Why foreign countries oppose adoption

Of the 192 nations in the world, 86 have signed the Hague convention on cooperation of intercountry adoption.  Signing the convention is not necessarily an indication of the desire to cooperate with intercountry adoption. Some non-Hague nations have robust intercountry adoption efforts, while the majority of Hague countries do not participate in any significant intercountry adoption efforts.  Furthermore, whenever a country does sign the Hague convention, history would show that adoptions are likely to decline or disappear.  Signing the Hague is often a pretense for blocking adoption in general.  When people hear this, nearly everyone who asks, “Why would a country block adoption?”

There are a variety of reasons that a nation may not cooperate in intercountry adoption.

National Pride.  Some nations fear that it does not reflect well on them to be a “sending nation.” And some countries do not want to be perceived as having a problem with orphaned children.  Political figures will use national pride as a means to rise in popularity.  They believe their reputation will improve by saying things like “We don’t need the United States or Europe to solve our problems.  We can solve our problems ourselves.”  While no country has been able to completely solve its orphan problem (even the United States has 400,000 children in foster care), the rhetoric gives an air of strength to a political candidate.  Unfortunately, the children end up being a political pawn.  It is national pride, rather than the best interest of children, that ends up being the heart of the rhetoric.

Political maneuvering.  We all know that Russia’s ban on intercountry adoption with the United States in 2012 was not motivated by the best interest of children.  The decision by the Russian Duma was in response to a US policy decision about the “Magnitsky Act.”  The US house passed a law stating that Russian foreign officials with human rights violations could not enter the country.  Russia’s response was, in essence, “we don’t have people with human rights violations.”  To retaliate against President Obama and Congress, Russia passed a law prohibiting international adoption from the United States.  In a rare instance of refreshing honesty, no pretense for child welfare was ever invoked.  It was a response meant to show Russians that they were strong, when the US attempted to make them look weak.

Bullying.  Some nations block intercountry adoption because they are bullied by the international community.  Adoption workers in Haiti, for example, informed me that UNICEF threatened to withhold funding of certain programs unless they reduced the number of intercountry adoptions.   You may ask, why would UNICEF block adoption?  The answer is that they are ideologically liberal.  By this, I mean they believe that all people are inherently good, and all people would make great parents if they simply had the education and resources.  The other side of the ideological spectrum holds to the notion that some people are inherently bad and not all people will ever be fit to parent.  These liberals have an academic view, rather than practical one.   In other words, their ideas sound good on paper, but in real life there is a disconnect.  If UNICEF is right, that all people can be good parents if they are given education and resources, then intercountry adoption should be replaced by in-country development.  But some parents burn their children; others throw them in trash bags.  Some starve their children on purpose, or abandon them because they are a girl, or disabled, or fathered by someone else.  And this is true in EVERY country, not just the developing world.  No amount of resources or education has enabled 100% of Americans to be fit as parents…that’s why we have 100,000 children in foster care awaiting an adoptive family.  So we cannot expect reunification to be the answer for all children in other countries.

These bullies have coined a phrase that has gained traction.  They say, “You are exporting your most precious resource…your children.”  Foreign officials don’t actually believe these children are their most precious resource.  Quite the contrary, many developing countries view these children as a plague, offer zero resources for their care, and have contempt for the parents who adopt them and give them a life in America.    Nevertheless, the “precious resource” phrase gains traction when spoken by politicians who want to use national pride to bolster their image.  In addition, some of these liberal aid organizations are very powerful and can force policy decisions.  Even if some foreign officials wanted to offer international adoption to their nation’s children, they are bullied by liberal-minded aid organizations that threaten to withhold funding fi they don’t subscribe to their ideology.  In addition, UNICEF receives funding to “care for orphans”.  Therefore, they may have a financial incentive for being able to report high numbers of orphans or orphanages.

Islam.  The Quran holds orphaned children in very high regard and has many verses imploring people to care for them.  But Sharia law prohibits adoption, so the practice is nearly absent from Muslim nations.  The Quran has a high regard for preservation of family lineage and inheritance of historic land boundaries.  Therefore, Muslim countries prefer guardianship over adoption.

Lack of need.  There is a direct relationship between decreased birthrate (through abortion and birth control) and economic progress.   Therefore, the most developed countries have far fewer children in need of adoption.  In fact, the number of hopeful adoptive parents is far greater than the number of children available for adoption.

Lack of Infrastructure. Some countries do not have the infrastructure to implement the Hague convention’s standards, so they are reluctant to sign or ratify a treaty with which they have no ability to comply.  In 2013, Haiti seemed to be moving in the direction of ratifying the Hague convention, but it appeared they would wait until they had the ability to comply.  In contrast, countries like Cambodia ratified the convention years ago, but the US will not process adoptions from that country because it has not yet been able to implement the required procedures.  In addition, the political condition of some nations is so “broken” that their inability to ratify a treaty typifies the inability to get any political work done.  So adoptions do not, or cannot occur either because there is no infrastructure to process cases, or because the bar has been set unrealistically high by the United States and there is no reasonable way to expect developing countries to comply.

It does not help that the Hague Convention itself calls for intercountry adoption to be “subsidiary” to other solutions.  In other words, intercountry adoption should be considered as a “last resort” to other options for children.  I have written elsewhere about the concept of subsidiarity and why it is misguided.

I wish I could end this blog post with a ray of hope but as it stands it appears we are still moving in the direction of decline in international adoption.  Meanwhile, the number of orphaned children abroad continues to rise.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

 

Evaluating Risk: How to decide which type of Adoption is right for you.

Every adoption assumes some risk. One way to decide which adoption program is right for you is to look at which type of risk you are ready for. Let’s look at what the risks are in each type of adoption.

Domestic adoption. The primary reason people choose domestic adoption is that they want to adopt an infant. This way, they are avoiding the risk that comes with adopting an older child who may have incurred several lost attachments or developed complications from being in an abusive home, foster home, or institution. But in domestic adoption, you have to be chosen by a birthmother. So domestic adoption carries with it the risk of waiting (for a period outside your control) for a birthmom to choose you. Nationwide, the number of hopeful adoptive couples outnumbers the number of birthmothers 20 to 1, so domestic families should be prepared to wait to be matched. People who do not want the risk of waiting for a birthmom to choose them should consider other adoption programs. Domestic adoption also carries with it the possibility that a birthmom could change her mind about placing for adoption. Some couples cannot envision taking on this risk.  In addition, domestic adoption carries the risk of possible poor pre-natal care or health, including possible drug exposure.

Embryo adoption. The primary reason people choose embryo adoption is so that they can experience pregnancy. They are avoiding the risk of a birthmom changing her mind. They are also avoiding the risk of having an older child who may find it more difficult to attach to them. But embryo adoption carries with it the risk of miscarriage. Many couples who consider embryo adoption have just finished their own fertility treatment and have probably experience a few miscarriages. They must be willing to incur the risk of future miscarriage if they pursue embryo adoption. The national statistic for frozen embryos resulting in live birth are about 43% for each embryo transfer, and 82% of having a live birth after the third embryo transfer. There is little risk of not being chosen by a donor family. The number of donor families is roughly equal to the number of adoptive families, and matching usually occurs within a couple months of completing your home study.

Foster adoption. The primary reason people choose foster adoption is that the cost is either free, nearly free. In addition, families are paid a monthly stipend from the state for being foster parents. Foster parents are also motivated by the desire to minister to children in need from difficult backgrounds. But foster adoption comes with the risk of losing custody. Many foster parents must be ready to assist with reunification efforts with the biological family. Some parents feel they cannot envision bonding with a child and then losing custody. Our experience shows that this fear is somewhat unwarranted. Bonding is hard work, and it does not happen as soon as you think. It can take months or years to have a strong attachment with an older child. Furthermore, only half of the children in foster homes each year are reunited with their biological family, and many re-enter foster care again. So while foster parents should not view fostering as a “back door” to adoption, realistically, foster placements often do result in adoption. Ideally, foster parents should ready simultaneously to help with reunification and be willing to adopt. Foster parents are avoiding the risk of being chosen by a birthmom. All foster parents who are successfully certified as a foster home can expect to have a placement relatively soon. The number of children in need far exceeds the number of homes, so if your criteria are reasonable, you will have a placement.

International adoption. The primary reason people choose international adoption is that they do not want to run the risk of losing custody (through foster care). Nor do they want to run the risk of waiting to be chosen by a birthmom (through domestic adoption). Some families are also compelled by the overwhelming need to minster to children in foreign orphanages. International families are placed on a referral list for “first come, first served” so every family can expect to be matched in time. However, the wait time can be a few years in some cases. The main risk with international adoption is that countries have fragile adoption infrastructure or fragile commitment to adoption. Sometimes countries close the doors to adoption completely, overnight! Sometimes the US prohibits adoptions from foreign countries, overnight! These problems are sometimes resolved by waiting out the storm, or by switching to another country program. But international families should be prepared for the risk of foreign countries having a breakdown in the process. On the other hand, international families have the benefit of adopting a child who is old enough that their behavior is known and documented. Since children are almost always at least 2 years old, you have a better chance of knowing whether they have autism, ADHD, reactive attachment disorder, etc. than if you adopt an infant.

To summarize,

  1. If you are worried about not being picked by a birthmom, domestic adoption may not be right for you
  2. If you cannot envision having a miscarriage, then embryo adoption may not be right for you
  3. If you have a hard time seeing yourself helping with re-unification efforts, then don’t choose foster care
  4. If you want a baby, then you should not choose international adoption

Or to put it differently:

  1. If you are willing to help with re-unification efforts, and are open to a sibling set, or a child over 5 years old, or children with special needs, choose foster care.  If you can’t afford other adoption programs, or you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose foster care.
  2. If you are willing to wait to be chosen by a birthmom, and you only are open to adopting a baby, then choose domestic adoption.  If you don’t want to risk losing custody, choose domestic adoption.
  3. If you are willing to take the risk of miscarriage but want to give birth to your adopted child, choose Snowflakes®.  If you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose Snowflakes®.
  4. If you are willing to wait out what can sometimes be an international roller coaster, and you are open to older children, or infants and children with special needs, choose intercountry adoption.  If you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose intercountry adoption.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

A Case for Older Kids

It is understandable that many families are hesitant to adopt older children.  By “older,” we typically mean children over 6 years of age.  But speaking from my own experience, and our agency’s experience, we know that adoption of older children can be very rewarding and successful.  I adopted a boy when he was 7, and he is now a 23 year old successful and well-adjusted young man.  In the last 20 years, our agency has placed over 1000 children over the age of 6 with families who are thriving.  Let me make a case for the adoption of older children.

#1, Older kids give you the benefit of observed behavior

Many problems that children face that are associated with institutional care begin at a very young age, but are not fully observable until kids get older.  For instance, oppositional defiance disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are nearly impossible to diagnose in a 2 year old.  Autism is also not typically diagnosed before a child is age 4.  But by the time a child is 6, we can observe whether a child has these disorders.  The childcare workers who live and work with those kids can vouch for their behavior and emotional health.  In a sense, you are actually taking on less risk when you adopt a child whose emotional health is observed and whose history is long enough that it can be documented.

#2, Older kids attach differently, not less

A compelling reason that parents want to adopt children as young as possible is that the strength and health of attachment is correlated with age.  People assume that a baby will attach sooner, and have a stronger attachment than an older child would.  But we have a saying, “Older kids don’t attach less, just differently.”  It’s true.  If you adopt a teenager, your relationship will be more akin to being a friend, than to being a care-giver.  It would be a mistake to think older children are any less dependent, however.  They still need love, friendship, direction, modeling and support.  Parents who adopt tweens and teens often express how satisfied they are in the relationship they build with their children.

#3, Older kids are still very young

Every summer when we bring a group of older children to the US for our orphan host program, we are amazed at how young these older kids are!  Age 6 in an orphanage is not equal to age 6 in a healthy home.  Children from institutional care are almost always smaller.  They look younger.  They act younger.  They are socially and academically behind.  They missed out on their infant years, and they long to be held, babied, carried, and make up for the nurture of which they were deprived.

#4, You are a parent for life

Some parents erroneously think that when they adopt, they are counting down the years until the child is 18.  They think they are adopting a remaining number of years, rather than a person who will live along life and be in their family forever, with a legacy lasting generations.  Children nowadays are living with their parents into their late twenties and thirties.  You are not only adopting a child, but the future grand children and great grandchildren.  You are not only making a difference in their childhood, but you will be there for them when they need parenting advise, help transitioning careers, or someone to walk them down the aisle at their wedding.

#5, Older kids need parents too

It’s not all about us, after all.  We are not adopting to fulfill our needs, but to meet the needs of God’s children.  Older children are no less in need of families, and our calling to care for orphaned children extends to all kid who lack a mother or father to care for them.

Dr. Daniel Nehrbass, President

Asking the Right Questions

It occurs to me that many adoptive families ask the wrong questions. For instance, they may be short-sighted when they decide on their criteria for the types of child profiles they are willing to consider for adoption.  It is understandable why many couples initially think of race and age.   For some, it is important to have a child who looks like them.  And many assume that younger children attach better, have fewer behavior problems, and that parents have more years with them.  But looking back over our 30 years of international adoption, we have seen thousands of kids adopted at all ages and from every race.  We have also brought over 500 children to the United States on orphan host programs and observed their behavior and adjustment.  Knowing what we do now, we have begun to encourage families to consider a different criteria for assessing their openness to child profiles.  The best predictor of child behavior and adjustment is not race or age.  It is past behavior and adjustment.

Couples vary greatly in their ability and willingness to parent children with behavior problems or a difficult past.  If a couple told me they were hoping to adopt a child who will attach easily and not have behavior problems, I would recommend they look beyond race and age, and instead focus on indications of emotional health.  Emotional health can be observed now.  It is often documented over the past couple years.  And it is the best indication of future emotional health.

Dr. Daniel Nehrbass, President

A Defense of Adoption Fundraising

Not surprisingly, the anti-adoption voices are also anti-adoption fundraising. They have a series of charges to which I’ll respond below.

#1 Adoption fundraising is tacky.

Some may see it that way, but it’s important to note that those raising funds are not trying to impress people who aren’t likely to give. They’re reaching out to potential donors, who don’t see adoption fund raising as tacky. They’re reaching out to people who enthusiastically support their endeavor, not those jeering on the sideline. The people who donate love to give. They are happy about their donation and excited about the outcome. They are not turned off by the request, they are glad for the opportunity.

#2 Adoption fundraising dollars could be spent better

Critics say that the $40,000 for an international adoption could be better spent on community development among orphans and vulnerable children. This is reminiscent of when Judas complained that expensive perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Yet Judas was not known for giving to the poor. I wonder how much money these critics are themselves giving for orphan care. Our experience is that families who adopt are the most likely to also be generous in financial giving for orphan care as well. Churches that support adoption are also the donors for orphan care. Adoption agencies are big financial supporters of orphan care. The two go together, because people personally visit these kids and have a heart for the ones who are adopted and the ones who are left behind. The motivation behind adoption and supporting orphan care is the same: obedience and passion for God’s call to care for the orphan. These works do not need to be exclusive, we can do both: adopt and care for children abroad. Finally, adoption is far more effective at making permanent change than orphan care. Adoption permanently removes a child from poverty and places them in a family, completely and effectively solving immediate problems. For that reason, adoption presents the “biggest bang for your buck” in orphan care.

#3 Adoption fund raising is offensive to the children or birthmoms

While we’ve seen this charge on the internet, we’ve actually never heard this from any of the birthmoms or children that we have worked with. This charge does not match our experience.

#4 If you have to raise funds, then maybe you can’t afford another kid

Adoption fundraising is an opportunity for the community to be involved in a work they support. Many people who cannot or choose not to adopt still want to have a part in making a difference in the life of a child. The cost of raising a child so far exceeds the cost of adopting, that the fees will be a drop in the bucket and long forgotten years later. But the mobilizing of a community around the adoptive family can be a blessing for a lifetime.

Dr. Daniel Nehrbass, President

A Leap of Faith: Overcoming the Labels

Often we receive medical and social histories for waiting children with a long list of diagnosis.  These labels can make it very difficult for families to accept a child into their home.  Often children in institutional care will receive labels such as developmental delays or autism.  These diagnosis are many times given due children going up in less than optimum care and may or may not be long term issues.  For Jim and William, these labels were definitely a barrier to finding them a family, but one family was willing to take a leap of faith.  Mel and June Abordo discovered that labels can sometimes be misleading.  Mel and June share below:

 

It does not seem possible that a year had already passed since we welcomed Jim and William into our home and our hearts.

Had it only been a year from the time we first looked at their profile from Nightlight’s Hong Kong adoption program, and thought to ourselves, “Are we ready for 2 boys, brothers, from a different culture with a foreign language neither of us knew?”

Our answer…why not? We chose them, an act of will, not of chance nor consequence. Has it been as we expected? Yes, and more… It has been hard and easy, challenging and sobering, humbling and uplifting, all at the same time.

We have often been asked why we chose to adopt. Our answer can be summed up in one great truth: That we are ALL adopted children of our Father in Heaven, and we should do our part to make these abandoned children realize that they are children first and foremost of a good God.

To all that have helped us in this adoption journey, we thank all of you.

-The Abordos

Adoptee Identity Search for birthparents

Answering Questions for Adult Adoptees

Rhonda Jarema

Nightlight Christian Adoptions

Today I received yet another call from an adult adoptee, questioning whether as the agency of her adoption almost 20 years ago, could we provide her with her original adoption documents. She wanted to find her family.

Whether adopted domestically or internationally, the interest in genetic origins is a fascination or even an obsession. Developmentally, late adolescence or early adulthood is a time of separation from the family and increasing independence. It is not unusual as adoptees go through adolescence and become adults to wonder about their family of origin. One adoptee wanted to know why her biological parents made the decision to place her. Another adoptee wanted to know why she was so outgoing, a characteristic she definitely didn’t get from her librarian mother and accountant father. An international adoptee wanted to join the army, but her parents couldn’t find her original adoption documents. Another international adoptee was estranged from his adoptive parents and only had his US driver’s license to prove his identity.

Although the desire to find out more information about their origins may be similar, the reason behind that interest may be different. In addition, the information available and how to access additional information is very different dependent on what type of adoption took place.

Adoption was very secretive through the 1970’s in the United States. Gradually it became understood that it was important to at least offer open adoption. By the 1990’s open adoptions were more common than closed adoptions. However, the amount of information shared still varied from very limited communication through the agency to relationships among the adoption triad of biological and adoptive parents and adoptee. Even today, despite encouragement about open adoptions, there are expectant parents who chose a closed adoption.

With open adoptions, at least at the beginning, there is a sharing of information. The biological and adoptive families share information with one another. However, often by the time the adoptee is a young adult there may have been years between when information was last provided. It is typical for the contact to drop off after a few years as the birth mother moves forward with her life.

For US adoptees there are a few options available in order to track down information about their genetic family. The first step is to read what information was provided at the time of birth/adoption. Taking the available information, the adoptee can then determine what information is available in each State. The ‘Child Welfare Information Gateway www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/search/searching is a great way to start. The adoptee can go on this site and determine what is needed to file for information from the State where they were born. They can access some limited information at age 18 and more information potentially becomes available at age 21. Some States have registries that allow both the genetic parents and adoptees to register and share information.

Even if personal contact information is not provided, registering allows the adoptee to access material that might not have been available in any other manner. It is not unusual for an adoptee to have questions about their adoption and genetics. Tracking down their biological parents can help them answer some of those questions. Although the adoptee may or may not be able to track down their biological parents, they may be able to obtain some answers to their questions.

The international adoptee has those questions and additional ones. International adoptees are the product of primarily closed adoptions. When my family adopted from Russia in 1995, we watched as the official took down a large leather encased book among shelves of similar looking books. She scratched out the names of our daughter’s original birth parents and inserted our names, written in an old-fashioned quill pen. We were provided with very limited information and signed a document that we would not seek out the genetic relatives of our daughters. Although we knew from US best practice that such ‘closed adoptions’ were not in the best interests of our children, we accepted it as that was the expected standard in that country.

With international adoptions, there is often just one original of the adoption documents and birth certificate. Unfortunately, there are limited ways to replace the documents making it difficult for the international adoptee to prove their origins, if they’ve been lost or destroyed.

For the international adoptee, a certificate of citizenship and US Passport can make all the difference between proof of their identity and being stuck in the quagmire of not being able to prove US Citizenship. For some international adoptees, they are finding out as adults, that their adoptive parents never even finalized their international guardianships with an adoption here in the US, leaving them without US citizenship.

Individuals who came to the US under a guardianship, needed to have their adoptions finalized here in the US. It is likely they came to the US under an IR4 VISA, meaning that the adoption needed finalization in the US, prior to US Citizenship being conferred. When inter-country adoptions are finalized in the child’s country of origin, the child likely came into the US under an IR3 VISA. This type of VISA signifies that the adoptee is eligible for US Citizenship. With the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, international adoptees with US parents became eligible for US Citizenship. As of 2004, these Certificates of Citizenship were automatically sent to families whose adopted children entered the US on IR3 VISA’s. However, if an internationally adopted child enters the US on a guardianship and IR4 VISA, they can obtain the US citizenship following the finalization of their adoption in the US.

In a few cases, the adoptive parents may have provided copies of their adoption documents to their adoption agency. However, this is rare unless it was required by the agency. If the adoption records are missing or destroyed, adoptees can apply to USCIS to obtain copies of their original adoption documents. It is form G-884. The website application is http://www.uscis.gov/g-884 They can also apply to the court in their country of origin, for certified copies of their original adoption documents. This is more costly and time consuming, as it would require contracting an attorney or an Intercountry adoption coordinator in the city where the adoption took place.

Of course beyond the desire for the proof of the adoption and US Citizenship, is the desire to find genetic family members. The easiest approach would be to take whatever information the adoptee has whether from memory or taken from the adoption records. With a name and a city, often relatives can be found on Facebook or for those from Eastern European countries, V’Kontakt. There are also ‘searchers,’ individuals who work as detectives to help adoptees connect with their biological family members. They are not formal detectives typically, but people who for a fee will help track down family members and make contact, then providing letters, photos or assisting with contact, depending on what is desired from all parties.
Social Media makes contact much easier whether the adoptee is domestic or international. It is fairly easy to put in a name and do a search. This may be a way to begin a search. However, as with anything, it is important to do it with caution. I’d encourage any adoptee beginning a search to first determine what they want out of the search and discuss it with trusted family members or a therapist. It helps to have a goal. Such a search can open ‘Pandora’s box, bringing up additional issues or it can be a beginning step towards healing and finding answers to previously unanswered questions.

Hobbs’s Story

Mommy! Daddy! – For a decade we dreamed of hearing those words.  In 2005, our beautiful Guatemalan born daughter, Kaili, made our dream a reality.   Parenthood was all we had imagined and more.   In 2010, we began the process again with the country of Panama.  The program was newly formed so we expected a slower process.   What no one could predict was the amount of time it would truly take.  As the years rolled by, we prayed continually for the child we knew God had planned for us.   I will admit there were times we questioned ourselves, wondering if we should keep up the hope of another child. We finally made the heartbreaking decision to stop the adoption process. We decided no more home study updates, no more fingerprinting, and no more expense.  On September 22, 2015, a few short months after we had decided to discontinue, God revealed His plan.  We got the miracle call!  After 4 years of waiting for a referral, when we had decided to discontinue, when there was no “reasonable explanation” for how it happened, we learned that there was a child in Panama waiting for us.  We sobbed as we soaked in the miracle of our new daughter.  As if time hadn’t taken long enough, another 5 months slowly passed before we could kiss her sweet cheeks in person.  It had been such a long wait but our journey was far from over.   We were expected to stay in country 3-4 months to finalize her adoption.  However, on numerous occasions foreign politics prevented our case from moving forward.  We would take one step forward and 2 steps back.   Eight months later, we finally returned home with our beautiful 2-year-old, Kaya.    In all, our journey spanned six and half years.  It wasn’t what we had planned but in the end as we peer into her smiling chocolate eyes, we know God’s timing is perfect.  …….Damon and Meridith Hobbs.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On September 8, 2016, the US Deprtatment of State issued new rules that will severely limit intercountry adoption.  So far, over 30 Hague accredited agencies have signed a letter expressing that they wish these rules to be abandoned.  You can sign the petition and read more at www.saveadoptions.org 

CONCERNED UNITED STATES INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION AGENCIES
ACCREDITED BY THE COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION
UNDER THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION

September 20, 2016
The Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State
The Honorable Michele Thoren Bond, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs
Department of State, United States of America
Washington, DC 20522

RE: 81 FR 62321; 22 CFR 96; Document Number 2016-20968

Dear Secretary Kerry and Assistant Secretary Bond,

The undersigned adoption agencies, accredited by the Council on Accreditation under the Hague standards on intercountry adoptions, respectfully request that the proposed rules published by the Department of State on September 8, 2016, be withdrawn immediately. The proposed rules, which we believe are unnecessary and discriminatory against accredited adoption agencies and foreign child welfare officials, represent an attempt by representatives of the State Department to exercise subjective and anti-adoption influence and control over the field of intercountry adoption. The rules fail to identify what problems or issues they seek to address, are an effort to control rather than regulate intercountry adoptions and create conflicts in law that cannot be resolved.

We have seen the number of intercountry adoptions decline by 75% since 2004 and the proposed rules would further restrict adoptions, leaving hundreds of thousands of children who may otherwise be adopted with no hope for a family. These proposed rules hurt orphan children and remove what little hope they have for a family. The Department of State should be an advocate and champion for these vulnerable children around the world and not promulgate regulations that will leave these children in a worse position. We favor sound, ethical and transparent intercountry adoption practices.

Our primary objections to the proposed rules include, but are certainly not limited to:

1. Through the Country Specific Accreditation (CSA) category, the rules create a two-tier accreditation system with a “super accreditation” for certain countries with as-yet undefined subjective standards to be determined at a later date and subject to discriminatory application to favored agencies. Foreign countries have no input into whether their country would be subjected to such a “super accreditation” process for agencies which have already been accredited here in the United States and may have also already been licensed to work in their countries. This rule is a blatant abuse of power.
2. Requiring prospective adopting families to complete foster family training at the state level, with no cost to the family, is a naïve and ill-conceived approach to improving current training requirements for families. Just a few calls made to foster care officials across the nation reveal that opening foster family training to intercountry adopting families at no cost is an entirely unrealistic expectation and the uniform reaction was shock at yet another federal government mandate with no funding. Moreover, the lack of access to foster family training provided by the states will certainly extend an already lengthy adoption process, thereby extending the time period that vulnerable children remain institutionalized causing them further harm. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the kind of additional child specific training which would benefit families is not even available through foster family training.
3. The Department of State seeks to impose potentially unlimited and uninsurable liability on agencies for supervising individuals in foreign countries when the level of supervision and control is neither legally allowable (in the case of foreign attorneys or government-run orphanages) nor possible. The current regulations require agencies to carry a minimum of $1 million of professional liability insurance. Discussions with insurers have verified that the cost of insurance for expanding coverage to include individuals or organizations in foreign countries is more than financially prohibitive but would drive the cost of intercountry adoption higher and would probably not even be available.
4. In an attempt to further control the activities of agencies in foreign countries, the proposed rules seek to broaden the activities which are subject to agency supervision to include individuals such as interpreters, guides and drivers under the guise of the word “facilitating” an adoption. “Facilitating” remains undefined in the proposed regulations and leaves it open to the broad, unfettered discretion of the Department and the accrediting entity.
In an unprecedented overreach, the proposed rules also seek to fix the compensation of in-country workers assisting the adoption agencies and adopting families. Rather than simply requiring disclosure, so that prospective adopting families can compare the amounts due for all parts of an adoption, the Department of State seeks to determine what is “reasonable” without any prescribed methodology, guidance, input or supervision, again giving the Department discretion exceeding the scope permissible by law. There is no assurance that foreign workers assisting one agency will be restricted to the same compensation of workers assisting another agency; another path for the subjective, inequitable treatment of agencies. Nowhere else in federal regulations does the government seek to set a maximum level of compensation, and it should not be permitted here.
5. Unlike the initial Final Hague Rules, published February 15, 2006 after 2 ½ years of consultation with the adoption community, adoption agencies, and experts from a wide variety of disciplines, the proposed rules issued on September 8, 2016 offer no rationale or need for rule changes and demonstrably will result in the further decline in the number of intercountry adoptions. It is a proposed solution for a problem that either has not been identified publicly or simply does not exist.

Orphaned children face a dismal future and those remaining in orphanages are the demographic most at risk for trafficking. We ask that the Department of State demonstrate a commitment to adoption as an effective means of protecting vulnerable children and keeping their hope alive by immediately withdrawing the proposed rules.

Sincerely,

Signed and endorsed by the listed Endorsing Agencies Below

Cc: Office of Legal Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/L, SA-17,

Floor 10, Washington, DC 20522-1710

Endorsing Hague Accredited Agencies

ABC Adoption Services, Inc.
Across the world Adoptions
Adoption Associates
Adoption by Shepherd Care
Agape of Central Alabama
A Helping Hand Adoption
Amazing Grace Adoptions
America World Adoption Association
Building Arizona Families
Carolina Adoption Services
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Inc.
Catholic Charities Center for Family Services, Baltimore
Christian Adoption Services, NC
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center
Embracing Children Adoption Services
Embraced by Grace Adoptions
Family Connections, Inc.
Generations Adoptions
Great Wall China Adoptions / Children of All Nations
Homestudies and Adoption Placement Services
Hope’s Promise
Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc.
International Child Foundation
Joshua Tree Adoptions
Little Miracles Adoption Agency
Michael S. Goldstein, Esq
New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services
New Horizons Adoption Agency, Inc.
Nightlight Christian Adoptions
Open Door Adoption Agency, Inc.
Premier Adoption Agency, Inc.
Small World, Inc.
The Gladney Center for Adoption
Vista Del Mar Adoptions
Wasatch International Adoptions
West Sands Adoptions
World Links International Adoption Agency
More agencies to come soon…we’re just getting started.

Other Endorsing Organizations

KidSave

Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program