Today, six Hague accredited agencies lost their accreditation to do international adoption. In the first 3 months of 2018, eleven agencies (representing 7% of all Hague accredited adoption agencies) have lost their accreditation. In light of this alarming trend, we wanted to give some insight and advice to people who find themselves in this difficult situation.
First, be aware of what a “case transfer plan” means. When agencies have their accreditation revoked, refused, or expired, the State Department always sends an email to prospective adoptive parents stating,
“When an agency’s or person’s accreditation or approval expires, they are responsible for transferring cases and records. Families working with [the agency] should contact the agency directly with questions about case or record transfer. We also encourage families to review the information published by the Council on Accreditation about selecting a primary provider/adoption service provider and the accreditation/approval requirements. The Department of State does not review or approve case transfer plans and has a limited role in their execution. We do, however, communicate with foreign Central Authorities and competent adoption authorities about the accreditation status of agencies and persons and case transfer plans, as needed.”
It is important to note that the case transfer plan does not mean any agency is required to accept your case. Agencies are becoming more reluctant to take client cases from other agencies, even when they have a case transfer plan in place. There is fear that if the prior agency had any difficulty supervising cases, and this led to the loss of accreditation, then the new agency may have similar problems with supervision of the case. Your agency will want to know the following information before agreeing to take your case:
- Are you matched with a child?
- What circumstances led to that child being orphaned?
- Can you give a copy of the official referral?
- What type of investigation, done by whom, has substantiated the child’s orphan status?
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of the money you have paid will transfer to any other agency. Our agency has acquired the files and cases of dozens of agencies, and we have never received a penny from other agencies as a result of a case transfer plan.
But the arrangement of a case transfer plan does indicate that another agency has communicated with your agency, and expressed a willingness to review your case and consider taking you as a client. So the agency with the case transfer plan should be your first choice in your effort to continue your adoption plan.
Second, you are entitled to a refund for post adoption report fees that you may have pre-paid. But you are probably not entitled to a refund for any other fees. Adoption fees are generally billed when services are rendered, and are not held in trust, nor are they refundable. But if your agency required you to pay for post adoption reports which have not been completed, you are entitled to a refund for those fees.
Third, you may be able to receive a courtesy fee waiver from your new agency. Although this is not a requirement, agencies often try to mitigate the difficulty of having your agency lose accreditation by offering to let you come into their program at the same fee-phase where you currently are at.
Fourth, you are likely to need an answer for “why” this is happening. It is a complicated question with several answers, and therefore it is difficult to channel the blame in any one direction. International adoptions have been on the decline since 2004 and agencies which have not diversified to offer many types of services are finding it difficult to stay in business. With the projected 300% increase in the cost of accreditation for agencies under IAAME, many agencies who have already been operating in the red for several years in a row cannot envision a viable future under the new accrediting entity. Sometimes agencies lose accreditation due to alleged violation of specific Hague standards. Agencies can fight those allegations in court, but since they are ultimately fighting the Department of State (through the accrediting entity), is often more realistic to just forfeit accreditation.
Fifth, there is a difference between losing accreditation and going out of business. It is possible that your agency will allow you to switch to another adoption program besides international. For instance, they may allow you to switch to domestic, foster, or embryo adoption. As a courtesy, they may even offer to waive part or all of the fees as a result of this change.
Finally, although the word “journey” is often associated with adoption because the experience can be difficult, long, and frustrating, it’s helpful to recognize that many people have been on the same journey with many detours but ultimately God put together the family that they had dreamed. My wife and I accepted the referral of two girls who then changed their minds and decided to stay in permanent foster care. Next we accepted the referral of a girl who was placed with a distant relative instead. We were sad and frustrated, but we knew God placed adoption on our hearts and He had a child in mind for us. We later adopted a girl from a different country than we had originally intended. While we know God doesn’t cause bad things to happen on purpose, we do know that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
If you would like more information on the current crisis in inter-country adoption policy please see www.SaveAdoptions.org. There you can see several articles about the events that have led to the rapid decline in the number of adoption agencies and adoptions, as well as sign a petition asking the White House to address this issue.
Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President