In order to operate legally, adoption agencies must be accredited, meaning they meet national standards for ethics, safety, and transparency. The U.S. Department of State has notified intercountry adoption service providers of substantial mandatory accreditation fee changes. National Council For Adoption (NCFA) is leading a united advocacy campaign this week to address concerns about these fees.
NCFA’s network of adoption agencies and attorneys were shocked by the increase in fees required by the new accrediting entity, IAAME. One mid-sized adoption agency reported that their organization currently pays less than $19,000 across a four-year cycle for accreditation services. Under the new system, their costs would skyrocket to around $132,000 across four years for the same caseload, a 700% increase. Other agencies have confirmed that their accreditation fees will increase 300-4,000%. These fees are simply to maintain the agency’s accreditation; they are just a small (but important!) part of the total cost of intercountry adoption.
The main increase is due to a new $500 fee per adoption case for “monitoring and oversight,” which had previously been an $875 annual fee per organization. This additional expense will likely be passed along to adoptive families, who already save, fundraise, and sacrifice to cover the costs of adoption. The fees may make adoption prohibitively expensive for families, particularly those adopting multiple siblings, leading to a further decline in intercountry adoptions which have dropped 76% since 2004. With $500 per adoption and approximately 5,000 intercountry adoptions per year, IAAME would generate $2.5 million from this one fee alone.
The new accrediting entity will provide the same services as its predecessor (Council on Accreditation or “COA”), so adoption professionals are wondering why the new fee schedule is unreasonably high.
The Code of Federal Regulations requires 1.) That these fees be appropriate for the volume of intercountry cases that an agency serves, and 2.) That the accrediting entity only collect as much money as their services cost. (Title 22 §96.8). By comparing the new fees to the previous ones, National Council For Adoption questions whether the new fees meet these federal criteria.
Furthermore, the new fees were announced on February 1st and will begin collection on February 15th. Adoption service providers have not signed a contract with IAAME and, in fact, may be required to pay these fees before even seeing a contract. The Department of State has rushed this transition, leaving agencies scrambling to comply. It is unclear how families currently in-process may be affected.
Swift action is necessary to advocate for a reasonable fee schedule that prioritizes ethics without sacrificing financial transparency.
Put simply: NCFA asks you to speak up.
Contact your House Representative and both U.S. Senators, asking them to assess the Department of State’s intercountry adoption accreditation fees and processes. NCFA has a sample script with basic talking points and an easy-to-use email advocacy app. Visit their advocacy center here. If this is your first time talking to Congress, don’t worry! Here are some advocacy tips.
There are an estimated 15 million children worldwide who have lost both parents. Many of them live in institutions that can’t properly meet their needs. For some, intercountry adoption is their last chance to thrive in a loving, permanent family. Help protect the future of intercountry adoptions.