As the former Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services and the founder of a private investigation technology platform, I dealt with instances of adoption fraud on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. CBSNews MoneyWatch article, “Adoption Agency’s Demise Sheds Light on Troubled Industry” raises concern over the issues prospective adoptive families are facing as both domestic and intercountry adoptions continue their decline in the U.S. This specific article addresses the most extreme side of the decline, an unethical adoption service provider who knowingly accepted families into their agency without the ability to place children in their families.
The now bankrupt Independent Adoption Center (IAC) closed their doors on January 31st leaving thousands of families at various stages of the adoption process with news that they were out of the money given to IAC and without the placement of a child. This is every prospective adoptive family’s worst nightmare. Families interviewed in the article clearly articulated the amount of research they performed prior to deciding on IAC. They did everything right, and yet they were left with a loss of thousands of dollars and a family void of the children they planned to adopt.
So how can prospective adoptive parents be better protected from this happening to them?
Fill the Void Left by Joint Council
Joint Council on International Children’s Services was founded on the principle of making adoptions safe and transparent. The organization sought to advocate on behalf of children in need of permanent families and promote ethical practices in intercountry adoption. When Joint Council closed its doors in 2015, no other organization acted in its stead. Wonderful organizations such as the National Council for Adoption and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute have continued to fulfill their unique missions which ensure children find forever families through safe, transparent and ethical adoptions.
However, there is no association of adoption service providers that establishes best practices in the field, works solely to ensure families understand which agency or attorney is right for them, and who is held to the standards of practice similar to ones laid out by Joint Council over 40 years ago. A laser focused mission on providing adoption service providers (ASPs), an association where they can differentiate themselves as the most ethical in their field, received continued education on how to better their agency and access to a collective force which can advocate for legislation to better protect children and families.
Pass Legislation To Protect Prospective Adoptive Parents
Over the past 40 years, pivotal legislation in the United States and abroad was passed to protect children and families formed through adoption. Good legislation that promotes children in safe, permanent loving families is critical to protecting families in the adoption process. The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) is an international agreement to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. The Convention entered into force for the United States in April 2008. The ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention ensured that ASPs had to meet certain standards of practice to be accredited and complete adoptions from Hague Convention countries.
The Hague Adoption Convention protected children and families from unscrupulous adoption agencies and went along way in weeding out unethical practices, individuals and agencies. The passage of legislation such as the the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012(UAA), ensured adoption service providers—working with prospective adoptive parents in non-Convention adoption cases—that they needed to comply with the same accreditation requirement and standards that apply in Convention adoption cases. Legislation continues to be created and passed by the current 115th Congress to protect families and children in the adoption process. Anyone can advocate for good legislation that protects children and families. Call and write your Members of Congress to share how important this legislation is to you and your family. Let your voice be heard.
Do Your Homework
All of the legislation and industry standards in the world will not protect you if you do not do your own homework on any individual or organization you plan to utilize through the process. It is up to you to take the initiative to check and double check they are an ethical adoption service provider and the right fit for your family. Check with the Better Business Bureau, online reviews and adoption.com boards to see what experience other families have had with the agency you are considering. Ask very specific questions about the number of adoptions they completed in the last few years, ask questions about their relationships with the countries in which they work and request families who have completed adoptions with their agency (however keep in mind they will likely only share those who had positive experience).
Have Reasonable Expectations
It is critical as you go through the process to set realistic expectations. Asking the right questions in choosing your agencies will give you a template to understand how long the process may be, how much it will cost, how often you will be communicated with, etc. However, if I have learned anything during my years in the adoption field it is that you make plans and they change. Pitfalls happen along the way, paperwork gets lost at a government agency, fingerprints take longer than expected, a foreign country’s policies may change and a hundred other unexpected obstacles may emerge. This does not mean your adoption service provider is unethical or unscrupulous. It just happens.
Ask the right questions and take a deep breath. It helps to remember the realistic expectations you accepted at the beginning of the process; this will help you keep your sanity through the journey. However, if something does not seem right or your gut tells you to dig further, do so. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions or request more clarifying information. You are invested with your time, your treasure and your heart. You deserve whatever answers may exist to give you peace of mind and protect your family through the adoption process.