Sunday, June 17, 2018

How Good is Your Adoption Agency?



I often am asked if a particular agency is a reputable agency.  The number one piece of advice that I offer is to always use a licensed adoption agency if you are considering placing a child for adoption OR if you are seeking to adopt.

Why?

Over the years, I've seen countless expectant parents suffer heartbreak when they have innocently connected with an adoption facilitator online instead of a licensed adoption agency with a physical address in their area.  The facilitator makes big promises and develops a phone relationship.  But, there are no on the ground services to the expectant parent,such as referrals for housing or job assistance, or pregnancy support centers, or doctors or clinics in her area.  And, no real pregnancy counseling.  As a result, the expectant parent is often unprepared to make an informed adoption decision when she gives birth.

This same issue of lack of training and on the ground services leads many expectant parents to "change their minds" about the placement in the hospital.  The prospective adoptive parent she has been matched with then experiences the heartbreak of a failed adoption.

So overall, I strongly encourage you to make sure that any adoption "agency" is truly that.  A state licensed agency, not an adoption facilitator.  For more information, the FAQs below will be helpful:

Question: What is a Facilitator?

Answer: A facilitator is a person or organization whose only task is to make an introduction between  expectant parents and adoptive parents, in exchange for a large, nonrefundable fee paid in advance.

Question: Are facilitators regulated?

Answer: In some states they are, but in most states, facilitators are prohibited.

***Note: Expectant parents considering adoption as well as prospective adoptive parents should exercise GREAT CAUTION, as it can be difficult to determine whether an entity is licensed as an adoption agency or acting solely as a facilitator.

Question: Are adoptions arranged by facilitators successful?

Answer: Adoptions arranged by facilitators often fail for many different reasons.  Facilitators do not have the training, skill, or experience to ensure a safe and legal outcome.

Question: What if they (facilitators) say they are experts?

Answer: While they do often present themselves as "adoption experts", they are typically unsupervised and unregulated, and may have little to no experience providing adoption services.  They are not required to adhere to set standards in terms of education or best practices in most states, and thus have little accountability when it comes to providing pre-adoption training and counseling or post-adoption services.

***Note: The essential services that goes along with the adoption process are best provided by experienced, licensed adoption professionals who will promise to partner for the long-term success of a family and help meet the often unpredictable, long-term needs of children. 

Question: If we are to exercise great caution, then why are facilitators so popular and easy to find?

Answer: There are many different reasons as to why prospective adoptive families and expectant parents are using facilitators. A facilitator can expand the pool of potential expectant parents who can be matched with an adoptive family, which is attractive to adoptive families and pulls them in.  Also, in some cases it is difficult for older and/or "nontraditional" families to meet the criteria established by local licensed agencies for being matched with an expectant family; this may lead them to choose a facilitator who will help them locate out-of-state expectant parents. 
             
Some expectant parents considering adoption choose to work with a facilitator out of desire for privacy.  Sometimes their prenatal and/or adoption-related expenses cannot be fully compensated according to the law of their state. Simply, people go to facilitators because they do not understand the difference between a facilitator and an agency, and do not know that they are legally entitled to more comprehensive services. 

Question: Why is there so much advertising for facilitators and very little for agencies?

Answer: This is one of the biggest risks, because they are so easily available. Facilitators typically have enormous advertising budgets and pay top dollar for search engine optimization.  As a result, an expectant parent or adoptive parent often finds a facilitator by performing a basic search online, before consulting with a licensed agency or experienced adoption attorney.
              
Many nonprofit adoption agencies are struggling to find the resources for search engine optimization and online advertising, as they cannot compromise the quality of services provided to adoptive parents and birth parents, and are reluctant to raise fees to cover rising costs.


***RECOMMENDATIONS***

~Better enforcement of existing laws
                               
 If a state such as California permits facilitators to operate, we would suggest strict enforcement of licensing and training requirements as well as advertising disclosure restrictions.  If the state prohibits facilitators from operating, especially if this is accomplished through close monitoring of fees paid, more rigorous enforcement by the state Attorneys General and stricter oversight by ICPC offices would significantly limit the activities of facilitators in those states.

~Advertising disclosure laws
                             
We recommend both state and federal laws mandating that print and Internet advertising by facilitators disclose both the state(s) where the entity is located and whether they are licensed to operate in the state where the advertising appears.  This would give prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents more information to decide whether to work with a particular entity.  It would also ensure that individual state standards are met.

~Research and die diligence on the part of adoptive parents
                             Prospective adoptive parents should check with state licensing to determine whether an agency or entity is a licensed child-placing agency.  If it is an out-of-state entity, the adoptive parents should check with state licensing where the entity is located, and be certain that it has the ability to provide or arrange for all the services necessary for an ethical and successful adoption.  Some adoptive parents will still choose to work with facilitators to expand their search for an expectant mother, but they must be aware of the risks and benefits involved.

~Full Compliance with the ICPC
                                 
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) aims to safeguard children placed for adoption across state lines, with requirements for sending agencies and the receiving state's ICPC office administrator.  Children can only be placed across state lines after the receiving state has determined that it does not violate their best interests.  Prospective parents adopting a child from another state must ensure that their agency is capable of meeting and fully complying with all ICPC requirements.

~Expectant parents must know their rights
                                  
Expectant parents should be aware that they will typically receive a higher level of service from an agency that has a physical presence in their state.  Local agencies can provide in-person, ongoing options counseling from a social worker with knowledge of resources in the community, and can also ensure that the expectant parents' emotional, legal, and medical needs are met before they are called upon to select adoptive parents or make an adoption plan.  Expectant parents may also be more likely to receive the information agreed upon about the child after the placement if an agency is used, and will now who to turn to if they need post-placement counseling.  If expectant parents choose to work with a facilitator instead, they should request a higher level of service and expect in-person counseling by a licensed child-placing agency working with the facilitator.  They should have the opportunity to meet with an attorney in their state as well as the laws in the state where the adoptive parents reside.  They should also have the opportunity to meet potential adoptive families before they select a family to parent their child.

~Improved oversight of adoption fees
                                    
State laws should require full disclosure of all fees paid by an adoptive family for an adoption placement.  There should be full oversight of these fees mandated by the state Attorney General's Office.  State laws for limits on fees should also be enforced, and states with no limits should review their laws.

This post is an excerpt from Adoption Advocate No. 70: The Role of Facilitators in Adoption, Published April 2014 by Karen S. Law, Esq. and Teresa M. McDonough, ACSW, Nicole Callahan, Editor, Chuck Johnson, Editor: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/adoption-advocate-no-70.html










Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2018.






Saturday, May 26, 2018

Our Adoption Story

Over the years we have had a number of clients; the happiness that shows on their faces once they have received the news that they are being matched with a child, is an experience like no other. We asked a client of ours to share her story. Due to privacy, there will be no names mentioned, but here in her own words is what she has to share with all of you.
"It was a surprisingly warm day in early April 2017. That morning, my husband and I were debating whether to catch a Washington Nationals game. Instead, we took a phone call from our adoption agency that would change everything.
We learned that a baby girl had been born the day before less than an hour from our home and her birth mother was interested in meeting us. We had just a few hours to decide whether we wanted to move forward with this case. The agency told us as much as they could. So much was unknown including the baby’s race and family medical history. However, we did know that she would most likely be in the NICU for several weeks to care for a treatable medical condition. Additionally, there would be some complications in terms of terminating paternal rights.
That’s when all our training paid off. The year leading up to our adoption was an important time of learning and preparing for our new role as adoptive parents.
We had originally started the adoption process about a year before and after we had ended fertility treatments. When we realized that being biological parents would not be possible for us, we talked about why we wanted to have kids and what our life goals were. We decided that in the end our goal was to be parents. Adoption was not our first choice, but that didn’t make it second best. In fact, we learned that entering this amazing community of adoption was more impactful that we could have imagined.
We did our initial interviews with our adoption agency during the summer of 2016 and quickly worked to complete our home study process. We zipped through the paperwork in just two weeks. An in depth excel chart and nightly meetings at the dinner table helped us to burn through it. We knew that so much of the adoption process was out of our hands, so we wanted to be quick with what WAS within our control. Meeting with the social worker and attending in person and online training helped prepare us to be adoptive parents and make the decisions that we would need to make regarding health challenges, family medical history and drug exposure status. Our home study was completed in the Fall of 2016 and we began the waiting game.
Our advice for other families is to stay hopeful. The question with adoption is not a matter of if you will have a child but a matter of when. We were overjoyed and overwhelmed when we became parents in April 2017. Our little girl is now 1 years old and we look back on our journey with such joy. There were certainly roller coaster moments but we always felt surrounded by experts from our adoption agency and our lawyer Karen S. Law who held our hand and worked the steps for us.
Our adoption story is our favorite story to tell so we are sharing it in the hopes that it helps another family on the journey to parenthood".





Drafted by an actual client of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law with the assistance of Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2018.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Surrendering My Adopted Child's Passport

Recently, I've handled several cases where panicked parents have received letters stating that they should surrender their adopted child's US passport.

Usually, the parents went through the rigorous process of adopting while they were living overseas.  They had a home-study done by a US accredited agency.  They filed the I600A or I800A.  They completed the intercountry adoption process and the child was granted either an IR-3 or IH-3 visa.  They then came to the U.S. for a while with the child and obtained a U.S. passport for the child.  Often, the Certificate of Citizenship issued by USCIS was sent to their U.S. address. Then, both parents and child returned to their overseas address.

In the past, this worked well.  But, now, the Department of State and USCIS have both determined to treat these cases differently.

The family that followed this route will get a letter from the Department of State telling the parents that the child's passport was issued erroneously and is revoked.  There are instructions to surrender the passport either to the U.S. Embassy in their country of residence or by mailing to an address in the U.S.

A second letter is issued by USCIS which says that it cannot issue the Certificate of Citizenship because the child has not yet qualified for citizenship under INA 320.  The rationale is that the child is NOT residing in the U.S in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent, but is residing overseas with that parent.

This is all technically accurate.  The law has always required that the child be living in the U.S. with their adoptive parent to qualify for citizenship under this set of circumstances.  But, this was not enforced before and most adoption agencies advised their overseas adoptive parents to adopt, obtain the visa and go visit Grandma in the U.S. for a few weeks to get the child's U.S. passport.

What to do?  The family should hire an experienced immigration attorney to handle the case because it can be done the wrong way.  They will have to take a number of steps including:

1.  Making sure that the child's original passport from the foreign country is still valid.
2.  Obtaining a visa for the child to reside in the foreign country to be placed in that foreign passport
3.  Surrendering the child's U.S. passport once the above has been accomplished  and obtaining proof that the passport has been surrendered.  For this reason, we recommend surrendering the passport at the Embassy itself, not by mailing it to the address in the U.S.
4.  Obtaining a visitor's visa for the child in the foreign passport so that the child may travel temporarily to the U.S.
5.  Filing the N-600K to apply for citizenship for the child under INA 322.  It is best to work with an attorney on this step.
6.  Once the N-600K is approved, flying with the child to the U.S. office that has scheduled the Citizenship interview.
7.  Once the child satisfies the examiner at the interview, the child will receive a new Certificate of Citizenship.  She can then apply for a new U.S. passport.

More information about this process can be found on the USCIS web-site which was just updated on September 21, 2017.
https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child



Drafted by Attorney Karen Law, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2018.