The U.S. Department of State continues to meddle in adoption affairs using backdoor tactics to control adoption regulations. As reported by The Federalist, the State Department attempted to impose strict regulations on international adoption two years prior to its latest attack. That initial plan was thwarted by President Trump’s push for deregulation. However, the State Department has found a way to fight back through reinterpreting their own regulations and providing a false narrative of past practices.
Three adoption agencies, Faith International Adoptions, Amazing Grace Adoptions, and Adopt Abroad, took action to bring suit against the State Department for new standards being imposed during the accreditation process. These adoption agencies all lost their accreditation due to these new standards, by no fault of their own. The plan simply allowed for the State Department to interpret their own regulations to differently than before, causing many agencies to fail to meet accreditation standards.
Faith International Adoptions had lost their Hague Convention accreditation in March due to these new regulations. The Council on Accreditation handles this process; however, a delay on the part of the COA caused the accreditation of Faith International Adoption to expire based on the new State Department regulations. COA has previously been able to notify the State Department of delays, typically preventing expiration action to take place.
The expiration caused Faith International Adoption to have to resubmit for accreditation as if they were a new agency. The State Department claimed that that the expiration process was not new and that they were not aware of any time that they had allowed the COA to delay its decision making past accreditation expiration. The COA fired back with copies of emails documenting multiple occasions where delays had been approved in the past.
Federal Judge Ronald Leighton oversaw the lawsuit, Faith International Adoptions v. Pompeo, taken against the State Department and ruled in favor of the agencies, stating the attempt at these new regulations was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The executive director of Faith International Adoptions, John Meske, spoke to The Federalist stating, “[The State Department] had attempted to pass regulations which would have eliminated up to three-fourths of adoption agencies…When that failed, they decided to use the accreditation process instead and get rid of agencies that way.”
The Federalist continued to note Judge Leighton’s frustration with the State Department, quoting Leighton’s ruling where he stated implicitly, “‘State’s current position contradicts its past implicit interpretation and constitutes an ‘unfair surprise…State had for years acquiesced to COA’s practice of processing applications past the expiration of accreditation, and even acknowledged that practice itself…The Court can identify no good reason why the drafters of the [International Adoption Act] or its regulations would have intended such an unnecessary waste of resources…It certainly does not benefit the children whose adoptions have apparently been frustrated by State’s directive.’”
With Leighton’s ruling, the COA was able to continue to work on reaccreditation the agencies as existing agencies, bypassing the expiration concerns. However, many agencies, especially smaller nonprofits affected, would not likely recover from the time they were delayed and unable to move forward with any adoption proceedings.
The State Department is continuing to claim that the push for new regulations is to make international adoption more ethical. However, many believe that these regulations will do nothing more than reduce the number of adoption agencies and therefore, the number of adoptions.
International adoptions by those in the United States has fallen 80 percent in recent years. Much of this is believed to be directly related to the underhanded intervention of the State Department and the regulations that leave many agencies fearful to do their job to the best of their ability.
One such example of this fear is the usage of “soft referrals” in international adoption. Soft referrals are a tool used by agencies to allow prospective adoptive families to express interest in and initiate the process of adoption for a child before the prospective adoptive family has been approved to adopt. Many times, people are hesitant to make the financial leap into international adoption as its cost very often exceeds $40,000. However, as The Federalist notes, upon hearing a story or seeing the picture of a child in need of a forever family, that connection of the heart often helps families to take the leap.
However, the State Department has highly discouraged the use of soft referrals. Though it is not a regulation, many agencies are fearful that the State Department will retaliate against an agency who does not comply with their recommendation. This retaliation coming in the form of continuing to twist their accreditation regulations to deny agencies accreditation in the future.
Reform is not the issue. The issue lies in the State Department using their rules and regulations to fit their own agenda. As Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) told The Federalist, “We’re not anti-reform…We’d love for the State Department to sit down with those of us in the field, to work through some of these issues and find solutions. Instead, they just shut the whole process down. Now that they’ve been told by a federal court that they’re acting unlawfully, we’re interested to see how they respond.”