November 15th, 2006 02:52 EST
United States Implementing Intercountry Adoption Standards
Washington -- The United States is in the final stages of implementing new, federal-level standards and protections that greatly will benefit thousands of children from around the world in need of permanent families.
The implementation of these standards and the anticipated U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions was discussed at a November 14 hearing before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is a formal international agreement designed to ensure transparency in adoptions to prevent trafficking, kidnapping, smuggling and baby-selling. The United States has signed the convention and is moving toward formal ratification in 2007.
The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) is the implementing mechanism established to carry out the functions required under the convention. The IAA was enacted into law on October 6, 2000. A regulatory framework currently is being put in place to comply with the provisions of both the convention and the IAA to move the United States toward formal ratification.
In her testimony, Catherine Barry, the deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizens services, said that November 17 marks the deadline for adoption services to apply for accreditation under the new standards. (See related article.)
This past summer, Barry said, the Department of State signed Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) with the Council on Accreditation (COA) and Colorado’s Department of Human Services, designating them as accrediting entities. These two entities will have the power to accredit, temporarily accredit or approve adoption service providers.
The accrediting entities are required to keep the Department of State informed of any problems, such as complaints from adoptive parents, birth parents, adoptees and other involved parties on compliance with the Hague Convention and the IAA, Barry said.
The Department of State is working closely with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS is responsible for approval of the home studies that must be prepared by accredited adoption agencies.
Lori Scialabba, associate director for USCIS’s Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate, told the hearing that IAA amendments to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act, once they take effect, will broaden the definition of a child who may be adopted. Under the new rules, a child with two living biological parents may be adopted if the parents are incapable of providing proper care to the child and the parents have freely given a written, irrevocable release for that child’s emigration and adoption.
Representative Christopher Smith, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, said the United States adopts more children from abroad than all the other countries combined.
The number of foreign children adopted annually by American citizens, Smith said, has doubled over the last decade from 11,340 to 22,739. The top four “sending” countries over the past five years are China, Russia, Guatemala and South Korea. Only South Korea has not signed the Hague Convention.
Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, affirmed that the Hague Convention makes clear that the eligibility and suitability of prospective adoptive parents are determined by the sending country. The receiving country determines and approves eligibility and suitability through a home study of the prospective adoptive parents based on a comprehensive review of family and medical history, social environment and reasons for adoption that meet the sending country’s requirements, Smith explained.
Additional information about international adoption is available on the State Department Web site. The Web site also offers information on the Hague Convention.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)