Red Taped: Family's adopted son denied Social Security number
An Emmett family who adopted two brothers from Ethiopia says government bureaucracy has left one of their kids without an official identity.
A simple change of birth date in the adoption papers was apparently too much for immigration services to handle.
And even Idaho's congressional delegation seemed powerless to help.
That is until on your side started asking questions.
Fakkato and Abbonett were born in Ethiopia,
"This is a picture of them in their adoption home," says their adoptive mom, Shannon Ewing.
When they were born is another question. The Ewings were pretty certain about Abbonett's birthday but brother Fakkato, not so much.
It's common while adopting from third world countries not to know a child's real age.
Adoption papers are provided before you leave the country but guessing the exact date of an undernourished child can be difficult.
Once the brothers arrived in the U.S. they were officially citizens but now there's an issue with Fakkoto getting a social security number.
The family went through the U.S. courts to correct his age on his birth certificate,
"We changed his date of birth depending on what the bone scan said and also dental," says Chuck Ewing, the kids' adoptive father.
The Social Security Agency and Immigration, who relied on the original Ethiopian certificate said, "What a minute."
"Now USCIS had determined that he's two different people," explains Shannon.
International adoptions are often a risky proposition fraught with difficulty and disappointment. But that disappointment is not generally caused by our own government.
"It's frustrating knowing we can't depend on our federal government to take care of us. We have a U.S. citizen who's trying to get a social security number and can't," complains Shannon. "Literally it's what says he exists."
They asked for help from congressman Raul Labrador's office but were informed it would be a long process. That was five months ago.
Then they called On Your Side.
Just days after we started pressing the Labrador office about the delay a response arrived from USCIS saying they would reopen the case. But it won't be in time for the Ewings to claim Fakkato as a dependent on their taxes.
"Right now we're kind of sunk," says Shannon.
You don't think of it often, but you can't work, can't drive, can't pay taxes, can't do anything without a social security number.
We asked Raul Labrador's office for comment on why this process is taking so long but they said they can't comment on the record.
Just how far off was the birth date?
Hard to believe but it was off by four years.
And that's why the family felt it just had to go through all of this, because you can't go through life and school, four years older than all of your peers.