Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to report problems with your agency or with your adoption in DRC.

There are many ways to report problems with your agency and your intercountry adoption in DRC.   Complaints can fall into seven general categories and it would be wise to consider sending complaints to all the different groups:

1)   The state licensing body for the agency.

Your agency’s licensing authority is most likely located in the state where the agency operates.  Sometimes, it is not the same states where the agency operates.  The licensing authority gives your agency the license to operate.  Visit this website to find the list of state licensing authorities: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=15&rate_chno=AZ-0008E  Once you find out what state your agency is licensed in then contact that licensing authority to find out how to register a complaint with them. 


2)   The accrediting body for the agency. 

DOS has authorized COA (Council on Accreditation) as the accrediting entity for the U.S.  This is who gives your agency approval to operate a program in DRC (or any foreign country). Currently this applies to Hague, as of July 14, 2014, it will apply to all IA.  To find out if your agency is accredited visit this website: http://adoption.state.gov/hague_convention/agency_accreditation/agency_search.php  

Is your agency accredited?  Then report them here at the Hague Complaint Registry (HCR)*:  http://adoption.state.gov/hague_convention/agency_accreditation/complaints.php   


3)   The U.S. Department of State (DOS) 

When you file a complaint with the HCR, generally the complaint is also shared with DOS, Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).  It is best to provide DOS with a separate copy as well. ASKCI@state.gov

What if your agency in DRC is Non-Hague or pre-UAA** (grandfathered case)?  You can send a copy of your complaint to DOS/OCI via ASKCI@state.gov. 


4)   The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. 

The Kinshasa embassy is the embassy that approves visas for family adopting from DRC. Providing the Embassy with complaints about a certain ASP, attorney, children’s home or facilitator will enable the Embassy to more closely and thoroughly examine cases involving those person/entities and alert them to possible ethical/legal issues. 

Complaints can be mailed directly: 
U.S. Embassy Kinshasa/310, Avenue de Aviateurs/Kinshasa, Gombe/République Démocratique du Congo or emailed:  KinshasaAdoptions@state.gov

5)   U.S. Department of Justice 

       If your complaint involves the payments of bribes (any “expediting fee” or “motivation fee” and sometimes even a “processing fee” where there is no public document fee required), you may wish to contact the US Department of Justice in order to file a claim under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  

By mail: U.S. Department of Justice/Criminal Division/Fraud Section/ATTN: FCPA, Coordinator/Bond Building, 4th Floor/10th and Constitution Ave. NW/Wasthington, DC 20530-0001
By fax: 202-514-7021

6)   The FBI. 

If your complaint involves suspected fraud on the part of the your Adoption Service Provider (payment of “expedited” fees, “motivational” fees, “processing” fees where there is no states expected authorized fee , exorbitant charges for foster care, suspected fraudulent documents, suspected trafficking or smuggling of children, misrepresentation of program details and viability), please contact the FBI at 202-324-3000, or online at https://tips.fbi.gov. 

7)   Local Authorities. 

If your complaint involves suspected fraud by your Adoption Service Provider, you may also want to contact local authorites, such as police departments and Attorney General’s Offices where your agency is located.  You can find contact information for AG offices here: http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php


Some final comments:

States license your agency with is your adoption service provider.  And they also license attorneys.  You can find the state licensing authority for each in your state above and contact them about registering a complaint. 

Complaints against a Hague accredited agency are also filed via the HCR (Hague Complaint Registry) on the DOS adoptions website (see above) and then forwarded to COA for investigation.  For adoptions that happen on foreign soil (intercountry adoption), COA is the Accrediting Entity for DOS for U.S. agencies. 

COA itself offers many types of accreditation for various welfare organizations, including private adoption services agencies.  These are different from Hague standards and only a few Hague Accredited agencies are also COA accredited.  So, if you agency is Hague Accredited, but not on this list: http://coanet.org/accreditation/who-is-accredited/organization-profiles/
then you only file via the HCR.  If an agency IS accredited both by Hague and by COA (if your agency’s name is on the list above) then you can use the “Complaints” section on the COA’s website. 

With regards to intercountry adoption, COA has very limited powers.  It can investigate alleged violations of Hague Accreditation Regulations.  If there is no alleged violation, they cannot investigate.  (see here for more information: http://regulations.justia.com/regulations/fedreg/2006/07/18/E6-11362.html)

*Before you file a complaint with the HCR (Hague Complaint Registry), you must first register the complaint with your agency via a formal grievance process UNLESS you have reason to believe doing so would endanger yourself or a child, in which case you may bypass, but must state this in your complaint.  If it is a 3rd party (i.e. someone other than a client of the agency), there is no reason to address first with agency.  The agency must respond to the complaint within 30 days.  A family can still complain to HCR if the agency does address the APs complaints through the formal grievance policy.  Agencies also must provide COA with reports about complaints that way COA can compare the report submitted by the agency.  If an AP/PAP has reasonable fear of retribution from their agency because they submitted a complaint they can include that in the complaint and use the HCR (you can do this via email copies as needed).  

According to the COA website, normal investigations by COA are completed within 12 months.  High priority cases which get investigated within 6 months include: allegations of child trafficking or child buying, allegations of imminent danger to a child, and/or complaints filed by a Federal, State, or local government official or a Foreign Central Authority or official. 

Get specifics from here:  coanet.org/programs/hague-accreditation-and-approval/monitoring-and-oversight/
 
Questions about their investigation process can be sent here: haguecompliance@coanet.org

**The Universal Accreditation Act (UAA) of 2012 comes into effect on July 14, 2014.  This law means that all agencies that work overseas must be Hague accredited or approved.  You can find more information about this law here:  http://adoption.state.gov/adoption_process/faqs/uaa_2012.php 

A huge thank you to Gina Murphy Pollock who helped to write and edit large portions of this post.  Thank you, Gina! 

1 comment:

Mary Hoyt said...

fabulous info. Thanks so much for your hard work in compiling all this! I just found this: http://www.bet.com/news/global/2014/05/28/dozens-of-adopted-congolese-meet-new-parents-in-italy.html

do you know why so many kids were granted exit to italy but all u.s. families are still on hold?