Advocating to the US State Department For International Adoption


I was so encouraged by all of the participants at the Orphan Summit VIII. I was encouraged that the U.S. State Department sent Susan Jacobs to the Summit which would seem to indicate a strong support of international adoption from the U.S. State Department. Ambassador Jacobs clearly stated that the State Department was in favor of safe, stable and ethical international adoptions. While I felt this was the case, and know it has been stated in the past, it is always nice to personally hear those statements direct from the source. However, while I am grateful for Ambassador Jacobs’ presence and support of the Orphan Summit and international adoption, I will to continue my advocacy for international adoption and communicate the international adoption community’s needs to the State Department.

Over the past seven years, international adoptions have dropped approximately 50%, while the interest has increased. There has also been an increase in discontent and problems in the international adoption process at the U.S. federal level. It has been indicated that the U.S. State Department is an advocate for U.S. Citizen adoptive parent seeking to adopt internationally. Therefore, as adoption agencies and adoptive parents, we need to know how we can communicate with them, support them, and encourage them in this effort. I believe one way is to communicate our needs with them…and be heard.

I propose that the U.S. State Department create an office/division of international adoption advocacy. In dealing with hundreds of international adoptive parents each year I’m very aware that they feel there is no advocacy from U.S. State Department (there may be some debate as to whether this is their role). Further, in order to have advocacy, there must be a two way communication mechanism, thus a “direct line” of communication for adoptive parents with the U.S. State Department. While I am familiar with the country/region representatives at the U.S. State Department, these individuals are not versed in and do not have the resources or time to effectively advocate for adoptive parents. The U.S. State Department representatives are great at providing information, but are not focused or trained in advocacy. Adoption agencies must have a line of communication as well, since they are the primary source of education and communication for the adoptive parents. An office of International Adoption Advocy at the U.S. State Department would provide the resources for the gap that currently exists.

The State Department announced they now have a comment page that has been included for adoptive parents on their website. While I appreciate this effort, it could appropriately be considered insignificant. One of the largest complaints we field as an agency come from the Embassy encounters with our parents which include lack of communication from U.S. State Department and Embassy, lack of access to U.S. State Department and Embassy and lack of accuracy of information provided from the Embassy. Even more frightening are the adoptive parents who report unprofessional or rude practices and/or behaviors. I do realize that a majority of the Embassy representatives and officers are extremely professional and kind, however, any wrongful behavior must have accountability. However, another such problem exists in that agencies and parents feel that there negative consequences or retaliation when complaints are made. In the midst of an adoption, no one (especially an agency that has overarching affects on other adoptions) wants to feel that retaliation may occur.

Furthermore, I find it inefficient and possibly less effective that in order to be heard by the State Department, an adoptive parent must gather others with similar complaints, compile the information and presentations, contact their Congressman, and ask for meetings in D.C. all in an effort to be heard.

It seems that U.S. Sate Department has given a voice to adoptive parents wanting to voice concerns about their adoptions agency, which is necessary. But there is no direct voice to the State Department for adoptive parents and agencies concerned about international adoption laws, policies, procedures or government representatives. I do greatly appreciate the efforts made by U.S. State Department, Join Council on International Children’s Services, National Counsel for Adoption (NCFA), Burning Both Ends, the Congressional Coalition for Adoption and many Embassy officers, there is more work to be done. I know that these organizations are working hard to give a voice to the adoptive parent and most importantly to the orphan, but, as this article illustrates, there is more work to be done.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.