneys can help to file paperwork such as the I-800 or I-600, immigration paperwork, Certification of Adoption, and Petition to Adopt to name just a few. Having an experienced, competent attorney on your side is well worth the money.

Home study

An adoption home study is an in-depth written report that gives a summary as to whether an applicant is qualified to be an adoptive parent. It is a compilation of information presented in one nice package. This is reviewed by the U.S. adoption agency, the foreign nation, the foreign adoption agency, and by a U.S. judge who ultimately has the final say into an applicant’s suitability for adoption. Because the international adoption process takes so long, many states require an initial home study as well as an updated home study if there have been significant changes in the home. A home study includes not only house and property info, but also a summary of background checks, references, interviews, and psychological evaluations if necessary. The home study is a permanent record and can be transferred from agency to agency with proper releases.

Dossier

A dossier is a compilation of all the documents needed to complete an international adoption. These documents include the adoption home study, references, photos, paystubs, criminal background checks, tax returns, immigration paperwork, etc. This is compiled by your adoption agency and reviewed by domestic entities as well as foreign entities.

International travel

Some agencies and nations require travel to the nation you decide to adopt from. Some do not. Depending on your state, the adoption agency, and the nation you are traveling to, travel can be costly. But if you can afford it, it is worth it. There is no substitute for seeing and interacting with your child, seeing the environment in which she or he is being cared for, and asking current caregivers questions about the child. You may also need to spend time overseas in order to complete the adoption in that nation. If you will not be accompanying your child back to the states, that nation may decide to use a worker to travel with your child.

USCIS

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the final entity through which your child will gain access to America.

Adoption in Haiti

Ms. Barrett and her husband, Jesse, adopted two children from Haiti: Vivian and John Peter. Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola, along with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has historically been friendly to the United States in reference to adoption. Because of its vulnerable location and lack of infrastructure, Haiti is a prime target for natural disasters including hurricanes and earthquakes. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti and its two after-shocks in 2010 caused a death toll of about 300,000. The earthquake left many orphans in its wake. As of 2016, there were an estimated one million orphans in Haiti.

Some of the requirements to adopt from Haiti for couples are that they must be married at least five years, must be between the ages of 30-50, and couples are required to visit the country at least two times before adoption. It could be very expensive to adopt from Haiti. Singles are allowed to adopt from Haiti as well.

In an interview, Barrett discussed her motivation for adopting:

“I guess we had imagined initially that we would have whatever biological kids that we decided to have and adopt at the end, but after we had our first daughter Emma, we thought, well, why wait? So, I was expecting Tess when we went and got Vivian. So, she and Tess function—we call them our fraternal twins. They’re in the same grade. And it really has enriched our family immeasurably. Once we had adopted Vivian, at that point, then we made the decision that we definitely wanted to adopt again. And so, several years later, John Peter entered our family.”

Barrett went on to explain that the paperwork to complete John Peter’s adoption was expedited due to the devastation of the country.

Transracial Adoption

Transracial adoption is when adoptive parents of one race adopt children of another race. Amy Coney Barrett and her husband Jesse participated in two transracial adoptions. They are considered transracial adoptions because the Barretts are Caucasian, and their adopted children, Vivian and John Peter, are Black. Because Amy Coney Barrett adopted two children from Haiti, she was called a “White Colonist,” labeled as a racist, and was accused of using her children as props. In her confirmation proceedings, Barrett responded by saying,

 “…my husband and I had to really weigh the cost of this: it was saying deeply offensive and hurtful things; things that are not only hurtful to me but are hurtful to my children, who are my children, who we love and who we brought home to make a part of our family. And accusations like that are cruel.”

When most people think of transracial adoption, they think of a White family adopting a Black child. However, there are children of all races being adopted including Asian, African, and Indian.

There are those that state that transracial adoptions are traumatic in and of themselves. While this can sometimes be the case, there are other variables that must be factored in, including developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, and preadoptive abuse and neglect. Also, a transracial adoption could be traumatic if an adoptive family ignores the adoptee’s race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage. But a 2007 study states that there was no significant difference in self-esteem between same-race adoptions and transracial adoptions.

Transracial adoption is a great picture of the human community coming together to care for a child who needs a home. It is a picture of a family of one culture caring for children of another culture with no preconditions. Transracial adoption is a beautiful thing.

In my experience, not only as an adoptive dad, but also as an adoption social worker for over 15 years, I have found that the vast majority of transracial adoptive parents have pure motives. What they need is education and support. Here are three things that transracial adoptive parents should keep in mind:

  1. A child from another culture will not automatically assimilate into your culture at the adoption finalization. That shouldn’t be the goal, anyway. The goal should be to blend two cultures into one family. Transracial adoptions are truly blended families.

  1. Children from other cultures must stay connected to their culture through education, important figures in their lives, and through recognizing the cultures, traditions, heritage, and values of that culture.

  1. Adoptive parents must make every effort to expose their adoptee to her birth culture with things such as food, hairstyle, language, dress, holidays, and important historical figures of her culture.

Amy Coney Barrett is unique in that she would be the first woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court who completed two international transracial adoptions. She is under scrutiny because of this. At the end of the day, adoptive families are also under scrutiny including those who have adopted transracially and overseas. Finally, I’ll leave you with these closing words from Ms. Barrett in a 2019 interview. “What greater thing can you do than raise children? That’s where you have your greatest impact on the world.”