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Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am a United States citizen. I have been coming to Jamaica for several years and have grown close to a Jamaican citizen and her sons. She is a single mother of two boys. I think of her as a daughter.
We have recently discussed my adopting her sons, aged 16 and 17, and bringing them to my home in the state of Texas. The father of the boys also gives his consent.
The mother has met with a representative at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA). She was informed that the boys were past the age for adoption, therefore, my only option is to apply for legal guardianship.
As a military retiree my medical insurance and veteran's educational benefits apply only for adopted children; legal guardianship does not qualify.
These children have learning disabilities and are two years behind their peers in school. The parents cannot afford the cost for special education in the Jamaican school system. As adopted children, I can offer them exceptional educational opportunities and a safe and loving home environment.
Is there an exception to the child's age limit for foreign adoptions in Jamaica?
What would be my responsibilities as legal guardian in lieu of adoption?
You have made it clear that you, as a military retiree with medical insurance and veteran's educational benefits, can more than adequately provide for the children and so provide them with opportunities to overcome/improve their developmental disabilities and hopefully become capable adults. Most importantly, you added that you would provide the children with a safe and loving home.
I must say that I am not aware of any actual provision in the Children (Adoption of) Act and its schedules relating to what the biological mother was told by the CPFSA. I do, however, understand that semantics might have caused confusion. I think that what was meant was that the adoption process from inception to completion would not be finished before the children attain their majority, and once they become adults they cannot be adopted. Therefore, their applications could not be entertained by the agency.
So what about guardianship of these two needy boys? Yes, you can apply to be so appointed but I would suggest that you also apply for legal custody, care and control. As a guardian you could have all the above, but you could also be a guardian without care and control. This is to say, you may only be empowered to make all their necessary life decisions for them and ensure that they are materially provided for, without having them live with you in your home. So I would suggest that you apply for guardianship, custody and care and control. With an order appointing you guardian and orders granting you custody and care and control, you will have the legal authority to apply for the appropriate visas for them to travel with you and to live with you in your home and to effectively live with them as a parent would.
You must act quickly, as the application to be appointed their guardian must be made in the Supreme Court and you have not indicated when the eldest who is 17 would become 18 years of age. Time is of the essence, as it should also be done before they attain their majority. You may be able to prove, through an expert's report, that their disability cannot be overcome and will be lifelong, so that they would be required to remain in the care and control of their caregiver — you. You could, if you file now, continue the application in the above circumstances. This would be in their best interests because in such cases their actual ages would be much lower than their biological ages based on their dates of birth.
The long and short of it is that you must move really fast with your applications. You can, in addition to your affidavit in support of your application, also do an affidavit of urgency which would assist your lawyer to obtain a quick date for the hearing and with the circumstance of both parents having consented to you having full charge of their children, such a no contest matter could be completed very quickly, as long as the judge is satisfied that you are acceptable, would provide a safe and suitable home for the boys, care for and provide for them, and that it is in their best interests.
I also suggest that you obtain and provide and have it exhibited in a further affidavit in support, a social enquiry and home study report for the use of the judge at the hearing. This would save considerable time as it would provide the judge with impartial information about your character, your circumstance of life, the details of your home, the school they would attend, where they would receive religious education, health services, and the opinion of the writer that the granting of the orders would indeed be in the best interests of the children as you would be a truly caring guardian, custodian, and provide responsible care and control for them.
You must obtain the services of an attorney-at-law to assist you with your applications as a matter of urgency.
I really hope that you succeed for the sake of these children and their future chances in life.
Good luck to you all.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.