Save Adoptions & Hague Convention Concerns

SaveAdoptionsNormalLogoThis page includes resources useful for agencies/ASPs in their efforts to maintain high ethical/accreditation standards and shape the future of intercountry adoption.  Client forms, such as the ICF application, sample agreements, program guides and program fee schedules are available elsewhere on this site.

SAVE ADOPTIONS at saveadoptions.org was the principal tool for defeating proposed new regulations and the principal architect was National Council for Adoption, in concert with nearly 100 adoption agencies and endorsing organizations and 28,000 petitioners.   The proposed new Rule by the U.S. Dept of State Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) was withdrawn on April 4, 2017.  It may or may not be re-introduced in a revised form, again subject to public comment.

U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

The SBA Office of Advocacy investigated the proposed Rule and determined certification was improper under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA).  Further, they noted that the proposed Rule was ambiguous and lacked data.

Congress give small entities a voice in the rulemaking process.  Read the analysis by the SBA Office of Advocacy here:

US SBA Office of Advocacy Comment Letter on Intercountry Adoptions Proposed Rule 11.16.16 (1)

In a Nutshell — the SAVE ADOPTION Campaign and SBA Office of Advocacy objections to the proposed Rule

  1. The proposed two-tiered accreditation system would add to costs, jeopardize the financial viability of smaller agencies, failed to break-down specific economic impact, was ambiguous, was subject to discriminatory application, restricted input by foreign countries, and was a “blatant misuse of power.”
  2. The proposed additional training for prospective adoptive parents, a 100% increase, through state foster care systems is not (as represented) free and accessible in most states; unrealistic; would cause harm to institutionalized children by prolonging the adoption process; did not address costs; could not cover core elements of child-specific training.
  3. The proposed insurance coverage for foreign facilitators was unrealistic or not legally possible, and “could be a very large costs for adoption agencies that should have been included in the RFA section.”  Further, in the proposed Rule, “facilitation” remained undefined and could inappropriately include ancilliary persons such as drivers and translators.
  4. The proposed fixing of costs for foreign legal representation or facilitation is an “unprecedented overreach;” compensation for services provided by foreign employees or contractors is a not normally permitted by federal regulation; disclosure is provided currently in compliance with the Hague Convention.
  5. The proposed prohibition of payments for child care for children residing in shelters or medical facilities puts children at risk and denies adoptive parents the right to provide basic services, medical care or educational opportunities that would benefit children they are waiting to adopt.

In sum, the proposed Rule presented ambiguities, weaknesses in data and expenses, and concern about regulatory overreach.  Current regulations are sufficient.  Indeed, if current regulations are obstructing the rights of orphaned children to achieve permanency, they need to be revised in favor of reducing obstruction and promoting advocacy for adoption, rather than inhibiting adoption or erecting new barriers.

CaptureProtections for child trafficking underscore every standard of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.  Given that children in shelters are vulnerable targets for child trafficking, it would be in the best interests of orphaned children to be placed with suitable adoptive families as quickly as possible.

Adoption presents minimal risks to orphaned children and maximum potential for benefits — to be loved, treasured and protected. Remaining in or aging out of a shelter presents the worst risks imaginable.  Over 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF).  Children may be as young as age one when abducted, lured or sold into slavery.  Children are easier to manipulate than adults and targeted by traffickers.  Virgins are especially valuable, male and female.  Pre-pubescent girls are reported to be injected with hormones to bring on puberty. Younger girls have greater earning potential.  The average life span of an adolescent victim is reportedly seven years; dead from abuse, disease, malnutrition, drugs or suicide.  There is no upside; children who have been exploited are not easily reintegrated into their societies when rescued.  They die in other ways; shame, shunning, starvation and exclusion.

In 2015, there were about 16,000 deaths every day of children under the age of five (WHO); close to 5.9 million.  Leading causes of death in under-5 children are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria.  About 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition (WHO). Distinguishing mortality rates for orphans is very difficult; many of their lives and deaths go unrecorded. They are invisible.  See SOS Children’s Villages.

There were 19.5 million refugees in 2015; half of them were children (UNHCR).  10,000 unaccompanied migrant children are missing in Europe (Europol).

The mission of adoption agencies is to help orphans find families, permanency, love and security.  In the midst of the terrible crisis overwhelming the world’s growing population of orphaned children, we advocate for the right of every child to have a family.  This is the tie that binds us, the adoption community.

The Hague Convention has rather poorly balanced the need for oversight with the pressing crisis facing children.  Since 2004, international adoptions have declined over 75%.  Implementation of the Hague Convention has burdened agencies with extraordinary documentation tasks and lengthened the adoption process from under a year to routinely two to three years.  Orphans live in shelters, institutionalized, undernourished, lacking stimulation and education.  Adoptive families often bring home children who are far worse affected by neglect and trauma then they were at the time of referral.

Instead of stepping up to simplify the process, the U.S. State Dept Office of Children’s Issues (DOS-OCI) proposes more cumbersome regulation, encourages foreign countries to limit the number of agencies working there, and restricts U.S. families from adopting children who are under age 5.  There are two prime sources for this bias: 1) the U.S. would prefer families seeking international adoption to adopt U.S. foster children, who are on average age 7.5, and 2) they wish to avoid a que of U.S. families at the courts in other countries where lack of regulation may precipitate isolated incidents or systemic corruption.  In addition, the U.S. would prefer to avoid negative publicity over an adopted child’s injury, death, “re-homing” or return to the country of origin by U.S. adoptive parents.

Over-regulation obstructs permanency for orphaned kids.  Layers of regulation adds expense to agencies, adoptive families and taxpayers.  Regulation must never be allowed to overshadow the purpose of international adoption or destroy  non-profits that serve that purpose: every child deserves permanency, no matter their place of birth.  It is the job of agencies to accomplish that.  It is the job of regulation to ensure that in practice, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption does not prevent children from having families or deter families from seeking to adopt; to support the mission of agencies while assisting them to exercise diligence; and to ensure fairness and promote positive engagement.

Over the past eight years, since the Convention went into force in 2008, adoptions have declined over 75%. Foreign nations have closed or suspended adoption.  While the U.S. Dept of State Office of Children’s Issues attributes this to a lack of timely post adoption reports and concerns about corruption, it is evident  the regulatory environment has played an adverse role.  Adoption agencies diligently encourage adoptive families to provide reports and utilize multiple safeguards to prevent corruption.  Fulfilling agency missions demands vigilance and accountability.

The adoption community has determined that the U.S. Dept of State Office of Children’s Issues is failing to fulfill its role properly and vigorously–to promote reasonable and realistic expectations and enable as many orphans as possible achieve permanency quickly, to prevent health and developmental damage.

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that time is of the essence.  To reverse the downward spiral and consequent harm to children, intercountry adoption requires a turnabout in strategy and leadership.  We know we cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. Focusing on agencies being “at fault” is a red herring.  Opportunities for orphans to find families must be embraced with genuine compassion and commitment.

It is recommended that:

  • The Department of State (DOS) initiate a review of the Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) with particular reference to and explanation for the lack of effective diplomacy enabling more orphans to achieve permanency;
  • Revise policies to promote permanency at the earliest possible age in keeping with foreign laws;
  • Encourage foreign Central Authorities and stakeholders to address and remediate causes that delay adoption for orphaned children in a manner respectful of the best interests of the child;
  • Develop and implement a global child protection program that eliminates long periods of institutional limbo for children whose parents are missing or incapable of caring for them so children can be legally adopted–by relatives, domestic or international families–within 12 months of abandonment without parental contact;
  • Endorse and devise an “open adoption” program for orphans with known relatives to enable adopted children to maintain or resume contact with kin after adoption.

In all actions, it is recommended that DOS test every measure against gains made in placement.   In no way should proposed actions obstruct a child’s opportunity to be adopted.  The U.S. should take a leadership role to prioritize permanency and streamline adoption procedures.

Lastly, DOS should immediately revise adoption procedures under the Hague Convention and UAA to allow for a simplified method for families adopting related children.   OCI and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should condense the initial suitability application and petition to classify a child as an immediate relative into a one-step process for relative adoption.  Further, the U.S. should 1) encourage foreign authorities to take similar steps and 2) allow for expedited visas to place orphans with foreign relatives to enable children to become part of the adoptive family prior to issuance of an adoption decree.