Bring Sydney Home!

In late September, we felt called to adopt another child. We had been blessed with the inclusion of our first daughter into our family and thus, chose to apply with Faith International’s Japan program again. We submitted our application in early October and began the process again, with the understanding that it would likely take a year or so to receive a referral. We completed the appropriate paperwork and another home study. Unbeknownst to us, Annie’s birth mother was pregnant with her second child during this time.

In early January, we were contacted by Faith International and informed that the birth mother of our first adopted daughter had just given birth. She had just made contact with their Japanese partner agency, Baby Life, to advise them of the birth and stated she wished to again pursue an adoption plan. While she knew the chances were unlikely, she asked if there were any possibility that this child could be adopted by us. We were grateful that we had already completed our homestudy and filed our immigration paperwork and happily agreed to move forward with this plan. We received the formal referral documents and continued with the immigration process. All required forms were submitted and approved by USCIS and the National Visa Center, and we then waited for permission to travel from the US Embassy in Tokyo.

Prior to the issuance of a visa interview, the US Embassy has the right to request an interview with the birth mother. This interview is conducted to ensure a child meets orphan status, to confirm the mother’s marital status and social history, and to ensure that the birth mother understands her legal rights. The US Embassy decided to conduct an interview with the birth mother prior to our travel clearance. That interview was completed on 3/22. We were then notified of our visa interview date of 4/2 and cleared to travel. We arrived in Japan on Friday the 30th. When we arrived in Japan, we were informed that Faith International’s accreditation had lapsed due to delays with the accrediting entity and agreed that Across the World Adoptions would be would be acting as our agency. Contracts and agreements were signed with ATWA and we continued. We took custody of Sydney (Hana) on 3/31 and our visa interview for her orphan visa application took place at 11am on 4/2.

Upon presenting our paperwork to the officer I was advised that our case would be subjected to administrative review. We completed our interview without incident but were then told that they would not be issuing the visa at that time, as they had to send some information to Washington DC. The officer said he would be in touch the next day. We completed the visa medical appointment as planned and told the officer we had tickets to leave on the 5th, with a reminder that we had 3 other children waiting at home for us.

The next day we returned to the embassy to drop off the medical forms. Upon our arrival, we were told by the case officer that while we had done nothing wrong, they had been told by the State Department that all Japanese adoptions were subject to review. We just happened to be the first ones to be stuck in the middle of it. They claim this review is in place because of Japanese adoption laws that went into effect on April 1st coupled with the fact that our original agency’s accreditation had lapsed over the same weekend. The next day, we received a call at 10 am asking us to come back at 2pm for a few more questions. When we arrived, we were told our visa was being denied. They requested a list of documents from both our new agency, and Baby Life, the agency in Japan. We were told that one of us could leave the country if we needed to but Sydney had to stay.

Our agency and Baby Life began working on providing the needed documents. The agency sent over all requested documents by 10 am Japan time on 4/5. The documents requested by Baby Life are currently being translated and will be submitted as soon as the translation is complete. Once all documents are submitted to the US Embassy in Tokyo, they will then be sent back to the Department of State in Washington DC for their lawyers to review. At that time, our hope is that the US Embassy in Tokyo will be given clearance to issue Sydney’s orphan visa.

After much deliberation we decided it was in the best interest of our children at home that Samantha come home. I am now alone in Japan with Sydney waiting on this situation to resolve. We will not abandon our daughter. She clearly meets the US requirements for an orphan visa. They have been processing Japanese adoptions for 20+ years and are well aware of Japanese law and American law. We are caught in the middle of a political fight between the new administration at the State Department, and International adoption agencies.

The documents that the Department of State are requiring do not affect Sydney receiving her visa. We are literally caught in the cross fires of politics. The main documents they are requesting involve Japanese laws and how it pertains to some of the services offered to the orphans while in country, while the others are documents from our new placing agency. It is standard practice that all international agencies have a transfer agency in place specifically for situations that occur like this. This is public information and common place for families to be transferred if needed. In addition, the Embassy was advised of this even prior to the transfer. Regarding the laws in Japan, I have a hard time believing the DOS doesn’t already know the answers to these questions. If they truly don’t, then what really needs to be investigated is their negligence in all the adoptions that have been occurring for the last 20 years without this knowledge.

The last items in question are simply suspicions and assumptions - because our case involves a sibling to our daughter. They have the same birth mother and it is assumed the same birth father, though this is not a known fact to the birth mother. They feel this is suspicious and they feel pertains to her orphan status. In Japan, if the birth father of a child does not marry the birth mother before she applies for the koseki (Japanese family register) for the child, he is not considered the legal father of the child and has no rights to the child. His consent to an adoption is not necessary. The birth mother has all the legal rights and can plan an adoption if she wishes. In Sydney’s situation, her birth mother was not married at the time of her birth, nor did she marry any alleged birth father before she applied for the koseki. Therefore, there was no confirmed father who had legal rights. Only her birth mother’s consent to the adoption was required under Japanese law, as she is the sole legal parent. I would also like to point out that it is very common even in domestic adoptions for a birth mother to continue to have pregnancies in which she develops an adoption plan. And sometimes with the same birth father. Again, a woman frequently returns to a man even if the relationship is unhealthy. This isn’t a “suspicious” or “uncommon” incident.

At no point throughout this all has the well-being of our new daughter or that of our current children been considered…not to mention the children waiting for families here in Japan. The financial burden that this has brought upon our family is significant. I am self-employed and now having to miss work, as we agreed it wasn’t safe to leave Samantha in country alone with a baby. In addition, we are faced with enduring the costs of a hotel, daily meals, and fees from flight changes etc. Meanwhile, we have no idea how long this may take.


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Samantha Tutterrow 
Cumming, GA
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