Friday, September 12, 2014

What is a Primary Provider in International Adoption?

initial adoption information seminarWhat does a “primary provider” do in an international adoption?We have been receiving inquiries from several families that have begun an independent international adoption and are now looking for a “primary provider.” A primary provider is a Hague Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider (ASP) that is responsible for your international adoption. The ASP must ensure that all of the Hague requirements, and now the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) requirements, are met. The UAA requires that there is a primary provider in all international adoptions by U.S. citizens. There seems to be some confusion amongst those that have begun international adoptions independently about the role of the primary provider under the UAA. Below are three questions that we are hearing most frequently.
Why do I need a primary provider?
Following the implementation of the UAA on July 14, 2014, all international adoptions must have a designated primary provider. You will need to designate a primary provider ASP on your immigration paperwork in order for the adopted child to obtain a visa to travel home. There are limited exceptions for grandfathered cases and transition cases. Information regarding whether your case could qualify as a grandfathered case under the UAA can be found here. However, if you are planning to start the adoption process now or have only begun the initial stages of the adoption process as an independent international adoption, you will likely be required by law to select and work with a primary provider on your international adoption.
Why do I have to pay agency fees when all I need to do is list the name of an ASP?
If you began an independent international adoption, meaning that you are directly connected with an attorney or adoption facilitator in your child’s country of origin, there are likely reasons that you decided not to utilize an ASP for your international adoption. We understand the reasons that you may not wish to utilize an ASP, chief among those reasons is often the cost of the services provided by an ASP. In addition, if you began an independent international adoption, you may have already had a connection to the child’s country and feel comfortable and confident in navigating this complicated process solely with the assistance of your in country facilitator or attorney.
Families in this position understandably want to continue on as they have been and would prefer that an ASP merely allow them permission to use their name in the paperwork that they submit to USCIS. While ASPs understand this frustration for families, there is much more required of a primary provider than the use of an ASP’s name on your immigration documents. The reason for the UAA is to ensure that adoptions are happening ethically and in accordance with Hague regulations, regardless of the child’s country of origin. It would be impossible to meet this standard in any way other than working with a primary provider providing and overseeing necessary adoption services. These services are often more extensive than families may realize. Below we have described what MLJ Adoptions does as a primary provider. The services provided may vary from ASP to ASP, but the core services provided will remain the same, as they are dictated by the Hague Convention and the UAA.
What does the primary provider do?
A primary provider is required by law to provide or oversee the provision of services in three areas:
  1. The primary provider is responsible for ensuring that six specific adoption services, outlined by law, are provided to families in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. There are six adoption services the primary provider is required to conduct or oversee to ensure that the services are compliant with Hague or the UAA. You are welcome to read about the six required services by visiting here. However, merely looking at the six required services can be deceiving, because more is required of primary providers based on other Hague/UAA regulations and overall best practices. As a primary provider, your adoption and any actions taken by the in country attorneys and facilitators become the responsibility of the primary provider.
  1. The primary provider is responsible for selecting, supervising and monitoring the foreign attorney (or similar individual) who processes the in-country adoption. This is a very important part of the international adoption process and arguably the most important aspect of ensure ethical practices in a child’s country or origin. Primary providers must oversee and monitor the services that are being provided in country. For MLJ Adoptions, this monitoring and oversight includes the signing of contracts and ethics documents, case reporting, review of the work done in the country, consistent communication with the in-country attorney and a minimum of one in-person training per year regarding the adoption process and ethical practices. This is a large responsibility and time commitment for primary providers and one of the reasons that the UAA requires a primary provider in every international adoption case.
  1. The primary provider is responsible for the development and implementation of a service plan for the family. The purpose of the service plan is to list the adoption services that will be provided to the family throughout the duration of the adoption process and to let the family know who is doing what in the process. The primary provider is also responsible to ensure that the plan is implemented and that each of the services are provided. This means that the primary provider must not only be knowledgeable about the adoption process, but also follow your entire adoption to insure the proper steps are taken.

A primary provider will also provide families a plethora of additional adoption services. Below you will find additional services that are provided by MLJ Adoptions. This listing is not exhaustive, but the purpose is to give you a fuller picture of what a primary provider does. Some of the services below are required by law, others are considered best practices to best ensure that parents are prepared for the adoption and supported following the adoption.
  • Establishing hard case file, electronic file and maintaining case file information for 99 years;
  • Consistent communication with your family throughout the adoption process and thereafter;
  • Creation and maintenance of guidebooks that provide information and instruction on the completion of all aspects of the adoption process;
  • Hague complaint education – Per the UAA families will now need to complete adoption preparation education prior to travel or placement. MLJ Adoptions’ education is completed in conjunction with the National Council for Adoption;
  • Review of home study and communication with home study provider, as needed;
  • Monthly agency newsletters, as well as country specific newsletters, outlining changes and information about the country program;
  • Assistance and guidance with USCIS submissions;
  • Preparation and submission of dossier;
  • Referral consultation;
  • Remaining abreast of changes in the in-country process;
  • Conducting travel consultation and providing travel assistance;
  • Conducting and submitting post-adoption reports to the child’s country of origin;
  • Ongoing support services once your child is home, which include hosting community building events (click here for information about MLJ Adoptions’ upcoming Adoption Picnic on Saturday, September 13, 2014!)
At MLJ Adoptions we take the role of a primary provider very seriously. We understand that there are families who are frustrated that independent international adoption can no longer occur under the UAA. However, we believe that there are many benefits to working with Hague accredited and approved primary providers and that ultimately the changes will be beneficial to the children and adoptive families we serve. MLJ Adoptions is able to act as a primary provider for adoption cases, including UAA transfer cases, from Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Samoa and Ukraine.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Perspective is Key to Overcoming Adoptive Parent Struggles


struggles adoptive parentingI will just be honest with you – there are times that it is truly difficult to love some of my children. I am so tired of feeling frustrated, of being angry and not being able to have a peaceful moment when they are all at home, feeling unappreciated, taken for granted and nothing is ever good enough… for heaven’s sake these kids were orphans with nothing to their names before they were part of our family!
There are times I just want to go back to before. All of those feelings war inside of me and make me feel more angry, guilty and frustrated. Being a parent is NOT easy to begin with, and being an adoptive parent is at times beyond difficult. Where is the “all they need is love and we will all be one big happy family” story?  That dream has been shattered and I am no longer naive.
There are times I stay because of how it would look to others, but then there are moments of clarity that make me realize I stay (or they stay) because that is what love is.  It is an action, not an emotion.  I know it would only make me feel better for a moment and then the guilt of hurting my children would surface.
If only they would listen, if only they wouldn’t be so defiant, if only they would quit taking me for granted. Then I realize that my thoughts are all about me… my expectations, my feelings, ME.ME.ME. Each of us has been shaped by our parents and we tend to parent as we have been, though some may be determined to not parent as they have been by doing the opposite – but none the less, our parenting techniques are determined by how we were raised.  For me, I had a very strict father.  When I was told to do something, I was expected to do it immediately without further discussion.  Based on that, I really struggle when my children do not listen.  I feel immediately disrespected.  See where this is going?
Parenting older children who come from backgrounds of abuse, trauma and neglect has to come from a different perspective. It is not about obedience or disobedience; it is about building relationships that instill trust. Learning to parent this way can be very challenging, especially for parents that have parented before. What I have shared above is not to discourage families from adopting older children but instead it is meant to give an honest approach of how it can feel, and also to encourage families to think outside the box about how they may be parenting, have parented or will parent.
Education is important to the success of understanding your child’s behavior, and having a good support of family, friends, and professionals will be vital to your family. Take it from someone that has been there, done that, failed miserably on a daily basis and is still trying to wade through the process – it is worth it, but there will be days you will be challenged and stretched, the education and knowledge you have will be forgotten and you may be reduced to behavior you aren’t proud of. However, there will be days that you will recognize the progress that has been made, you will see that the investment of your time, your patience, and your heart is paying off. Celebrate, for these are the moments to cherish as an adoptive parent of older children!

Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Consistency with Adoptive Children is Key!

Adoptive Children Require Consistent Techniques

consistent techniquePeriodically, we use this space to answer client questions that have been submitted to us. Today, Addison Cooper LCSW answers the question, “How long do you try a technique before determining if it’s successful or not?”
Have you ever heard that old saying, “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results?” It is frustrating to desire a result from your child, but which keeps eluding you. But before you go ahead and call your efforts insane, let’s look at a couple of clauses in that saying, “The same thing,” and “different results.”
The Same Thing The first thing to do is to make sure that you’re consistently implementing whatever technique it is that you’re trying to implement. Consistency is hard to achieve without intention, but it’s a necessary ingredient in any successful parenting formula. If your parenting is consistent, then the variable element in your kid’s experience is the technique you are using. If your parenting is inconsistent (and you let things go sometimes, but enforce expectations at other times), well, then the variable is you. Take a moment to assess whether you are really doing the same thing, each time, in response to your kid. Can your child depend on your response, affirmation, and redirection, or is it kind of a crapshoot?
Different Results What behaviors are you specifically hoping to see changed? What would you like to see stopped? What would you like to see started? How will you know when your goal has been achieved? For the next day (or week, or whatever), keep track of the frequency that those behaviors occur. Let these numbers be your baseline. Then, implement the technique you want to try. Be consistent. Maybe implement it for a week, only rating yourself on how consistently you’ve implemented it. Then, keep track of the target behaviors again, for another week. At the end of the week, compare your “before” and “after” results. Sometimes it can be hard to notice changes subjectively, so an objective method like this can be helpful.
Now What? If you have been relatively consistent and there wasn’t any objective change, it’s probably OK to try something else. Which experienced friends and professionals can you collaborate with to come up with a new plan of action?
A Caveat No article can speak directly into your situation. Some changes need to happen urgently. If you suspect that the safety, health, or emotional health of a child or adult is in danger, seek professional help immediately.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What You Need To Know About The Universal Accreditation Act

What You Need to Know about the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

what you need to know about universal accreditation - UAAWhat is the purpose of the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012?
The main purpose of the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) is to apply the same safeguards that are in place for Convention adoptions to non-Convention adoptions. The way the UAA furthers this purpose is two-fold. First, the UAA requires all Hague accredited or approved Adoption Service Providers (ASPs) to provide services in the same manner for non-Convention countries as they would for Convention counties. Second, all US parents looking to adopt internationally must use a Hague accredited or approved ASP.
When is the UAA effective?
The UAA enters into force this summer on July 14, 2014. Following this date, all UAA rules must be followed. However, you are not able to start the process now and expect that UAA will not impact your adoption. If parents have not filed their I600A, I600 or submitted their dossier to the child’s country by July 13, 2013, the UAA will likely apply.
Will the UAA impact prospective adoptive parents?
If you want to adopt from a Convention country like Mexico, Haiti or Bulgaria, the UAA may not impact you at all. If you wish to adopt from a non-Convention country, the UAA may impact you. If you wish to complete an independent international adoption, the UAA is very likely to impact you.
How will the UAA impact prospective adoptive parents?
In every international adoption, parents are now required to designate a “primary provider” in order for USCIS to grant the child an orphan visa to travel to the US. A “primary provider” is a Hague accredited or approved ASP who is responsible for ensuring certain adoption services are provided in a Hague-compliant manner. For families adopting from a Convention country, this was already a requirement, so the UAA is unlikely to impact your adoption.
For families adopting from a non-Convention country like Congo, Nicaragua, Samoa and Ukraine, the UAA will impact the agency that you select. You will need to select a Hague accredited or approved ASP to act as the primary provider. In the past, parents did not need to use an accredited or approved ASP. It was only required that the adoption agency was licensed by their state and followed the states rules.
If you wish to adopt internationally without the use of a Hague accredited or approved ASP, you will not be able to do so under the UAA. Parents now must designate a primary provider; such provider for all intents and purposes is responsible for the adoption. In all cases parents must have a home study and must select a primary provider. Parents may think that if they can complete a home study only with a Hague ASP they should be able to complete the remainder of the adoption independently under the UAA. However, there are significant responsibilities associated with being a primary provider above and beyond just completing the home study.
Due to the increased responsibility, it is unlikely that a Hague ASP will agree to complete the home study for a family without a designated primary provider. A Hague ASP would not want to be named the primary provider by default because they merely completed the home study without actually overseeing the case to ensure Hague compliance. The primary provider is required to ensure that the adoption is Hague compliant and would likely be responsible for the actions of any attorney or facilitator working on behalf of the parents in country. Due to the potential for increased responsibility for ASPs completing home study only services, many are not going to be able to assist families with home study or other services for an adoption without a designated primary provider.
This change is going to make it difficult for parents seeking to adopt a child from another country through a contact they have in the country without a Hague ASP. Further, it will be increasingly difficult to adopt children from countries without established adoption programs. There are many times parents are looking to adopt a relative or known child from a country without a history of adoption that may now be inhibited from doing so.
Are there still unknowns related to the UAA?
Yes! There are still many unknown related to the UAA. The Department of State recently updated their FAQ page regarding the UAA, but there is so much more left to know. There are many concerns for ASPs in interpreting the Hague regulations that now apply to non-Convention countries because the regulations were not originally written for this purpose. The requirements may specifically mention “Convention country” or may reference the country’s “Central Authority,” which is the singular entity in charge of adoptions. Non-Convention countries may not have a designated central authority, rendering the requirements very difficult to apply.
Prospective adoptive parents have also expressed concerns and questions. If you have questions about how the UAA may impact your adoption that are not answered here, you may submit questions directly to the Department of State for them to address in an upcoming training in several weeks. An invitation for submitting questions can be found here. All inquiries are due April 30.
You can request more information about adopting internationally by clicking here.
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Six Precautions to Take When Traveling with Cash

carrying cash travel internationalWhile traveling internationally to complete your adoption, carrying cash is often a necessity. Credit cards, while an everyday convenience here in the United States, are not always practical when traveling to third-world countries. We recommend our families carry cash both in American dollars and local currency. Here are some tips for traveling internationally with cash.
  1. Invest in a money belt. Purses, wallets and fanny packs all attract the attention of potential thieves. While wallets may be most convenient, and can be used to carry some small amounts of money, carrying cash close to your person, under clothes where it is difficult to access is the safest option. Money belts can be a variety of materials, but if you’re planning on wearing it while flying, we suggest a cloth or plastic version to prevent you from having to take it off while going through airport security. Some companies make money carriers that can be worn around the neck, which may be more convenient.
  2. When traveling, do not put cash in a checked bag. Unfortunately, airlines can lose baggage or even worse, your baggage may be searched through for a variety of reasons, giving someone an opportunity to take advantage of you. Cash is safest on your body in the form of a money belt, but can also be put in your carry-on bag, just be sure to keep your carry-on bag at your side, and keep careful watch over it when going through security.
  3. If you are not traveling by yourself, divide cash between traveling companions. (This lessens the risk on just one person.)
  4. Be discreet. In addition to wearing a money belt, it makes sense to carry the cash you think you’re going to need for the day in a more easily accessible place so each time you need to use cash you don’t have to get into the money belt and expose how much cash you’re carrying.
  5. Request new, crisp bills. When you withdraw money from your local bank, make sure to request new bills. When paying with American dollars internationally, vendors can be picky about the condition of the money, and may even refuse to take bills that are not crisp enough. This is not usually a hardship for the bank as long as you ask in advance if necessary.
  6. Limit credit card usage. Not only is it dangerous to carry credit cards when traveling because of the risk of having your wallet stolen, but local vendors who accept credit cards may not use precautions in safeguarding against identity theft. If you do choose to travel with credit cards, give all the information to a trusted individual at home. In the case that your card gets stolen, you can contact them quickly and they can make the necessary phone calls to cancel the credit card(s).
Follow these six precautions when traveling with large amounts of cash to stay safe!
For more information about international adoption, click here.
Photo Credit:
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Perspective of an Older Child on Adoption

Adopting an Older Child Provides a Brighter Future

April 22, 2014 by  in MLJ Adoptions

Anastasia, who now goes by Annie, was adopted at age nine by her forever family. At age nine, there was very little hope that she would be adopted and she most likely would have faced a grim future. Now 16, she is a sophomore in high school, just passed her driver’s test,  and has grown up to be a beautiful young woman! Annie was gracious enough to answer some questions for us to share with you.
How did you feel being adopted by an American family? “I was kind of scared because I was told that the American’s would cut out my body parts and sell them… I didn’t know what to think. But I was mostly scared because I didn’t know the couple that were going to be my parents very well.”
What was the hardest adjustment for you after arriving home? “Besides reading and spelling, knowing I had to obey my parents and follow their rules instead of my own. Also, adjusting to the place where I was sleeping.”
What do you wish people knew about older children who are still waiting for their forever family? “That their future is most likely gone if they are never adopted. It is very hard to find a job after you get out of the orphanage, for there are few opportunities. Many girls who age out of the orphanage will turn to prostitution or other illegal activities. Many of the boys will turn to drugs and other crimes and find themselves in prison.”
What is your favorite holiday or family tradition? “My favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our Christmas traditions include putting up the Christmas decorations during Thanksgiving weekend, watching “Elf” and “Christmas Vacation” and singing holiday songs! Especially singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” over and over until I drive my parents insane!”
What do you want to be when you grow up?Ukraine Children Reunion “A child psychologist, because I think I can understand some of the pain and suffering many children experienced, and I believe that I can help them through their situations.”
Do you have any special memories with your family that you would like to share? “My special memories are spending New Year’s Eve with my family and friends, especially my friends that came over to the United States with me because they were adopted, too!”
*Annie often gets together to spend time with other children that were adopted from the same orphanage as her, including Katelyn and Payton who are pictured in the photo to the right.  Annie and many other once-orphans have remained friends with the children they grew up with and find comfort in the support of their friendships.  You can read more about Katelyn and Payton’s stories here.
It is often the older child who is left behind, as many adoptive families hope to adopt a young, healthy infant – but these older children want and need a family to love them, too. The love and care that a permanent home provides these children allows them to grow and thrive, giving them hope for a better future rather than a life a violence and crime. Learn more about adopting an older child here.
Photos used with permission.
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Adopting a Child is a Lifelong Commitment

Adopting a Child is a Lifelong Commitment

Family - Court
I have assisted in processing hundreds of international adoptions.  Since I am a practicing attorney, I have also assisted in situations in which adoptive parents decide they can no longer parent the child they adopted. These are often called adoption dissolutions or disruptions. While some of these situations arise because adoptive parents aren’t adequately prepared or equipped to parent a child from a hard place, it is important for adoptive parents to realize that an adopted child is not a purchase or acquisition that can be “returned”.  Adopting a child is a lifelong commitment to raising a child no matter the child’s needs.
In rare instances, parents may find that they are not prepared or they are not the best option for the child. In this case, the parents must provide support to the child until the child is in a better placement.  In no way do I promote adoption dissolution or disruption, but I have found that a second adoptive family can be the better placement for the child. Not necessarily because they know more about the child’s behavior or needs, but because they are committed to working through the child’s additional needs. It is most common to see adoption disruptions/dissolutions with children that were adopted through the foster care system and then children that were adopted internationally. It is important for parents to be prepared through adoption education to understand what factors may have and likely will impact their child. It is also important for parents to understand the unknowns and risks of adoption.
According to the law, adoption is the complete termination of the biological parents’ rights which are then transferred to the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents receive all rights and obligations between a parent and a child just as if the child was biologically born to the parents. However, there may be a disconnect with some parents as they see international adoption as a way to the child of their dreams. I have seen requests for a child that is perfect in health, has a specific appearance, behavior, or personality. When what the parents wanted does not seem to match “what they got”, they decide they cannot parent the child and choose to disrupt. While it would seem cruel, neglectful or abusive for someone to “give back” their biological child when that child failed to meet the parents’ expectations, whether due to health issues, cognitive concerns, or behavior resulting from trauma; in some ways our society has accepted the right to “give back” an adopted child. I often think of my own family and the struggles that we face with biological children and the unknowns associated with biological children. In particular, my brother is raising two autistic sons and lost another son to Lymphoma. I doubt he ever considered it appropriate to find another placement for his children when these challenges arose.  While these challenges were not what he expected, and they certainly affected the lives of his other children, he is fully committed to meeting the needs of each child.
Facing these types of challenges, it is critical to a child’s well-being that they be supported by a parent that is committed no matter what the future brings.  While this could include many doctor visits, counseling sessions or even residential care, parental commitment is not negotiable. Children need a parent that loves unconditionally and parents for the child not for themselves.   Parents at the beginning of their adoption journey should consider whether they are willing to parent the child no matter the child’s health, gender, age, appearance or behavior.  Are they willing to adopt a child with ADHD, Autism or Lymphoma?   They should ask themselves whether they would treat an adopted child differently than a biological child.  If the answer is yes, then possibly adoption is not the right choice for them.
Adoption can be an amazing journey for adoptive parents and children alike.  But it requires full commitment.
For more information about international adoptions, click here.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So proud of my Ukrainian daughters, as well as the biological one who wrote the story!

Adoptive Siblings Discuss Older Child Adoption

With three siblings that were adopted as older children, I witness every day the many blessings that come from having these children in my family. To me, adding a new brother or sister to the family was always exciting regardless of their age – it was one more person to create memories and share traditions with. I spoke to two of my adopted sisters to get their perspective as an older child adoptee. I’m excited to be able to share their feelings with others, and perhaps remold the prospective adoptive parent perception on older children.


Katelyn was adopted as an older child sibling group from Ukraine. She was 7 at the time she arrived home, and is now 14.
How did you feel being adopted by an American family? “I felt like I would no longer have to worry about not being loved. I knew my new family already loved me before I came home.”
What was the hardest adjustment for you in your new home? “Learning the new language, and also getting used to following different rules than I was used to.”
What do you wish people knew about older children who are still waiting for their forever families? “They don’t have much time left. They want to be adopted just as much, actually MORE, than the younger children who aren’t aware of their current situation. I wish more people would be open to adopting older children like me.”
What is your favorite holiday or tradition? “Christmas! We have a tradition where we paint ornaments every year. I also love when the whole family comes together and sets up the tree.”
Do you have any special memories you would like to share? “All of the times that we go somewhere and the whole family comes along – those are most special to me.”


Payton was adopted from Ukraine along with her biological sister Katelyn. She was 6 years old at the time she came home and is now 13.
How did you feel being adopted by an American family? “I felt happy! I was excited and I knew I belonged there.”
What was the hardest adjustment for you in your new home? “Getting used to a new place to live is hard. But I loved getting to know my new family.”
What do you wish people knew about older children who are still waiting for their forever families?
“What people should know is that older kids are just as fun, and exciting as babies can be. They have already developed their personalities so it is fun to get to know them and their quirks. Also, I believe everyone deserves a loving home.”
Do you have any special memories you would like to share? “The whole family has all been to Florida a couple times on vacation and it was really fun. Now that a new little nephew has been added to the family, I’m excited he can be a part of the memories too!”
Learn more about MLJ Adoptions Special Needs Program here. You may also request more information on international adoption here. Photos used with permission.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Could Bulgaria be an option for families wanting older children?

Bulgaria Referrals: Above and Beyond Expectations

April 14, 2014
Bulgarian Boys OrphanageThere are many great benefits for families who choose to adopt from Bulgaria.  One of the benefits we have found that is most appealing to prospective adoptive families is the detailed child referral.  Many sending countries, especially those overwhelmed by poverty, do not have the ability to provide parents with detailed information on a referred child.  A lack of resources can mean that children do not receive birth certificates at the time of their birth, and when children are abandoned it can make learning of the child’s past extremely difficult.  The entities involved with adoption in Bulgaria, however, are able to provide prospective adoptive parents with detailed referrals.  The information given in these referrals bring benefits for both the children and parents.
What is generally expected from a referral in Bulgaria?
The bare minimum we expect to receive for a referral consists of a picture of the child/children, a medical history and a social history.  Everything is documented on the medical history from the time custody of the child is given to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).  This may or may not include any tests, hospitalizations, illnesses, known allergies, etc.  If any medical information is known about the biological parents, it is documented in the child’s referral as well.  A social history outlines why the child is in the custody of MOJ and describes the child’s eligibility for adoption.  It also includes how well the child is doing in school, their emotional and behavioral development, and some personality traits or characteristics.
What has been happening above and beyond a typical referral?
We have been getting additional pictures and even some adorable videos from our in-country staff of the referred children.  The photos and videos are taken from many angles to show the children walking, talking, playing, and interacting with others.  Our partnering agency in Bulgaria has also been taking time to answer any additional questions parents may have and address any concerns about the child.  We are fortunate to work with such a great organization that cares as deeply about these children as we do and appreciate their willingness to assist our clients!
What benefits do these things provide for both the family and children?
The video and additional photos have given families more confidence in their decision to move forward and encourage them to finish strong with the rest of the adoption process.  After the families see the child’s personality come alive on camera, it is hard for them not to fall in love with their referred child!  Seeing their potential child interact on camera gives them hope and makes the adoption feel more tangible, allowing them to connect more with the child before actually meeting them.
There are many great benefits for adopting from Bulgaria, and the detailed referral is just one of them!  Here are 10 more reasons to adopt from Bulgaria!
You can request more information about adopting from Bulgaria by clicking here.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Summer Hosting Opportunities in North Carolina, California and Indiana!

Summer Hosting Program Offers Benefits to Children and Families

The mission of MLJ Adoptions is to serve children in need. We are committed to working collaboratively with organizations that share this purpose. Below, Laurel Boylan, a founder of God’s Waiting Children, highlights an opportunity for families to host children from Ukraine this summer.
boylan-mainIs hosting an orphan in your home this summer right for you? Why would you want to sponsor a child to come to the United States for a month, only to put him or her back on a plane to the orphanage? How could you say “good-bye”? Can the child be adopted? All good questions!
God’s Waiting Children, Inc. is a charity organization that specializes in orphan ministries. Twice a year, we bring children from Ukraine orphanages to the United States to stay with host families, similar to a foreign exchange student program. This summer we plan to bring groups of children, between the ages of six and sixteen, to California, Indiana, and North Carolina.
The children enjoy visiting America, practicing English, riding a bike or scooter and have fun going places they’d only dreamed about! But, host families are rewarded by watching the child’s personality blossom as they experience the love and security of a family and home for the first time. The child will feel special. She will experience family dinners around the table or a picnic in the park. He will learn what life is like in a private home where each family member has responsibilities and privileges. He or she will go home knowing a family in the United States cares about them.
Orphanage directors routinely tell us that a hosting trip changes the kids’ personalities for the better. Shy children return home with more confidence. Behavior-challenged children return home more obedient and respectful. Children who were previously afraid to show emotion come home more empathetic to others, caring and hopeful. Why is this so? Children living in institutions have been raised to feel like “one of the pack” or “non-existent”. Once these same kids are shown individual love and attention, they are changed forever.
But, what about the poor host family who falls in love with a child and then has to say “good-bye”? I like to equate this situation to summer camp when I was a child. I LOVED going to summer camp but I always cried when we had to leave. I hated saying good-bye to the new friends I had met. But when the next year rolled around again I would beg to go back again. The skills I learned and memories I made outweighed the sadness of leaving. I was a better person for having gone to camp. The exact same thing is true for host families and kids. When the children return to Ukraine, host families are encouraged to stay in touch via phone calls or Skype, and to send occasional cards, photos and gifts.
Host families do not have to have intentions of adopting a child. In fact, if a family knows for certain they want to adopt from Ukraine, we often recommend they save the money to host and go straight to adoption. Hosting is more for families who want to help an orphan and to make a difference in a child’s life. Hosting is also good for families who are contemplating adoption but not sure how their family will react to having another child around. If the host family decides to pursue an adoption in Ukraine, the family may request to adopt the child they hosted. God’s Waiting Children has a trusting partnership with MLJ Adoptions, who will handle any adoptions that come from hosting a child.
The children speak primarily Russian and Ukrainian languages, but will likely know some English. Surprisingly, communication during a hosting experience is usually not a problem. The children are very intelligent and learn quickly. There will also be translators available by phone 24 hours per day.
Host families pay the all expenses and travel costs for the child or children they host. The actual cost varies from trip to trip but is always a tax deductible expense through God’s Waiting Children. Each family will be asked to complete a state level background check, federal sex offender check, and child abuse clearance. For more information on specific costs, dates, and other details please contact us.
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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Advocating for orphans around the world...because every child deserves a family!

CHIFF Brings Conservatives and Liberals Together: Children Belong in Families

This past Wednesday afternoon, the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) hosted a webinar to discuss the reforms proposed by the Children in Families First (CHIFF) Act. Present on the call were Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Congressman Trent Franks (R- AZ), leaders within a bipartisan coalition that is unified by the belief that children need families.
CHIFF is a holistic and preventative approach to international child welfare that ensures systems are in place to help children remain in their family of birth, be reunited with family, or be adopted locally or internationally. CHIFF, supported by a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress and child welfare organizations, redirects current U.S. government resources that are not being utilized to their full potential towards strengthening, uniting, and creating families, realigns foreign aid with American familial values, and supports intercountry adoption as a protection for children.
CHIFF would establish a bureau in the U.S. Department of State, the Bureau of Vulnerable Children & Family Security, to become the foreign policy and diplomatic hub on international CHIFF (1)child welfare. This Bureau would be tasked with building international capacity to implement effective child welfare systems, with particular focus on family preservation and reunification, and kinship, domestic, and intercountry adoption. CHIFF would also streamline, simplify and consolidate responsibility for the processing of all intercountry adoption cases and the accreditation of adoption service providers by placing these functions under the direction of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Senator Landrieu introduced CHIFF into the Senate on September 19, 2013, and Congressman Franks is a cosponsor of CHIFF. Both Senator Landrieu and Congressman Franks emphasized that the guiding tenant of CHIFF is that American law ought to be reflective of the simple human truth that children need families. Currently, across the globe, millions of children are growing up in institutions, outside of the support and security of families. Recent scientific research has indicated that the conditions of growing up in an institution can lead to developmental damage in children. On the call, Senator Landrieu passionately spoke to the plight of the orphan, stating orphans are powerless, voiceless, and lost:

 “If somebody in this world doesn’t stand up in an effective way and advocate for [the orphan], there’s no hope.” 

Senator Landrieu has stated she is brokenhearted that seemingly, at every level, local, state, federal, the basic fact that children need families is pushed aside. She described CHIFF as identifying the “North Star” for children without families; it promotes the ideal that children belong in families, whether that is through relatives, neighbors, domestic adoption or international adoption. CHIFF would make this “North Star” the foreign policy and law of the U.S.
She noted that both liberals and conservatives have come to the conclusion, at least as it relates to the U.S. Department of State, that the U.S. is not organized or resourced correctly to help the children in the world in need of families. Senator Landrieu believes the U.S. must “lead the view when it comes to advocating on behalf of children.” Senator Landrieu stated that though the U.S. is doing a decent job of making sure that children outside of families can survive, the U.S. is not doing a good job getting children in need into families where they can thrive, commenting that while the government may do some things well, it does not raise children well.
Congressman Franks laughingly responded to Senator Landrieu that it was the first time he had ever listened to a Democratic Senator speak and was in agreement with everything said. Congressman Franks stated that CHIFF is an international child welfare bill focused on getting a growing number of children growing up outside of families into a family and that it is not an international adoption bill; though he commented that, in some cases, international adoption may the only option for children. Senator Landrieu added to the point, explaining that some children have no hope in their own countries of domestic adoption, particularly children with special needs.
Congressman Franks explained the U.S. government is spending hundreds of millions on government programs to help vulnerable children. However, he feels that by failing to put family first we fall short of the goal.

According to Congressman Franks, the best way to keep children safe from child trafficking, healthy, and in school, is through families “who will love them more than any government program.” 

Congressman Franks stated that CHIFF uses our resources wisely by making family-based care for orphans a priority for funding that is already being spent on vulnerable children. Said Congressman Franks, if CHIFF is signed into law, it will catalyze a realignment of the world where family will be “sewn into human DNA.”
Senator Mary Landrieu expressed disappointment that CHIFF, a bipartisan bill that reflects the American societal belief that children belong in families, does not have 400 cosponsors. We at MLJ Adoptions have been reaching out to our Senators and U.S. Representatives asking them to cosponsor CHIFF. We encourage you to also reach out to your Members of Congress and ask that they do the same. Please visit our Advocacy Page to find out how you can make a difference for children in need.
To learn more about how you can advocate on behalf of CHIFF, please visit our Advocacy page here.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Children Pay the Price When Adoption Declines

Sharp Decline Continues in International Adoptions

  March 25, 2014
international adoption decline sad orphanThe Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption was released by the US State Department on Friday. The State Department is mandated by law to track international adoption statistics and it is highly anticipated by international adoption advocates. . For the NINTH year in a row, the report revealed a sharp decrease in the number of children being placed in permanent, loving families through international adoption. It is a sad reality that while the number of adoptions decreases, the numbers of children in need does not follow suit. International adoption is not the answer for all children in need, but for those parentless children who are unable to have a permanent family in their country of origin, international adoption is not only a viable option, but a necessary one.
As we reviewed the report at our weekly staff meeting yesterday, MLJ Adoptions team members experienced sadness and dismay. In 2013, intercountry adoption by US citizens decreased by 18% to 7,094 children over 2012. This decrease is the largest we have seen since the 27% drop in 2009 (following the implementation of the Hague Convention), and the second largest in the past 10 years. This was down from the high in 2004 of 22,884 placements. We are all keenly aware that each of those points of decline could represent a child languishing in an institution without the benefits of a permanent, loving family.
There are a multitude of causes for the decline and no stakeholder in international adoption is immune to blame. Sending countries have thrown up obstacles to the completion of adoptions within their borders. Russia, which had been third on the list in 2012, contributed to the decline by implementing its full ban on international adoptions. Additionally, distrust between sending and receiving countries and skepticism drastically reduced the number of adoptions finalized in countries such as Ethiopia.
Adoptive parents contribute to the sending countries unease and lack of support for international adoption by not fulfilling post adoption report requirements. Without assurances that their children are being well-taken care of, sending countries are reluctant to implement procedures facilitating international adoption. Adoption service providers may also work against each other in efforts to advocate for their client families. Well-intentioned or not, these actions can bring undesirable attention to the international adoption process and add to the mistrust that exists in the sending countries’ decision-making bodies.
Our own State Department has also played a part in the decline. In this AP article, Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council of Adoption, contended that some of the decline stems from the way in which the State Department implemented the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption. Although, the agreement was intended to prevent fraud and corruption and allow for an increase in adoptions, they actually continued to decrease after its implementation. “The U.S. has encouraged and in some cases strong-armed impoverished countries to sign the Hague Convention and then cites their inability to comply with strict Hague standards as a reason for not doing intercountry adoption with them,” Johnson said.
Despite these roadblocks, our sadness and discouragement turned to resolve, determination and hope. We passionately believe that every child is born with the human right to a family and we are firmly committed to improving the climate for international adoption through advocacy and collaboration so that all the world’s children can achieve this right.
CHIFF (1)We fervently support Children in Families First (CHIFF), a bill introduced in Congress last year that requires a priority be placed upon getting children into loving, permanent homes through family preservation and reunification, kinship care, and domestic and international adoption. If passed, we believe this bill will be instrumental in improving the climate for international adoption and streamlining the process.
IF CHIFF is passed by the US Congress, we believe that the tide will change for international adoption. The Annual Reports on Intercountry Adoption released in the coming years by the US State Department will tell a much different story. MLJ Adoptions team members will continue to strive to reach the day when we can cheer the release of this report for the children in need. Most importantly of all, though, we will continue to serve the children that are represented by these numbers.
MLJ Adoptions has international programs in Bulgaria, Congo, Haiti, Honduras,  Mexico, Nicaragua, Samoa and Ukraine. For more information about these programs click here.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Are finances standing in your way of Adoption???

Affording Adoption is Possible

affording adoption is possibleWhat is holding you back from your adoption dreams? Recently my colleague Lydia Tarr brought some research to my attention. A survey had found that 26% of adults (and 38% of church going adults) had considered adopting a child, but only 2% have ever followed through. Knowing the enormous need and the deep hurt of children living without families around the world, I am inspired to speak out more about adoption to help people realize that they can do it. The things holding you back probably are not nearly as big as you think they are.
Finances always seems to be the biggest concern. The many professionals and government processes and entities necessary to complete adoption do bring a significant cost. The large number can be intimidating, but you don’t need $30,000 to start an adoption. Once the home study step is complete, there are a number of grants for which you can apply. More information about different grants and creative fundraising can be found in our Affording Adoption guide available once your application is on file. You can get a good start with the Affording Adoption seminar offered live on a regular basis or through this YouTube video.

I recently got to share a little bit about how I afforded an international adoption as a single woman (who works in social services) on the Pete the Planner radio show. While fundraising and gifts from my parents (eager to meet their newest grandson) were a part of that, I also took out an adoption loan. When I bought a car, I need a loan. While I bought a used car, it was constantly depreciating in value. My child, on the other hand, is priceless and worth every penny spent and all stress endured to bring him into my family. Beyond that, there are options for adoption-specific loans that have little to no interest. With the federal adoption tax credit, that can easily be paid back.
What is holding you back from starting the process to add to your family through adoption? There is a child that needs you. There are millions of children that desperately need families to love and protect them. You could be that family for one child? In comparison to the loneliness, vulnerability, and poverty they face, the hurdles that hold us back from adopting seem little more than stumbling blocks. I know how overwhelming it can be, but please let us – let me -  show you the resources available to make it doable both in getting through the process and parenting after adoption. It is my personal priority to encourage, equip, and empower you to achieve the goals most meaningful to you and I am always extra motivated when a vulnerable child is involved.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Waiting is the Hardest Part of Most Adoptions!

Waiting Well During The International Adoption Process

I was inspired to write this blog when in Haiti I heard the term “Waiting Well” in reference to the international adoption process. While the wait during an adoption process may seem insignificant and a small part of the process, it is not.

During your adoption process you may receive a referral (picture and medicals on a child that will potentially be your legally adopted child) and then have to wait months (6-24 months average international process) until the child is actually placed in your home. The wait is extremely difficult and you are bonding every day with the referral information and your “dreams” of your adoptive child. In some adoption programs, like adopting from Nicaragua or adopting from Bulgaria, your wait for a referral is 6-16 months and the wait happens without a referral and then you quickly travel to meet that child. Often during your wait, most of your paperwork has been completed and you are just waiting. However, the “just” is significant because you should not be “just” waiting. You should be WAITING WELL.

As an adoptive mother and adoption professional, I know that adoptive parents often are tired and sometimes zone out during the waiting period. But you are wasting precious time! This is the time you can prepare yourself even more for your process and prepare your home for your adoptive child.

The following are some ideas of how to Wait Well:

  1. Read all the materials from your adoption agency (newsletters & emails), even if you think they are general information and not about your specific adoption. Often these materials provide up-dated information about international adoption, immigration processes and great resources and education for the adoptive parents. MLJ Adoptions provides a monthly newsletter for all of our families in the process, a monthly newsletter to each individual program group, a client care data base with information, a forum for questions and answers, education, events and of course personal communications. These are all important in the process and parents should take advantage of these communications at all times, even during their long wait.

  2. Learn the unknowns – You may not know a lot about your future child. If you are adopting in Africa you may have very little social history on your child. However, you can still prepare for your child and know information about the potential history of your child. You can research tribes, cultural norms, languages, holidays, foods, family dynamics/hierarchy, health concerns, abuse concerns, etc. Later in life when you show your child you know about their culture and their country of birth, it will show them you value them.

  3. Education – participate in your agency’s education opportunities. Know that they are the experts in the education process for you but also read books on adoption and how to integrate your child in a health and stable way into your family. You can learn a lot about bonding and attachment and how to make your child feel secure.

  4. Be Ready – Be ready for delays or unknowns. No matter how many times this is said in the process, it is still hard for adoptive parents to be prepared for delays or unknowns. Could your child be older or younger than you anticipated? Could your child have some type of medical issue? Does your child have sensory issues? How do you prepare for something you don’t know? Continually tell yourself that you do not control the process. Also, remind yourself that approximate timelines are just that approximate. If you are told a portion of the process may take 2-4 months, do not focus on the 2 months. Also, know that after 4 months that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your process. The hardest issue to be ready for in an adoption is the loss of a referral. This does happen in a process most often due to changes in laws, biological parents returning or governmental interventions (also death of a child can be the most extreme). This is such a difficult loss and no one can truly prepare you for this loss. We find that if you feel that you want to mitigate your chances of a lost referral you should consider adopting from Bulgaria or another Hague adoption program.

  5. Be Patient – This can be difficult as you are waiting on your child. This is one of the most exciting events of your life and being patient is not easy. It will be easier for you to be patient if you do not focus on exact timelines or dates. It is easier to be patient when you feel that your waiting time is being well used to educate and prepare yourself and your home for your adopted child.

  6. Save money and Fundraise – one of the most common hurdles to pursuing an international adoption is money. During your wait you can apply for grants, hold fundraisers and personally find ways to sacrificially save (don’t go movies, buy new clothes, etc.)

Best of luck to you! Whether you are adopting from Africa or adopting from Asia, you will want to “Wait Well”!

Photo Credit: Casey Mullins – used with permission.
For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Answers concerning Universal Accreditation Act and Independent Adoptions

FAQ: The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012
January 16, 2013
This set of FAQs addresses changes to intercountry adoption law and practice brought about by the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). The President signed the UAA into law on January 14, 2013. The new law takes effect 18 months thereafter on July 14, 2014.
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Q: What does the UAA achieve?
  • The UAA extends the safeguards provided by accreditation to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 101(b)(1)(F), their adoptive parent, and birth parents.  This is accomplished by ensuring that adoption service providers are all held to the same federal standards.
  • Such accreditation ensures ongoing monitoring and oversight of adoption service providers to verify their compliance with federal accreditation standards.  This holds accredited providers accountable for failure to be in substantial compliance with the standards.
  • Safeguards under the UAA are universal because the UAA applies Hague Adoption Convention-compatible standards to both Convention and orphan cases.
Q: Why have federal standards in intercountry adoption?
  • Before the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA), adoption service providers in intercountry adoption were exclusively regulated by state law.
  • State licensing authorities in the 50 states have different standards; some have few specific standards governing intercountry adoptions, especially relating to agencies’ conduct abroad.
  • Many state licensing authorities have been unable to hold service providers accountable for illicit practices in intercountry adoption cases.  State laws may not apply to the activities of licensed agencies outside the United States, and states often lack the resources to investigate and take action against agencies involved in such cases.
  • The UAA provides for uniform standards and accountability for service provider conduct regardless of whether the case falls under the Hague Adoption Convention or under the orphan process.
Q: What is accreditation?
  • In this context, accreditation is the evaluation and certification process of recognizing that an adoption service provider’s practice substantially complies with federal standards of practice.  It is a transparent process involving assessment of the agency’s or person’s compliance with the accreditation standards, a site visit by the accrediting entity, and other inputs.  More information on the accreditation process is available on the COA website
  • The system used to make accreditation decisions is described in the Substantial Compliance System document available at the following link:  Substantial Compliance System.
Q: Who needs to be accredited or approved?
  • Starting July 14, 2014, any agency or person providing adoption services in intercountry adoption cases involving orphan children (as defined under INA 101(b)(1)(F) - scroll down to letter (F) in this link), and Convention adoptees (as defined under INA 101(b)(1)(G) - scroll down to letter (G) in this link) must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider.  The only exception concerns cases covered by the transition rule.  See the question on grandfathering, below. 
  • The definition of adoption services includes:
    • Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
    • Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
    • Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
    • Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
    • Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
    • When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.  22 CFR 96.2 Definitions.

Q: What happens on the effective date if the adoption service provider is not accredited or approved?
  • Agencies and persons not credited or approved, supervised, or exempted by the regulations, may not provide any of the named adoption services after the UAA effective date.  The six adoption services are:
    1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
    2. Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
    3. Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
    4. Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
    5. Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
    6. When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.  22 CFR 96.2 Definitions.
  • The regulations make clear that “an agency or person may not offer, provide, or facilitate the provision of any adoption service in the United States…unless it is
    1. An accredited agency or an approved person;
    2. A supervised provider; or
    3. An exempted provider, if the exempted provider’s home study or child background study will be review2ed and approved by an accredited agency pursuant to 22 CFR 96.47(c).”  22 CFR 96.12(a). 
  • Agencies or persons that continue to provide adoption services without accreditation, supervision, or exemption, are subject to the civil and criminal penalties in the IAA.  Civil penalties include fines up to $100,000 and criminal penalties include fines up to $250,000 or imprisonment up to 5 years or both.  IAA Section 404. 
Q: What does it mean to accredit agencies and to approve persons?
  • The IAA distinguishes between agencies and persons.
  • The U.S. accreditation regulations define an agency to mean: 
    • Agency means a private, nonprofit organization licensed to provide adoption services in at least one State.  22 CFR 96.2
  • The U.S. accreditation regulations define a person to mean:
    • Person means an individual or a private, for-profit entity (including a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company) providing adoption services.  It does not include public domestic authorities or public foreign authorities.  22 CFR 96.2
Q: Does every agency/person need to be accredited/approved? What if an agency only provides a small part of the adoption? Does it still need to be accredited?
  • The US accreditation regulations (22 CFR 96.12(a)), the IAA, and the UAA clarify that in Convention adoption cases and in orphan process cases “an agency or person may not offer, provide, or facilitate the provision of any adoption service in the United States…unless it is<
    1. An accredited agency or an approved person;
    2. A supervised provider; or
    3. An exempted provider, if the exempted provider’s home study or child background study will be review2ed and approved by an accredited agency pursuant to 22 CFR 96.47(c). 
  • Only six specific adoption services require accreditation or approval.  The six adoption services are:
    1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
    2. Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
    3. Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
    4. Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
    5. Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
    6. When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.  22 CFR 96.2
  • 22 CFR 96.13 lists circumstances in which accreditation or supervision is not required.  Additionally, cases covered by the UAA transition rule are exempted. 
Q: What if an agency or person just doesn't want to be accredited/approved but wants to keep helping families adopt abroad?
  • The IAA permits non-accredited adoption service providers to provide Convention adoption services if supervised by an accredited agency. The UAA permits this practice in orphan cases.
  • Each supervised provider operates under a written agreement between the accredited provider and the supervised provider complying with 22 CFR 96.45. 
  • The accredited agency supervising the non-accredited agency subjects itself to adverse action, which may include suspension or cancellation of its own accreditation, if it doesn’t appropriately supervise.
Q: What about cases already in process? Are there "grandfathering" provisions in the UAA?
  • The UAA’s accreditation requirement does not apply if either of the following occurred before July 13, 2013: 
    • Prospective adoptive parents filed the I-600 or the I-600A (See UAA Section 2(c)(1)); or
    • Prospective adoptive parents “initiated  the adoption process with the filing of an appropriate application in a foreign country sufficient such that the Secretary of State is satisfied.” (See UAA Section 2(c)(2).
In practical terms, this means that a consular officer or a Department of State CA/OCS Adoption Division officer finds that the prospective adoptive parents submitted an application to the relevant competent authority or that the prospective adoptive parents accepted a match proposed by a competent authority or appropriate entity.
Interpretive Guidance for the transition provisions in UAA Section 2(c)(2):
The following guidance informs the analysis of Consular officers abroad and Department CA/OCS Adoption Division officers in determining whether the transition provisions in UAA Section 2(c)(2) apply in specific cases.  When the transition provisions apply, the case is grandfathered and the accreditation requirement of the UAA does not apply.
  • In cases covered by the transition provisions in UAA Section 2(c)(1), you need not consider whether the case is also covered by Section 2(c)(2).  If you engage in the analysis under Section 2(c)(2), you should find a case grandfathered if one of the following occurred before July 13, 2013:
    1. Prospective adoptive parents submitted an application to the relevant competent authority; or
    2. Prospective adoptive parents accepted a match proposed by a competent authority or appropriate entity.
An application filed with a competent authority need not designate a specific child.  What constitutes an application will vary from country to country.  You should consider the country-specific adoption process. 
Competent authority is defined in 22 CFR 96.2 and means “a court or governmental authority of a foreign-sending country that has jurisdiction and authority to make decisions in matters of child welfare, including adoption.”
  • This must be a court or governmental authority.
  • Focus is on a competent authority with jurisdiction and authority at the time the application was filed.  Whether the authority is still in operation or still has jurisdiction later in the process is irrelevant.
Appropriate entity, on the other hand, includes a licensed orphanage or adoption service provider (ASP) authorized by the country to make the placement decision and to care for the child.
  • Contracting with or submitting documents to an adoption service provider is not sufficientPAPs contracting with an ASP or submitting documents to the ASP shall not be construed as meeting Section 2(c)(2).
  • The date of the match can generally be inferred from any official records of the placing agency concerning the match or from contemporaneous records of the adoption service provider.  If that is not available, you may consider other credible evidence.  If you cannot determine the date of match, the match cannot be the basis for grandfathering the case.
Q: What are the safeguards resulting from Hague accreditation?
  • The IAA and the regulations implementing the Hague Adoption Convention protect against illicit activities and practices of the past that threatened the best interests of children.  Key protections include:
    • Children may not be obtained for adoption through sale, exploitation, abduction, and trafficking;
    • Parents receive training in advance of the adoption to understand what to expect when raising an adopted child and prepare them for some of the challenges;
    • The agency or person must ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in best interests of children;
    • Fees must be transparent for services performed both in the United States and abroad and may not result in improper gain for the service provider;
    • U.S. Department of State-appointed accrediting entities monitor and assess accredited agency compliance with federal standards;
    • Accrediting entities ensure accountability when accredited agencies do not comply with the standards by taking appropriate adverse actions against them and may suspend or cancel their accreditation;
    • Accrediting entities ensure that accredited agency personnel are qualified and appropriately trained and provide adoption services in an ethical manner;
    • Accredited agencies must respond to complaints about their services and activities and may not retaliate against clients who complain.
Q: Where can I find additional information about accreditation and approval?
Q: Can I complete the intercountry adoption process doing an independent adoption* in which I do the adoption work myself without the help of an accredited or approved provider?
  • No.  An accredited or approved primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case, unless a public domestic authority is providing all of the adoption services.  The primary provider is responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided in accordance with the Convention and applicable laws and regulations.  The six adoption services can be provided by the primary provider itself or by an agency or person supervised by the primary provider, or by an exempted provider.  Prospective adoptive parents acting on their own behalf do not require accreditation, approval, or supervision unless such conduct is prohibited by State law or the law of the country of origin of the child being adopted.  Under the (UAA), the requirement for a primary provider applies whether you are adopting from a Convention or a non-Convention country. 
    For more information on the Six Adoption Services, see the FAQ on What happens on the effective date if the adoption service provider is not accredited or approved?
    See the FAQ on Using Facilitators.
    * The term independent adoption is used in different ways depending on the context.  In this example, the question refers to cases in which the prospective adoptive parent engages personally to complete an adoption abroad with or without the assistance of unaccredited or unapproved facilitators in the United States or abroad.
Q: I plan to adopt from a non- Convention country with the help of a U.S. facilitator with connections and partners in the country of origin. This facilitator is not accredited or approved and insists he does not need to be accredited. Will I be able to complete the intercountry adoption process with just the facilitator's help?
  • No.  An accredited or approved primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case, unless a public domestic authority is providing all the servicesA facilitator who is not accredited or approved cannot be a primary provider or provide any of the six adoption services without supervision by an accredited agency or approved person or without being an exempted provider.  The facilitator’s assertions alone that he/she does not need accreditation or approval are not sufficient to exempt him/her from the requirement.  The key is whether his/her activities fall under the definition of adoption service in the law.  For more information on what an adoption service is, see the FAQ on Who Needs to be Accredited or Approved, or 22 CFR 96.2, Definitions.  The requirement for a primary provider in non-Convention orphan cases under INA section 101(b)(1)(F) takes effect on July 14, 2014.  
    The reason for requiring accreditation, approval, or supervision of adoption service providers, often including facilitators, is to ensure accountability and uniformly high standards of conduct.  In the past, some facilitators have engaged in illegal or unethical practices, obtaining children for adoption illicitly through child buying, child abduction, deception, or other means that exploited the poverty and lack of sophistication of birth mothers and orphanages.  U.S. accreditation standards combat those illicit practices by requiring accountability both to State licensing authorities applying State standards and to accrediting entities applying Federal standards.  Having a primary provider in every adoption case ensures that one agency or person has ultimate responsibility for the proper and effective provision of adoption services.  
    See the FAQ on Independent Adoptions.
Q: Some organizations provide case management services for intercountry adoption cases. These organizations identify agencies or persons to provide adoption services but don't provide any adoption services themselves. Do these case management service organizations (CMSOs) require accreditation, approval, supervision, or exemption to provided coordination services?
  • If the CMSO provides none of the six adoption services in the case, it does not need to be accredited, approved, supervised, or exempted.  For example, if the CMSO locates a child placement agency to work with prospective adoptive families, but does not itself perform any of those child placement services that make up parts of the six adoption services it would not be required to be accredited, approved, or supervised.  Likewise, if the CMSO locates an agency or person to provide post placement monitoring of the case before the adoption is final, but doesn’t itself provide any monitoring or other adoption services in the case, it does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised. 
    CaveatCMSOs are Not Primary Providers.  A CMSO may not be the primary provider in an adoption case unless it is accredited or approved.  Its coordination role must not be confused with the responsibility of the primary provider to ensure that all of the six adoption services are provided in accordance with applicable law and regulations. 
    See the FAQ on Independent Adoptions and Using Facilitators.
Q: Do prospective adoptive parents need to work with an accredited or approved adoption service provider in cases begun on or after July 13, 2013 and before July 14, 2014?
  • A:  No.  Up until July 14, 2014, when the Universal Accreditation Act enters into effect, unaccredited adoption service providers (ASPs) may provide adoption services in orphan cases.  The UAA created a transition period ending on July 13, 2013.  Orphan adoption cases begun before July 13, 2013, fall under the transition provisions of the UAA and are grandfathered, that is, subject to the rules in force before the UAA.  (See the FAQ on grandfathering for details.)  Cases begun after the transition period ends but before the effective date of the UAA, are not grandfathered, but do not require accreditation either.  See the USCIS web notice on this topic. 
    Nonetheless, the Department encourages prospective adoptive families to consider accreditation planning by their ASP if they begin adoption cases following the transition period.  The Department recommends that families discuss early on with their ASP whether it intends to obtain accreditation or approval, and how it plans to ensure continuity in their case after the UAA enters into effect on July 14, 2014. 
    There are risks associated with beginning an adoption case on or after July 13, 2013, with an unaccredited or unapproved ASP.  If the provider does not obtain accreditation/approval and the case is not completed before July 14, 2014, the ASP will be required to stop providing adoption services until it can obtain accreditation or approval or otherwise meet the requirements of the UAA.  Noncompliance with the accreditation law subjects the ASP to the civil and criminal penalty provisions of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.
If you have further answers you can contact Lydia Tarr at concerning your Ukrainian adoption.