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Adoptions from Sierra Leone are open, though slowed by tightened procedures: adoptions are being carefully investigated.

Temporary hold -- The Canadian High Commission in Ghana (where adoptions from Sierra Leone are processed) wrote on Oct. 12, 2004: "We will not be expediting the processing of any adoption cases from Sierra Leone, in the near future. Our office will be investigating the adoption process in Sierra Leone, and this will likely take several months, if not more. Cases will not be finalised until the investigations are completed." [AFABC Focus on Adoption, Jan. 2005]

Tighter procedures -- In an October 2004 notice, the U.S. Embassy said that Sierra Leonean judicial officials are now enforcing legal requirements for international adoption that have not been enforced for several years. Prospective parents are now required to travel to Sierra Leone to attend the court hearing for the adoption. They are also considering a requirement for parents to live with their child for six months in Sierra Leone before the adoption is finalized. U.S. immigrant visas for adopted orphans are issued at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

In a Jan. 10, 2006 notice the U.S. State Department posted "Sierra Leone Frequently Asked Questions" covering adoption procedures in Sierra Leone, the definition of orphan, immigrant visa procedures, and field investigations.

In "Left behind", on Nov. 9, 2006, the Ottawa Citizen took up the case of Tom and Monique Yurkiw of Kemptville, Ont. -- they thought they had all the necessary paperwork done to adopt six-year-old Melrose, but because of an unspecified bureaucratic glitch, she remained in an orphanage in Sierra Leone. They had come back from Sierra Leone empty-handed; Canadian immigration officials withheld Melrose's visa, with no clear reason. The newspaper followed with the good news on Jan. 15, 2007: Melrose had arrived in Ottawa. Mr. Yurkiw first met Melrose in 2005, while working as a medic for the Canadian Forces in Sierra Leone. Melrose's grandmother, who owned a restaurant Mr. Yurkiw frequented, asked him if he would be willing to adopt Melrose, whose biological parents weren't together and were unable to send her to school. In October 2006, the Yurkiws travelled to Sierra Leone for a court date and officially got consent from Melrose's birth parents. The Yurkiws applied for Melrose's visa by sending the paperwork to a Canadian immigration office in Ghana. They were told the office would need to investigate before issuing the visa. The investigation might not start until January or February. On returning to Canada, without Melrose, the Yurkiws spoke to the Ottawa Citizen about their problem adoption. Following publication of their story in November, Mr. Yurkiw said they were contacted by a Canadian case worker, and shortly afterwards were told the visa would be processed -- which was on Dec. 22.


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