Last week we had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with USCIS, National Benefits Center, the Council on Accreditation (COA), and about 200 Adoption Service providers (ASPs) to learn more about the Universal Accreditation Act (UAA). On the 22 nd , there was also a call for adoptive families, so hopefully some of you were able to attend that.
The UAA is a bill that is taking effect on July 14 th , 2014 which will require that ANY adoption service provided for an international adoption be carried out by or supervised by a Hague Accredited Agency or individual. This applies even if the adoption is being carried out in a non-Hague country (For example our Ethiopia or Uganda programs). The purpose of this is to make sure that all adoptions are carried out ethically and held to the same standard across the board.
Many of you will wonder, what does this mean for me? Well that depends on where you are in the process. The good news is that IAN is Hague accredited and processes the bulk of our services by Hague guidelines already, so for the majority of our families, there will not be much of a change. If you are adopting through one of our Hague programs (Mexico or India), you will not need to make any changes to comply with this act. For the rest of you:
- If you filed your I-600a with USCIS before July 13 th , 2013 your case will in no way be affected, as you are grandfathered in under the old system. You can check the date on your I-171h approval notice to see the date on which you filed.
- If you filed after July 13 th , 2013 but before July 14 th of this year, you will only be affected if you did NOT use a Hague agency for your homestudy. In this case it is our understanding that this act will affect your process when it is time for you to update your homestudy. You will just need to switch to a Hague agency or individual to complete the update. In some cases, IAN may be able to ‘supervise’ the homestudy. We will determine the best plan of action on a case by case basis.
- If you have not yet filed your I-600a, starting now IAN is requiring that ALL homestudies be done by a Hague accredited Agency. This is because there will now be certain wording and requirements for homestudies that USCIS must have to give a family approval, and only Hague agencies will have the right certification to carry out these homestudies. If you have not filed your I-600a with USCIS, but have a completed homestudy, please contact your coordinator for further instructions as this will be handled on a case by case basis moving forward. So, to be clear, if you have NOT started your homestudy and are researching agencies, we ask that you please be sure to choose one that is COA Hague Accredited. Your coordinator can help you track down some options in your state if you are having trouble. You can also search here for Hague agencies in your state http://adoption.state.gov/hague_convention.php
Obviously not every family is going to fit neatly into one of these three scenarios, and its seems like USCIS itself if still working to figure out what changes will apply to cases in the different stages in the process. So we will do our best to navigate these changes with the information they are giving us at this time.
Based on what was discussed on the call, it seems like the adoptions that will be affected most by the legislation taking effect will be independent or kinship adoptions in countries where not many agencies have programs. It is now required that adoptive families have a supervising agency to facilitate the adoption process. Two concerns many agencies had about this was the cost for families who now are required to work with an agency or face a penalty, and the risk for agencies to supervise an adoption in a country where they know little about the adoption rules and regulations. So we will be following this closely to see how these types of independent adoptions are able to be carried out in the coming months as the new rules take effect.
If you would like to read more about the UAA Hague requirements and how the new requirements might impact your adoptions process here are some links for more information. If you have any further questions please contact your coordinator.