He speaks German with no trace of an American accent, plays soccer like he’s destined to join Germany’s top-rated Bayern-Muenchen Fussball Club, and knows Berlin’s vast train system better than most Berliners. He seems almost more German than the rest of us, and yet Sam does not share any of our German Jewish heritage. He was born in Ethiopia and joined our family in Montana when he was one year old. Now seven, Sam has already lived on three continents. At his age I had barely ventured beyond the borders of New Jersey.
Since finding out that we needed to jump through more hoops to get Sam’s German citizenship approved (see More Bureaucratic Sludge at the Finish Line), I’ve had a sinking feeling that we are in for another bureaucratic battle. I wonder if we are the first Jewish American family with an internationally adopted child to reclaim German citizenship. If we are unique in this regard, I dread the level of scrutiny that may be in store for us.
Imagine my lack of surprise when I discovered that the German government will not accept an apostilled copy of Sam’s adoption decree as proof that he was legally adopted. No, the German authorities feel they must do an independent review of our entire adoption record to determine if we legally adopted Sam in 2005. To win their approval we must submit a list of eleven items, including information about Sam’s life before he arrived at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa. Whatever standards of reciprocity exist between the U.S. and Germany, they clearly do not extend to the field of adoption!
Perhaps Sam will grow up and decide that his greatest affinity is for Ethiopia, or perhaps the U.S. But as our son he is entitled to become a German citizen just like our two biological children. I feel a little too burnt out right now to get started on the list of eleven items. After all, Sam is still too young to even understand the concept of citizenship. But I’ll get started pretty soon. You never know, his destiny might be to play for Germany in the World Cup finals.