Monday, November 9, 2020

Necessary Actions for Next Administration to Reverse the Dramatic Decline in Intercountry Adoption


On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) released its FY 2019 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions. The report shows that American families adopted only 2,971 children through intercountry adoption between October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019. This is a decline of over 26% from the previous year, and over 13% decline from the year before that. Since DOS assumed responsibility for the oversight of intercountry adoption in 2008, the number of abandoned, orphaned, and vulnerable children around the world extends into the tens of millions, yet the number of children adopted by American citizens continues to decrease annually under their oversight, to a new historic low of 2,971.

The report fails to put the disastrous decline in perspective: There are millions of children without families worldwide who will benefit from intercountry adoption and tens of thousands of qualified American families who are willing to adopt them. The majority of orphans denied intercountry adoption are not finding equal or better solutions in their country of birth; on the contrary, they are living and dying in institutions in ever-growing numbers. Research conclusively shows that the majority of those who survive the orphanage experience will experience permanent emotional and physical harm and will age out into a world that will exploit them in horrible and degrading ways. There are countries that want to partner with the U.S. to find families for orphans, but unfortunately, the United States is unwilling to work with many countries around the world. 

AAAA has advocated that DOS make a full and accurate accounting to Congress, the White House, and the American people for the failing results of their intercountry adoption policies and procedures.



  1.  We request that the White House articulate a clear foreign policy in support of intercountry adoption and direct both DOS and the entities that accredit adoption agencies to support this policy.
  2. We request an independent investigation into allegations that the current accrediting entity for adoption agencies, IAAME, holds a bias against intercountry adoption that drives its accrediting actions. Adoptions agencies report that they are held to ever changing “standards” not found in the law or any regulation or written policy.  Further, that these standards are not uniformly enforced against all agencies. That anonymous complaints are lodged against agencies which are not favored by the Office of Children’s Issues in retaliation for whistleblowing. These anonymous complaints then force the agencies to hire lawyers to defend themselves without a clear view of what they have done that violates any clear written law, policy or regulation. That their adoption services are shut down which prevents them from earning revenue while the complaint is evaluated.  That the high cost of defending these often spurious complaints has led to the financial ruin of these mostly nonprofit agencies.  That IAAME under the supervision of the Department of State requires every family to work with an accredited agency as a primary provider, even though the UAA and IAA explicitly say that families can act as their own primary provider. That with fewer agencies able to financially function, the adoptive families then cannot find another agency to serve as a primary provider.  IAAME has taken the position that the new agency will be responsible for all of the actions of the prior agency, which calls the accreditation of the new agency into question. In other words, by creating an environment whereby adoption agencies cannot function, IAAME under the supervision of the DOS has directly caused the precipitous decline in intercountry adoption. Families with completed adoptions cannot bring their children home. 
  3. Require that the DOS put out requests for statements of interest for additional accrediting agencies and designate at least one other national accrediting entity within six months in addition to any/all qualified state government authorities that desire and are qualified to serve as the accrediting entity for adoption service providers in their state. This will ensure that the existing accrediting entity has more accountability.
  4. Require that any adverse action directed toward an adoption agency by an accrediting entity be explicitly tied to a written regulation or policy promulgated after appropriate review and comment. 
  5. Issue an Executive Order that families can serve as their own primary provider if their original primary provider is no longer accredited for any reason and there are no adoption services willing to act as primary provider for fear of losing their accreditation. That would eliminate the transfer issue when an agency closes for families who have completed adoptions.
  6. Issue an Executive Order that families can act as their own primary provider if they are adopting a relative and there are no adoption services to perform. In a relative placement, the child has already been identified, there is no real concern that the child is being placed for adoption without the knowledge or consents of the birth parents, the prospective adoptive parents are already aware of the child’s medical and social history due to the family relationship, and the foreign government makes the determination of the appropriateness of a relative placement in light of its laws and customs.  Further, intercountry adoption relative placements rarely disrupt, which would require that the agency assume custody until another placement can be made.  Most intercountry adoptions are completed adoptions and the agency is not required to assume custody in a completed adoption anyway, only in a foster care type placement. Nor would the agency be required to monitor the case until the adoption was finalized because the adoption is finalized in the foreign country. The only adoption service which requires the involvement of an accredited agency to protect the parties is the performance of a home study on the prospective adoptive parents and that could be done by an exempt agency. Alternatively, the family could still be required to identify a home-study agency that is accredited to perform the home-study and to provide post-placement supervision when it is required for finalization or by the placing country. However, they would be able to act as their own primary providers for the remaining adoption services. This proposal would ensure that the home-study and post-placement processes are appropriately completed by accredited agencies while also acknowledging that meaningless ”protections” for relative adoptions only create barriers that harm children, birth parents and adoptive families.
  7. Require USCIS to prioritize the adjudication of Form I-130 Petitions for adopted children.  The current processing time is over two years.  As a result, U.S. citizens are stranded overseas with their adopted children.  This is simply unacceptable for these vulnerable children and their families.


[1] 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.


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


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, 2020.

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