A person whose parents have died or who are presumed dead; usually refers to a dependent child. Few of the infants and older children who are adopted in the United States are orphans. Instead, most are voluntarily placed for adoption by living birthparents, or parental rights are involuntarily terminated by the state (because of abuse, neglect, abandonment or another reason), and the child is subsequently adopted.
The term "orphan" has a different meaning to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the federal agency that oversees international adoption.
To the INS, an orphan is a child from another country with no parents or with only one parent who has signed an irrevocable consent to an adoption. There is also an upper age limit on orphans from other countries who may be adopted by U.S. citizens: The orphan petition must be filed before the child's 16th birthday.
Once the petition is approved, the child is considered as a relative of a U.S. citizen (at least one of the parents must be a U.S. citizen; in the case of a single parent, the single parent must be a U.S. citizen).
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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