In July 2015 the Government of Liberia (GOL) began to re-open adoptions, first requiring US licensed agencies to apply, then to establish their own orphanage and to be Hague accredited or attached to a Hague agency. Americans for African Adoptions, Inc (AFAA) and Joyful World Ministries, Inc. dba: All Age Adoptions Plus (JWM) with our combined 52 years of adoption experience have been approved to provide adoptions from Liberian.
AFAA has placed 715 healthy, individual and sibling children, from multiple African countries, along with special needs, “African Angels” with spina bifida, major burns, TB of the spine, missing and deformed limbs, clubfeet, blind, deaf, mute, polio, heart problems, Hepatitis B, HIV+, Cerebral Palsy, and a girl who had picked up a land mine. JWM has helped almost 1000 families build their families through adoption.
In 2000 Cheryl Carter-Shotts the director of AFAA traveled to Liberia, during their ongoing war and met with Liberian government officials about helping Liberian orphans. AFAA established the “AFAA House” – a home, turned orphanage, for Liberian orphans who lost their parents in the war. In 2003 the first Liberian Angel joined their new family with Cheryl escorting children to their new families, repeatedly going back to Liberia during their many civil wars that seemed to never end. On December 2, 2003, Cheryl brought two beautiful Liberian toddler boys to their new mother in New Mexico — Cathrine Troy, founder and director of JWM. Cheryl and Cathrine have had a fifteen plus year history of working together.
We currently have waiting Liberian children in the AFAA House, from ages 3 to 12 years of age, both healthy and special needs who need families including siblings and cousins.
As with all older and internationally adopted children (and even children placed as newborns in North America), some will adjust easily and attach to their new families with love and ease and some may demonstrate symptoms of grief with Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, other emotional problems and other undiagnosed medical problems. Just as giving birth to a child means there are no guarantees – adopting an African Angel comes with no guarantees. Most children are happy to be adopted but not always – a few come to new families and sometimes struggle to adjust. Children come to a new world by way of tremendous devastation and loss. All of the children are of Black African descent and all of the Liberian children are being raised Christian once they come into the AFAA House orphanage.
WHO MAY ADOPT
The Government of Liberia (GOL) requires adoption applicants to comply with the adopting family’s home study agency, their state or province of residence regulations, USCIS or Canadian immigration, Hague and Liberian government requirements. The age of the adopting parents is of normal childbearing age related to the child with some flexibility allowed by the GOL. Length of marriage is also flexible. If a couple is married, both spouses must adopt. Single woman and large families are carefully considered, by the GOL.
THE ADOPTION PROCESS
First complete the JWM/AFAA application and send the original to JWM along with the application fee of $400 – send a copy to AFAA.
When JWM receives and approves your application you will be sent our “Liberian Service and Policy Agreement Contract.”
Return the signed Liberian Service and Policy Agreement Contract to JWM and the Humanitarian donation of $1,000 to AFAA. This is your commitment to the Liberia program.
Your next step is your home study. If you live in New Mexico, JWM will complete your home study. If you live outside of New Mexico, JWM will help you choose a Hague accredited agency and provide that agency with guidelines for completing the study.
When JWM approves your homestudy, AFAA will send you pictures and brief descriptions of waiting children that match your home study approval. We will provide you with all information available to us regarding the child, including pictures, medical reports and HIV, Hepatitis B results. Please note that often this information is limited. You have two weeks to say yes or no to the referred child. When you agree to the child please send ½ of the adoption fee to AFAA along with a signed Full-Disclosure Form and an Agreement to Accept Placement that we will send to your family.
If there is not a waiting child you are able to accept, we will put you on our waiting parent list. Because adoption is about finding families for children, and not children for families, we cannot predict when a child who meets your desires comes to us in need of a home.
You will need USICS approval. Apply to USCIS with form I-600-A. www.uscis.gov. Use one form for your family, NOT for each child. Attach your approved homestudy, all other required documents and the application fee to your I600-A and mail it to the USCIS Lockbox on the form. Please have AFAA or JWM review your I-600-A before you send it. USCIS will send you the time and place for everyone in your home eighteen years and older to be fingerprinted.
You will need an adoption dossier. AFAA and JWM will assist you with preparing your dossier. AFAA will Federal Express (or hand deliver if someone is traveling) your dossier to Liberia. The AFAA Liberian attorney and the Government of Liberia will begin the multiple steps in coordination with our AFAA House orphanage director. This will prepare your file for Liberian approval and then the Liberian High Court. Your Liberian adoption will be final and your family is not required to go to court. We will notify you of the final court decision and when you can travel. One adopting parent MUST travel for an estimated two to three weeks during which time you will process your child’s US visa at the US Embassy with an I-600 form (one for each child), and an exit letter for your child from the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You will be assisted during your time in Liberia by our AFAA House orphanage director. Your child can be with you during the entire time you are in Liberia.
A detailed description of current fees (as these may be subject to change) and the fee schedule will be in your “Liberian Service Agreement”.
JWM Application: $400
JWM Home study: for New Mexico residents: $ 2,000 plus travel
Out-of-State residents: Paid to home study agency
Out-of-State home study: review and interagency coordination with JWM, Inc. $350
Hague Training – determined by training program
Humanitarian Aid Donation sent to AFAA: $ 1,000 – per adopting family- waived for medical special needs.
US Agency Fee: $ 5,100 for one child
$ 2,050 additional for each related or unrelated child.
$ 3,600 ($5100 minus $1500) – Special Needs, one child
International Fees: $ 3,500 one child
$ 1,900 additional for each related child
$ 2,650 additional for each unrelated child
Post-decree supervision and assistance
New Mexico Residents: $ 1,000
Out of State Residents: fee determined by your homestudy agency
Orphanage Child Care Fee: – $ 500 per child.
Additional and estimated fees, not covered above and paid directly by the adopting family provided upon request and detailed in the service agreement
HISTORY OF AMERICANS FOR AFRICAN ADOPTIONS (AFAA)
Every child deserves a bed and a family to tuck them into that bed. Americans for African Adoptions, Inc. (AFAA) was developed because of one African boy who spent three years, alone, in the desert of the Sahara, begging for any food and shooting birds from trees with his homemade slingshot – his bed was the sand. The boy was losing his battle to stay alive until the day he saw a blond woman with a couple of men with large cameras. He figured he would beg from the strangers and be okay for a few days, maybe even a week. He didn’t know his life was about to change.
The blond woman was Diane Sawyer, then of 60 Minutes. She “interviewed” the boy who could speak English, plus five other languages, but could not read or write in any language. On August 11, 1985, 18 seconds of the interview was included in a 60 Minutes story about the repeat cycle of famine in the West African country of Mali. Those 18 seconds saved the boy’s life,
“Where do you sleep”, the blond woman asked. “Here”, the boy said, “On the ground?” she continued. “Yes”, he answered. “Are you hungry?” “Yes”, he said. “All the time?” she wanted to know. “Yes, many children’s they are dead.” “You have seen many children die?” the woman asked again. “Yes”, the boy confirmed.
Cheryl Carter-Shotts, of Indianapolis, Indiana, was watching the 60 Minutes story about the Malian famine and the boy crawled into her heart. For three nights, as she was falling asleep, Cheryl wondered aloud to her husband, Charlie, “Do you think that little boy has eaten today?” On the 4th morning Cheryl told Charlie, “I don’t understand but that boy is my son and I have to find my son and help him or bring him home.”
Cheryl knew nothing about Africa or international adoption, and nothing about the boy. She quit her work and devoted every waking minute to finding the boy. It was 1985 and Cheryl quickly ran up $3,000 in phone calls and wrote Senator Richard Lugar and Diane Sawyer’s secretary. Early one evening Ms. Sawyer called and they spoke for an hour as Cheryl tried to learn about the boy. “He is handicapped – did you see that? He was alone with no family”, Diane volunteered. Senator Lugar referred Cheryl’s plea for help to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff.
Cheryl and Charlie maxed out their credit cards, used every dime they had saved for a better car and borrowed $7,000 so Charlie could head off to the Sahara, hoping to find Mohammed with the help of missionaries.
On December 7, 1985, the boy, Cheryl had identified as “her son”, stepped off a plane, in Indianapolis, Indiana with his new father, into the arms of his new mother.
“Mohammed” was 5’4” tall, weighed 65 pounds and was head to-toe medical problems. He looked about 9 or 10 years old but doctors estimated he was 13 or 14. Mohammed thought he had been brought to America to be Cheryl’s “house boy”. When Cheryl explained that he had been brought to the US to be her son – Mohammed said he “didn’t know what that meant but promised to learn.” He added that he “thought these must be special people if they will go across the world for a house boy.”
Within days Mohammed was talking about his friend, “Nimit”, who was left behind in the Sahara. Mohammed wanted Nimit to have a family too. Cheryl decided that she had to help other African children and the idea for “Americans for African Adoptions, Inc. (AFAA)” was born.
On October 12, 1986, 60 Minutes aired another story – this story was about Mohammed being found in the Sahara; with his new family, how he was undergoing multiple surgeries, donated by renown orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Terry Trammell (who rebuilds the bodies of Indy Car drivers) and how his life, with his new family, was unfolding in his new country of America.
On December 19, 1986 AFAA officially became licensed as an Indiana adoption agency with the sole focus of helping African orphans. On February 19, 1987, AFAA became a registered 501(c)(3) charity.
In 2006, Senator Richard Lugar awarded Cheryl the “Congressional Angels in Adoption award”.
In February 1990 Cheryl was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and photographed a tiny girl sitting on a sidewalk – she looked starved and was filthy. Cheryl tried, but couldn’t find her family to arrange sponsorship. A year later, Cheryl returned to Addis and with the help of the photo and another child, found the little girl who looked worse than the year before. Cheryl learned that at five or six years of age the girl was a street beggar and was also washing clothes by hand and scrubbing floors to earn coins to support her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, her half-sister and her elderly grandmother. “Kelem” was also watching soldiers kill people in the streets as rebels were seven miles down the road. On March 2, 1991 Cheryl was able to bring Kelem to America and found that she weighed only 28 pounds.
Today, Kelem is a healthy young woman who spent four years in the US Air Force as an FAA air traffic controller, doing one tour in Iraq. She is a 2012 graduate of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University where she was elected president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority – today Kelem works as a financial analyst for McKinsey & Company.
Because of those 18 seconds, Mohammed is a healthy adult. Five major surgeries rebuilt his body and on May 23, 1998, Mohammed graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University while “Dateline” taped for a future story. Today, Mohammed works for the US government in Washington and is a husband and father. Mohammed continues to speak six languages and his birthday is August 11, the day Cheryl saw him on 60 Minutes.
Because of Mohammed, AFAA began as a small agency with a big heart for African orphans, and because of very limited funds, AFAA continues to be small.
To date AFAA has brought 715 African orphans from Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Uganda, Lesotho and three special needs children from Mogadishu, Somalia, to new families across the US, Canada, France and New Zealand.Cheryl Carter-Shotts Americans for African Adoptions, Inc. 8910 Timberwood Drive Indianapolis, IN 46234 317-271-4567 amfaaUS@gmail.com
Psalm82:3 MISSION TEAM
On January 26, 2009, “the Government of Liberia (GOL) suspended adoptions because of allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the adoption process.” The GOL started closing orphanages – the AFAA House was allowed to continue and the GOL continued to place special needs orphans with AFAA. As AFAA could not place children during the suspension, funds to operate quickly grew more and more scarce.
One of the parents, who previously adopted two AFAA/Liberian children, is a Youth Minister. He formed a mission group to help care for the children at the AFAA House. In July 2014, “Psalm 82:3 Mission” officially began as a Christian volunteer team to fully support the AFAA House. A 15 member team works on finding sponsors for the children. The team has painted the orphanage, replaced the roof, replaced all the electrical, repaired the septic lines and built a playground structure.
The team also established a small library for the children and installed a water system. The team will return to work on the AFAA House in June 2016 to build an electrical solar system, rehab the kitchen and to love on the children and work with the older children on bible studies.
HOME STUDY PROGRAM
All Age Adoptions Plus is keeping up with the changing world of adoption and the many changes in home study requirements. We are Hague Accredited and we meet the pre-adoption requirements for New Mexico, other states, other countries, other agencies, the Interstate Compact, and USCIS. We have completed home studies for our agency; for out of state agencies; NMCYFD; Family Adoptions, Independent Adoptions and International Adoptions . We have completed international studies for more than two dozen countries and we are now able to complete adoptions through the country of Liberia . If you are doing a Hague adoption we will partner with your Hague accredited placing agency or help you find one. Click forms for your application
COORDINATION WITH OTHER INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES
If you are a New Mexico resident working with an out-of-state international agency or another country All Age Adoptions Plus can provide you with all your in-state needs. This may include but is not limited to: your homestudy; parent training; coordination and communication with your placing agency, USCIS and ICPC; dossier support; notarization; and post placement services. We are a fully accredited Hague agency and can help you with all your international adoption needs.