Internationally adopted child & the Age issue

We celebrated Lucas 4th Birthday last weekend!!  We don’t think he was really turning 4 though.  His birth certificate, which we can’t change, says he turns four April 2nd.  We think he is really going to be four in about 8-10 months, so that would make him almost 3 1/2 right now-which seems much more appropriate to his physical and mental ability right now, but there isn’t too much we can do about it.  We could be wrong about his age because it could just be delays we are seeing, which are very typical and should be expected in internationally adopted kiddos, and we do see those things in him regardless of how old he is, and we still feel he is not really turning 4.

Well, when I say we “can’t” change his date of birth, I take that back, there IS something we can do about it, but we chose not to.  It was a difficult decision to make, a personal decision each adoptive family has to make who are in that situation, and although we don’t owe anyone an explanation of why we chose to do what we did in NOT changing it, for those who are in the same situation as us, or just interested-let me explain.

Basically, when your child is born internationally they are issued a birth certificate (just like in the U.S.) but when your child is abandoned (like Lucas) there was no birth certificate issued, he had to have one made up for him when it was known we were going to adopt him.  His name, date of birth, and place of birth was just “made up” from someone who *thought* he might have been born at a certain time, but because she didn’t know anything about him, or when he was actually born, and he was emaciated when he was found so it was even harder to tell how old he was, this “date of birth” was completely made up.  We’re lucky it was something other than Jan.1st (a very typical abandoned child’s date of birth) and she chose April 2nd for whatever reason.  We will celebrate his birth that day then!

As far as the changing of his birth date, which some people opt to do, we-however did not.  Here’s where the age issue & adoption process gets complicated, so try your best to follow along, and I’ll try to explain it as best I can.  There is one thing that NEVER changes with the birth date issue, and it is the birth date on the original birth certificate that he immigrated (through Homeland Security) to the United States with (the one we had for Lucas from Uganda), and then Homeland Security keeps that on file about him permanently, and it can never ever change with them.  There is one caveat to this, it can’t ever change UNLESS: we go back to Uganda and go through their legal and court process of changing it (which may or may not happen, and may or may not take months/years to complete-which would all have to be done in country-not from afar and THEN you go through the same processes in the U.S. with the updated birth certificate to submit and change with Homeland Security.

Sooo…all that being said, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it won’t ever get changed with Homeland Security.  The reason why Homeland Security is so important is because it is a connected task force with the Federal Bureau where all our credit/student loans/government type applications, drivers license, military, taxes, etc. are all in connection with that, and your original birth date on file with them needs to match up with the birth date you put on your application forms, etc. and must match up with your U.S. Birth Certificate.  See, when you are adopted internationally and you finalize here in the U.S. you are actually issued a U.S. Birth Certificate (as Lucas was), which when you are finalizing the adoption you can actually chose to at that point CHANGE your child’s date of birth if you wish (with medical proof) and get a U.S. Birth Certificate with the corrected birth date.  It’s a task in itself to get that U.S. Birth Certificate changed, but it CAN be done.  What the problem of that change happening is that it WILL NOT change with Homeland Security or the Federal Bureau, even if they receive notification it has been changed, they won’t change it unless they get the amended original birth certificate (the whole process in country I was talking about earlier that is a long shot in the dark of actually happening-but COULD be done).

It’s a complicated, personal choice on whether to change your child’s birth date or not when they’re in this type of situation.  I can’t say I “like” the decision we’ve made, but I didn’t feel like we had much option to stay safe for Lucas in the future.  Our lawyer in the U.S. just told us of a case of a 16 year old boy who was adopted internationally and his parents changed his birth date (because it was wrong by 7 months) and because it was never changed with Homeland Security/Federal Bureau when he applied for his drivers license he was flagged because his birth dates didn’t match up and he was actually arrested for fraud.  Crazy!  Our lawyer and many others have reported the same things happening to kids all over the U.S. in this situation.  The boy who was arrested sat in juvenile jail for days before his parents could prove what really happened to right officials.  It’s so sad this happens!  But it does, and it’s just not worth it for us to change it for a few months difference and possibly cause Lucas problems in the future.  It is a big issue however, but if we change it, it could become an even bigger issue for him in the future, and cause him worse problems than changing it could have.  We will just hold him back in preschool, and start him a year later in Kindergarten and it will help with the age difference.  We will also get a bone scan done again when he is 5 (we took him once but they couldn’t get an accurate reading until he turns 5 and his bones matured more) so then we will really and truly know how much of an age difference there is in him and his “made up” birth date.  If it is different, like we suspect, then we will have medical proof of that, and hopefully that will be enough for places like his school, etc. where we would need a birth certificate to work with us on keeping him with his appropriate age groups, if not, then we will bear the burden of the decision not to change it officially, which hopefully really won’t be a big issue.  But in all honesty, in 20 years, it truly won’t make a bit of a difference to Lucas.  We will just have to be sensitive to his needs and try our best to fit him into appropriate age groups the best we can without his birth date effecting anything, in some cases it will and we’ll just cross those hurdles when we need to.  We are trying our best to consider all of his needs regarding his birth date issue now and for the future, and we feel we made the best decision for him.

BUT I will say, IF my child (which I know people who have actually had this happen to) was like 3 years off from his/her original birth date, I probably would say it is cost & time effective and totally worth it to go through ALL the processes to get it changed, even if I had to hunt down people and go back to Uganda for months to change it.  But with Lucas being less than a year off, it was not worth it for us.

Sooo….he is 4 officially, but really 3.  Oh welcome to confusion people…so when people ask me why…I’ll refer them to this blog post!  lol

Lucas with his UNITED STATES Birth Certificate!!!

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3 Responses to Internationally adopted child & the Age issue

  1. Nicole says:

    Good morning, Thank you for your post. We adopted our daughter 8 years ago, when she was “5.” At the time she was “small for her age” and had heart surgery already. We noticed a bit of discrepancy with her medical reports and the things the Chinese Civil Affairs office were telling us. Now that she is “13” the doctors are telling us there is no way she is actually 13, more like 11, which goes along more with her maturity levels and behaviors, not to mention “physically maturing.” I think you’re’ right, in 20 years, it’s not going to matter, except that she will be able to look at her girlfriends and gloat that she looks so much better at 33 than they do! LOL! But I get worried for her short term future with driving maturity and babysitting maturity. We all know her “real age” according to bone and teeth scans, but having her real 13 year-old friends understand why she is so immature and helping her keep friends and deal with bullying issues due to her size and maturity levels, is definitely something that made us consider changing it even more. Teen years are hard, it’s hard to explain to a little girl “this too shall pass,” when she’s going through typical teenage stuff, at 11 years old. Thank you so much for your post! It helped us make the tough decision too.

  2. Christina says:

    Hello – I came across your blog post via googling the subject of changing an internationally adopted child’s birthdate. Our daughter’s supposed birthdate is only 1 to 2 months off of her actual birthdate. However, our situation is that the birthdate on her foreign birth certificate is the date she was “abandoned.” We could not possibly celebrate her birthdate on this day so we had her birthdate changed at the state level but we are running into brick walls going through USCIS and now even going through lawyers, it seems impossible. We are thinking of one of us (my husband or I) traveling to our daughter’s birth country to see if we can get the BC changed there. I would very much appreciate it if you could privately E-mail me. You seem to know a lot about this subject. Thanks very much!

  3. Erin Mable says:

    Hi Erin,
    Thank you so much for this post. We are in the same boat with a 3 year old who just turned “4”. We were not sure of the actions we should take but everything you have written makes complete sense. I felt so much better to know that we are not alone with this. Our story is so similar and some of what you said made me chuckle especially with the reference to the confusion from people.

    All the best to you and your family,
    from one Erin to another

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