Global reach: Area attorney specializes in international adoption

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 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News 
 
With 11 adopted siblings, five from various parts of the world, Tracy Schauff headed to law school with a desire to specialize in international adoption law. The second oldest of 14 children, Schauff came from a family that over the years opened its home to more than 80 foster children.
 
Schauff—an immigration attorney at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen, and Loewy in Troy—took an immigration class during her second year at law school, and realized she needed to learn more about the rules governing international adoption.
 
A law clerk position with a firm gave her valuable experience needed to successfully navigate the minefield of international adoption. 
 
“It was a great learning experience as I was generally given cases and told to ‘figure it out,’” she says. “This was actually a fantastic way to learn as I was able to easily transition through case types because I knew where and how to find what I needed.” 
 
When Schauff first entered this field 17 years ago, it was a unique, niche area and—in most cases—very rewarding. 
 
“I handled a lot of asylum cases during that first year and it was great to help people find a better life here in the U.S.,” she says.
 
Immigration has evolved in the almost two decades since then. 
 
“I miss the days where I could walk over to the local [then] INS office and chat with the officers and get assistance in ways that are no longer available,” she says. “The field has changed over the years and this makes the work all that more interesting. When I started, all the forms were done on a typewriter and the Internet was too slow to be useful. Technological advancements have changed both the way we work and the nature of the work. This helps keep it interesting—there’s always something new to learn.”  
 
Schauff was initially concerned the work would be boring or routine since so much is form based.
 
“Of course, I was wrong and I’m still amazed by the number of new interesting, intriguing and unique cases I see even after all these years,” she says. “There are certain cases that stick out in my mind more than others as the outcome, should it be bad, would be heartbreaking.  It’s wonderful when those types of cases, some of which go on for years, are successful.” 
 
Schauff also enjoys participating in liaison work with various government agencies.
 
“Working so closely with officers from USCIS or DOL has given me a better understanding of their jobs, their expectations and their concerns,” she says. “I think this has made me better at my job because I can truly see the work from both sides, can understand the issues that may be raised and therefore put together a case that is more likely to be successful.” 
 
Before joining Fragomen, Schauff was assistant director of the International Center at the University of Michigan, responsible for advising departments, faculty, and staff on immigration issues and developing policies and protocols to ensure compliance with immigration regulations, I-9, and E-verify. 
 
“I learned a great deal about a number of other industries that are part of a university setting—for example, I worked very closely with the U-M Health System and now have a much better understanding of the inner workings and immigration needs health care settings,” she says. “At the same time I worked with other areas such as Arts, Engineering, and History—the variation on departmental needs made for interesting work.”
 
While working at U-M, Schauff got involved in 2009 with Global Detroit at the invitation of its director, U-M alumnus Steve Tobocman.
 
“U-M has a very large foreign student population and I had previously done some work with another group that included Ann Arbor Spark and Gov. Rick Snyder, prior to his election,” she says. “That group had been trying to develop ways to attract and retain foreign entrepreneurs as a way to grow the local economy. Global Detroit is a natural extension of this idea and works to keep students educated in Michigan to stay in Michigan after graduating. Global Detroit has done some great work in educating students on the value and opportunity in Southeastern Michigan.”
 
Schauff also finds it rewarding to do pro bono work on cases involving children.
 
“I’ve worked with foster care agencies, providing continuing education classes and see how difficult it is sometimes for those who are striving to help these children that have so little, yet they often have very little themselves,” she says. 
 
Since legal assistance can be expensive, she tries to help where she can so that limited resources can be used for other more pressing needs. 
 
“International adoption is extremely expensive and many families find out that it ends up costing far more than anticipated,” she says. “Realizing you may have a complicated immigration issue that now requires expensive legal services is often devastating especially as they already have custody of the child.  Immigration is complicated and often discretionary. Many families feel they have no real assistance with issues so I will help where I can.” 
 
A Pennsylvania native, Schauff moved around a lot with her military family until she was 4 years old, when the family settled in Maumee, Ohio. She has lived in the Toledo area ever since, earning her undergrad degree from Bowling Green State University, and her J.D. from the University of Toledo College of Law.
 
She and her husband and three children are among about 900 people living in Grand Rapids, Ohio, a historic village on the Maumee River, southwest of Toledo.
 
“Any free time I have is spent driving my kids to their various sporting events—however, if I can get away, I spend time riding one of our horses,” she says.

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