Recently, the Department of State (DOS) proposed new regulations that may significantly impact international adoption. Since 2004, international adoption has declined dramatically (by almost 75%). If the regulations pass, they have the potential to drastically change and further decrease the number of international adoptions, cause some adoption agencies to close leaving families with less options, and potentially lengthen the processing time of adoptions that do take place.
While NCFA supports some of the themes these proposed regulations set out to address, like improved education and high ethical standards, the impact of the proposed rules is worrisome to adoptive families and adoption professionals. Yet, we have an opportunity to ask for change! These rules are proposed and are not yet binding. Everyone may provide comments between now and November 22nd to provide feedback on any concerns you may see. (Learn how below!)
Concerns that May Impact Families
The full proposed regulations can be read here, but we have highlighted some concerning proposals that would impact the future of adoptions from countries around the world if passed:
1. Country-Specific Authorization (CSA)
Currently, if an agency receives Hague accreditation or approval (signifying an agency meets standards set out in the Convention, IAA, and UAA), the agency may operate in any country that allows it. The proposed regulations would require adoption agencies to obtain a secondary country-specific authorization. DOS may decide that even though an agency is Hague Accredited, licensed by the foreign country, and serving families well, that only a limited number of agencies or agencies that meet further standards not set by the sending country may provide adoptions in that country. DOS could do this without explanation of the provisions or meaningful opportunity to appeal. While NCFA supports efforts to ensure that adoption professionals meet strict standards, we feel that Country-Specific Authorization (CSAs) could cause problems for Hague Accredited providers to operate generally, and may also cause confusion abroad and add additional time and costs to adopting families.
2. Changed Education Requirements
The proposed regulations suggest increased education and training for adoptive families. NCFA supports and encourages extensive training. However, the type of training suggested within the proposed regulations is concerning. Parents pursuing intercountry adoption may have to participate in their state’s foster care training. This may provide added costs to parents or will require states to sacrifice resources needed to train foster parents. It may also require parents to train on limited schedules or face waiting periods. Most importantly, the education provided for foster parents is not tailored to educate on the specific process and needs of intercountry adoption. Generalized training can’t provide specialized information that agencies can provide regarding cultural transition from a specific country, language barriers, or education on specific known special needs of a particular child. These proposed training requirements might also be burdensome as they require that 75% of training sessions be attended live. There are times when computer-assisted or video training may be the best option for families who live in remote areas or have limited schedules. Video or online training can provide the opportunity to let parents learn at their own pace, review materials, and respond to learning measurements that ensure they understand key issues. While some training should happen in-person, requiring many more hours to be done in this way may be very burdensome to families and unduly delay children’s ability to join families.
3. Child Care Fees Disallowed
The proposed changes seek to prohibit accredited agencies or approved persons from charging prospective adoptive parents for the costs of caring for a child prior to completion of the intercountry adoption process. While this may appear to lower costs, the reality is that this will lead to more children without families in some impoverished countries. Many country of origin's programs require that fees be paid for the care of children, including food, clean water, and clothing. Agencies must charge families for child care starting at the time of referral. The proposed regulations would ban the U.S. from doing this, but countries requiring such fees are often resource-poor and depend on these fees to provide the basics for referred children. The cost of child care likely cannot be absorbed by the countries and it is possible that, if this regulation were implemented, children would lose access to basic necessities or countries would close their intercountry adoption programs to the U.S. entirely.
4. Cost to Adoption Service Providers and Families
The new regulations will also add significant costs to adoption agencies, which can lead to their closure or significantly increased fees for families. Some of the costs include, but are not limited to, requiring each and every foreign individual who touches any international adoption case to have costly liability insurance (though it remains unclear if such coverage is even available or who it applies to), providing staffing for 23 additional hours of mostly-live education for each family, and the increased financial risk that country-specific programs (which may consist of a majority of the agency’s annual cases) could be closed by DOS without the opportunity to appeal.
These regulations, if passed without significant modification, could end international adoption. NCFA is calling on the adoption community to come together on possibly our most important collaboration ever.
What Can You Do to Help?
- Read the Proposed Regulations: We outlined four concerns we think are important to families above, but we encourage you to read the proposed regulations yourself and see what you think.
- Make a Comment: Send in a comment online to share your family’s personal testimony about how these proposed regulations could have affected your child or could affect your adoption process. Remember that the most influential comments are personal ones and pictures can be a great addition to your story. The comment period ends on November 22nd, so be sure to submit your comment soon.
- Contact Congress: Members of Congress love to hear from their constituents. It is their job to be your voice in government. If you have concerns about these regulations, make it known so they can help. You can call or email your representatives asking them to encourage Department of State to respond to your concerns. We encourage you to call. It’s the fastest, most impactful way to bring your concern to Congress’s attention. Don’t be intimidated! Your passion and personal experience make you an expert and Congress wants to hear from constituent experts who can help inform them on important issues.
- Raise Awareness: Share about the proposed regulations on Facebook, tweet it, or post on Instagram! Talk about it with your friends and family. Get your network involved in this important initiative and help raise awareness of these important potential changes and their possible negative impacts on intercountry adoption and the vulnerable children it serves.
Thank you for taking the time to consider how your family can advocate. You have the power to bring positive change for children and families. Use your voice, it matters!
Special thanks to Nicole Skellenger of MLJ Adoptions for helping to draft this blog!