The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act 2012 was passed by Congress and signed by the President this month. Since then, international adoption agencies have been seeking clarifications and information about the implementation of this Act. While the concept of Universal Accreditation has been known by international adoption professionals and adoption agencies, some of the details about its passage and implementation were and still are unknown. The Act will require that an adoption service provider (international adoption agency) must have Hague or Universal Accreditation/Approval to provide international adoption services to prospective adoptive parents. This will not be effective until July 2014, in an effort to give international adoption agencies that are not accredited time to receive such accreditation. However, the international adoption process on average takes two years and thus adoptions started at this time could be affected by the Act.
It is important to understand what are considered “adoption services” because those are the items that an individual, agency or organization cannot provide unless they are accredited/approved.
What are international adoption services per Federal Law (Hague and Universal Accreditation)?
- Identifying a child for international adoption (this is likely the one that is violated the most due to internet and social media);
- Arranging an adoption;
- Securing documents to terminate parental rights;
- Performing a home study for adoption;
- Making a report/non-judicial determination regarding the best interest of the child or appropriate placement for the child (aka “match” or “referral”);
- Monitoring a case prior to final adoption; and
- Assuming custody of a child or providing care/social services pending a placement for adoption.
Why the need for the Act in International Adoption?
- Various routes to completing international adoption even within the U.S. adoption agencies.
- Agencies with Hague Accreditation/Approval were treated different and held to a higher standard while other agencies were not (This is not to say non-accredited agencies did not have high standards – there was just no oversight).
- Corruption and problems discovered more frequently in Orphan Visa processing of adoptions not completed by Hague Accredited Agencies.
How does it affect an international adoption? Upon implementation of the Act, all adoptions must be completed by an accredited agency (there may be some cases that are far enough along in the process that will be “grandfathered in” – but this is not known in detail). All agencies or adoption services providers in the U.S. that provide any of the above adoption services must have Hague or Universal Accreditation/Approval. Adoptive parents should choose agencies with accreditation to avoid problems in their adoption. All the effects on independent international adoptions are still unknown. My previous article discusses the potential effects on Independent international adoptions; however, these details of implementation are more unclear. If parents seek an independent international adoption at this point, it appears from the Act that they cannot seek any of the services listed above from a non-accredited person or entity with in their adoption. However, if they truly did all their own adoption services, then there may not be a violation of this law.
It is my opinion that if someone wants to seek an independent adoption they should not use any organization, entity or individual to assist in any of the above adoption services here in the U.S. but could still use the assistance of foreign entities/individuals in their adoptive child’s country. However, they would need a home study by an accredited agency from the U.S. and that agency may not agree to provide the services due to the additional liability they may incur. This additional liability may be created as they may be seen under this Act as the primary provider of adoption services and yet they only provided the home study. Again, this is an unknown at this time. While I do not promote independent international adoptions due the problems that they create for international adoption and the orphans left behind, I also want to provide that this may still be an option. It does appear that the future of international adoption will be one route for all international adoptions which is through a Hague or Universal Accredited/Approved Agency and possibly only one route for immigration as well.
I will continue to monitor and obtain information about the implementation of this Act and the future of the international adoption process here in the U.S.
MLJ Adoptions, Inc. is a licensed international adoption agency in Indiana.
For more information about MLJ Adoptions, Inc. international adoption programs, click here.