November is National Adoption Month, but this year’s celebrating is coming on the heels of bad news for families who hope to adopt children internationally.
The Department of State under the Obama Administration recently released new proposed rules about international adoption that many adoption agencies say could make the process much more difficult. The department said its intent is to protect adoptive families and children, but a group of more than 80 adoption groups say the proposed rules could hurt families more than help them.
Over the past 12 years, inter-country adoption in America has dropped off by a staggering 75 percent, with last year’s total of 5,647 the lowest since 1981. Other major receiving countries have experienced the same sharp decline—driven not a by global decrease in orphans, but by the changing politics of adoption.
Now, those same politics threaten to slash adoptions still further. Under U.S. law, the central authority over international adoption is the Department of State (DOS). Last month, with all eyes focused on the drama of the presidential election, DOS quietly released new proposed rules governing international adoption. If they go into effect as written, some advocates say Americans’ ability to adopt internationally will decline even further—or possibly face an existential threat.
So far, 81 adoption agencies have signed onto a letter that outlines major problems with the proposed rules. People can read the full letter and sign a petition supporting international adoptions at Save Adoptions.
One of the proposed rules would require adoption agencies to jump through even more bureaucratic hoops to facilitate international adoptions with certain countries. The department calls it Country-Specific Accreditation, but it does not provide a list of the countries or much of any guidance on how to achieve the additional accreditation, according to the letter.
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Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption, told The Federalist he is concerned that the new accreditation rule could be used to discriminate against smaller agencies and faith-based agencies.
Another proposal could potentially increase legal liability and insurance expenses to an astronomical level by requiring adoption agencies to insure every person in the U.S. and abroad who is involved in the adoption process in any way, according to the letter. This includes “drivers, translators and even state orphanage workers over whom an agency has no control,” the Federalist noted.
A third rule involving adoption expenses could cause even more problems. According to the report:
In what the joint letter calls “an unprecedented overreach,” DOS has granted itself the authority to cap prices for adoption services, according to what it deems “reasonable.” … Worse still, the proposed rules forbid families from paying for a child’s in-country care once a match has taken place. This is a common practice, allowing parents to give their child quality nutrition, medicine, and childcare while they wait for the adoption to be finalized.
The adoption agencies are urging the Department of State to withdraw the rules immediately. They said the rules would leave vulnerable children across the world in a worse position by making international adoptions more prohibitive for many families in the U.S.
“The rules fail to identify what problems or issues they seek to address, are an effort to control rather than regulate intercountry adoptions and create conflicts in law that cannot be resolved,” they wrote in the letter. “These proposed rules hurt orphan children and remove what little hope they have for a family.”
International adoptions already can be prohibitively expensive for many families, and with fewer countries allowing adoptions to the U.S., these new proposed rules could shut out the opportunity for even more families who hope to offer a loving home to an orphan child.