International adoption,Adoption,United States Department of State,David Holman,South Korea

The Obama Administration Is About To Make International Adoption A Lot Harder

November 2, 2016

International adoption provides homes to needy children—why do the State Department's new rules make those adoptions difficult, if not impossible? David Holman was three years old when he met his mom and dad. Born in South Korea, his single mother gave him up, and he’d been living in a foster home. He was available for adoption but considered “hard to place” due to his age and medical condition. Meanwhile, Colorado residents Joe and Denise Holman were busy raising their full household: five biological children and a newly adopted Korean baby. Still, when their agency asked them to consider adding David to their family, Joe and Denise didn’t hesitate. “At that time, South Korean families did not adopt children who were not related to them,” Denise says. “There wasn’t even a word for it, we were told.” International adoption was open only to families from two countries: Australia and the United States. “Almost all children being adopted from South Korea were infants less than six months old. There were not many options for David.” The American agency, understanding the urgency of David’s need, offered to waive their part of the adoption fee. “It was all a miracle,” Denise says. She and Joe traveled to Korea in January 2000 to take David home. Although the family wondered whether his age and background would create bonding problems, “he attached to all of us hard and fast,” Denise says. While David struggled with some early learning disabilities, he never developed the medical issues doctors had initially feared. By middle school, he had taken off both academically and socially. Inter-Country Adoption Has Fallen To New Lows When the Holmans adopted David, America was experiencing a boom in international adoption: 18,856 foreign-born children were adopted that year. But in 2004, that number peaked at 22,989, and it’s been falling ever since. 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. How the Feds Could Prevent International Adoption For many in the adoption community, the new regulations came as an unexpected blow. Although there’s long been a strained relationship between adoption agencies and the State Department, it had seemed things were improving. Last year, DOS hosted a conference for 100 adoption service providers, “to learn more about the needs of the adoption community, and to discuss [our] new intercountry adoption strategy,” a DOS report reads. Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption, was present at that conference. “We were delighted to hear that they were considering country-specific solutions. Until now, the U.S. has demonstrated a complete unwillingness to consider any kind of unique situations,” he says. “But now we see the regulations, and they’ve offered no country-specific solutions. They’ve just imposed more standards on agencies.” Another conference attendee, the head of an adoption agency, put it more bluntly: “We feel completely blindsided.” So what exactly do the new regulations entail? Lawyers have combed through its 106 pages and identified four major areas of concern: 1. They Create An Extra Layer of Accreditation. Currently, all agencies providing inter-country adoption must go through a rigorous accreditation process, certifying their compliance with the international Hague Adoption Convention. The State Department now wants to add another layer of accreditation for working in certain countries—something it calls Country-Specific Accreditation (CSA). The Department will identify certain countries in which agencies will need to receive CSA in addition to their Hague accreditation. The problem is that DOS has provided no clear, written framework for how it will grant CSA—nor have they listed the countries for which CSA will be required. In effect, the bureaucrats at State have written themselves a blank check for unbridled control in whichever countries they choose. Agencies are left guessing. What will the requirements be? Will DOS limit the number of accredited agencies per country? “It’s ripe for bias, ripe for favoritism,” Johnson says. “Small agencies worry that there will be a bias toward larger agencies. It’s also quite possible that there will be a bias in favor of secular agencies over faith-based ones.” Failure to receive CSA in key countries could result in agencies being forced to close—and will certainly result in fewer children being placed with adopting families. 2. They Drastically Increase Legal Liability. Page 29 of the proposed rules contains this seemingly innocuous definition: “The term ‘providing,’ with respect to an adoption service, includes facilitating the provision of the service.” But agencies tell me this one sentence may be the deadliest measure for inter-country adoption. If interpreted strictly, it will require every foreign individual who touches an adoption to be insured under an agency’s liability insurance—drivers, translators, and even state orphanage workers over whom an agency has no control. According to a joint letter signed by dozens of agencies, not only would this cause adoption costs to soar, but such insurance plans may not even be available for purchase, or may be illegal in certain countries. “This is the thing that will absolutely kill us,” one program director said simply. “We cannot comply, and they will shut us down.” 3. They Micromanage Fees. In an effort to protect families from financial exploitation—certainly a worthwhile goal—the State Department is turning to bans and price-fixing, rather than encouraging...

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