Sara is a Christian writer, mom and adoption advocate. Sara and her family adopted a little girl from Uganda three years ago. Sara is writing a book about reforming adoption and orphan care from a Christian perspective. The book will be published in the United States and United Kingdom in October 2014. I'm very excited and honored to have her writing this series of posts on a very important subject, Hague accreditation. When Sara is not busy writing her book, she blogs at Family, Hope, Love.
Part one is found here and the post below continues where it left off.
This all sounds good…what is the problem?
While the Hague convention is a good start, I believe it does not go far enough to protect vulnerable families, fight trafficking, or encourage the adoption of the children with special needs. In the United States, two-thirds of international adoptions are from non-Hague countries, including countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo where corruption is widespread. In 2014, the United States will begin to require all international adoption agencies to be Hague accredited, even when they are placing children from non-Hague countries.
But what does Hague accreditation mean?
There are three bodies of the United States government that are involved in international adoption: the Secretary of State, Attorney General and USCIS, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for immigration. Adoption agencies are not licensed by the federal government. Instead adoption agencies are licensed by the states.
In the United States, Hague Accreditation is handled by the Joint Council on Accreditation. The Joint Council is responsible for making sure adoption agencies meet minimum standards. For example, to be Hague accredited adoption agencies must:
Provide adoptive parents with 10 hours of training in the home study process
Disclose their policies and practices, their fees charged for adoption, and disruption rates
Have qualified staff and expertise to provide adoption services
Keep good records and protect private information
On paper, the Joint Council holds Hague accredited agencies accountable for their actions overseas. For example, adoption agencies that are found guilty of willfully creating fraudulent documents or paying bribes should be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
Here’s where it gets complicated…
Many Hague accredited adoption agencies have been involved on unethical and illegal practices in countries such as Vietnam, Guatemala and Nepal that later closed to adoption because of widespread corruption. Many of these agencies continue to facilitate adoptions in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo where corruption continues to be widespread. Very few of these agencies have ever been held accountable.
Adoption critics argue that the Hague standards were developed by the adoption industry to maintain the status quo. The Hague does very little to regulate the fees in adoption. While Hague accredited adoption agencies are required to disclose their fees to adoptive parents, humanitarian donations and in-country fees are not regulated. These donations and fees often end up in the hands of corrupt attorneys, government officials, orphanages, or adoption facilitators.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of the current Hague accreditation system is the complaint procedure. When a family experiences or witnesses unethical or illegal actions in their adoption process, they cannot complain directly to the Council on Accreditation. Families must first file their complaints with their agencies. Twice a year Hague accredited agencies are required to report complaints to the Council on Accreditation. Only when a complaint cannot be resolved between the family and the agency does the Council on Accreditation get involved, theoretically to investigate. The Council on Accreditation then publishes a report of substantiated complaints and adverse actions. Most of the complaints in the report are about relatively minor things – an agency failing to list an adoptive mother’s pregnancy in a home study, for example.
Tomorrow will conclude this series of guest posts.