United States (MNN) — After a change in adoption accrediting entities, the U.S. Department of State is adding a $500 intercountry adoption fee, which could create barriers with prospective adoptive families and adopting agencies.
Since July 2017, two accrediting entities – the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME) were designated to work together for the oversight and monitor of adoption service providers (ASP). However, COA recently withdrew as an accrediting entity, leaving IAAME to act as the sole accrediting entity.
While COA worked primarily with volunteers, IAAME has hired full-time staff for accrediting entity work. The State Department says this will add consistency to the process and they “do not believe any ASP will be forced to close its programs solely based on this fee schedule.” Further, they believe “the change in fees will result in positive, long-term benefits for families and children” and that their regulations are set to protect children.
However, Bethany Christian Services is concerned this fee could generate obstacles for prospective adoptive families, children up for adoption, and agencies.
Obstacles for Adoptive Families
“We understand the drivers from the State Department about why they’re concerned about the quality of accreditation,” Bethany’s Kris Faasse says.
“Everyone is concerned that we make sure children are not trafficked… We all want to make sure we look out for the welfare and well-being of children, and that really is the driver of the State Department. My concern and Bethany’s concern is that there will be an unintended consequence for families who are opening their hearts and their homes to kids and that this will become a barrier.”
Adoptions are already very expensive, often as much as $40,000, and take long periods of time to complete. Families go through months and often years of processes to adopt a child. With international adoptions, the processes tend to take even longer.
“Any family seeking to adopt through intercountry adoption has to go through an application process,” Faasse says. “We have to make sure that they have to meet the standards of that sending country because every country can set their criteria for adoptive families, and they have to go through a home study process as well as an educational preparation process.”
Decline in International Adoptions
Over the years, intercountry adoptions have declined due to regulation changes and because several countries have stopped international adoptions altogether, including Russia and Ethiopia.
CNN reported international adoptions by Americans peaked in 2004 with 22,884 adoptions. However, that drastically fell to 8,668 adoptions by 2012.
Though millions of children worldwide are still waiting for a permanent home and family, this extra fee could create an even steeper decline in adoptions.
“We hear a lot about the decline in the number of children coming into the U.S. and certainly a big part of that has been shifting countries, allowing intercountry adoption or not, but another part of it has been the children who are now needing adoption through intercountry adoption often have what I call special placement needs.” Faasse explains, “They might have physical disabilities. They may have developmental delays or cognitive impairment.”
When disabled children are adopted internationally, signals can often be mixed because of differing medical systems between the countries, and interpretations of mental or physical disabilities can be reported as less or more severe than they truly are.
As a result, “there is that real journey of faith in intercountry adoptions” for families.
Bethany encourages Christian families to adopt because they know families will love them how Jesus does and guide them in a walk with Christ.
With this new fee, Bethany will continue to support prospective adoptive families through this journey as they make the decision to adopt children internationally, whether the child may have a disability or not.
However, “we won’t be assessing families until they have decided completely that they want to pursue an intercountry adoption, and then families will be assessed an additional $500 fee that we then have to pass through to and pay to this accrediting body.”
Faasse says, looking forward, the implemented fee will not just affect families, but agencies like Bethany as well.
“Agencies that do fewer intercountry adoptions will have a smaller reaccreditation fee and an agency like Bethany will have the top fee. So, our expense as an agency in seeking accreditation will also increase with this.”
Despite the fee, Faasse encourages prospective adoptive families to not be afraid and to not let the fee stop them.
“If God is calling you to be that family for a child, to move forward without fear, get all of the information you can, work with someone you know or trust to help you answer some of the questions that are going to come up.”
Want to help make a difference? You can contact a representative or senator to voice your concerns on the additional fee. Your voice makes a difference and can help to change this fee.
To learn more about Bethany’s work, visit bethany.org.