International Adoption Advocacy: What You Can Do to Make a Difference


This past year has brought many blessings for MLJ Adoptions! Twenty-nine children have been matched with permanent and loving MLJ families in 2017. We have also seen 33 children arrive home with their parents from Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Samoa and Ukraine. We are so grateful to have been a part of the adoption journey for these children and their parents. We have witnessed many older children, large sibling groups and children with special needs find families this year, in addition to providing humanitarian aid to children who remain unparented. It is absolutely an honor and privilege to do this work. We cannot say thank you enough to those alumni families and adoption advocates who support this work by donating their time and financial resources.

This past year has also brought additional changes and challenges in international adoption. We have seen countries close or become more limited. The Democratic Republic of Congo has continued to remain closed to intercountry adoption. This is unfortunate, as we know many children are without parents and living in dire circumstances. We continue to work to provide support for the unparented children in Congo.

We have also seen a shift with respect to how our U.S. central adoption authority, the U.S. State Department, views and regulates intercountry adoption. This shift became apparent last year with the proposed rules to regulate intercountry adoption. There were many problems with these regulations that would have created barriers to adoption without providing meaningful improvements. Ultimately, these regulations were withdrawn on April 4, 2017, in large part because many of our MLJ families and other international adoption advocates spoke out against them.

In addition, MLJ pointed out concerns that the proposed rules were not in line with law, and it was found by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy that the “certification was improper under the RFA.” This means that the U.S. State Department did not comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act in proposing these rules. The purpose of this Act is to make sure that regulations are not overly burdensome and costly to small entities who would be forced to pass along costs to families. Thankfully, these rules did not pass, and likely will not pass if re-introduced without significant modification.

Unfortunately, the intercountry adoption community is experiencing that the previously withdrawn regulations are being enforced through other means. The current regulations are now being reinterpreted in an unreasonable and potentially unworkable manner through “guidance” and assignment of the intercountry adoption accrediting entity. A new accrediting entity has been assigned to regulate intercountry adoption because the Council on Accreditation decided to terminate their role with the U.S. State Department. This new accrediting entity does not have experience in intercountry adoption and may not actually qualify as an accrediting entity under the current regulations. It is unfortunate that our government has chosen not to collaborate with those experienced in intercountry adoption to better the practice of intercountry adoption. We are in favor of reasonable, meaningful and workable regulation and oversight by those with experience in intercountry adoption. We believe that it is possible to reverse the downward trend of intercountry adoption if we advocate for change together. Here are three things you can do to make a big difference for unparented children around our world:

  1. Sign up with Save Adoptions and review their website. Save Adoptions is an organization of international adoption advocates working together to ensure that children around the world can be raised in the families they deserve.
  2. Support non-profit adoption providers while you shop – Select MLJ Adoptions as your charity on AmazonSmile. Each purchase you make supports adoptive families and vulnerable children.
  3. Donate to support MLJ so that we can continue to engage in the important humanitarian aid and advocacy work we are doing.

We have seen many unparented children gain permanent loving families through intercountry adoption. Many of our children are older, part of large sibling groups or have additional needs. Your support breaks down barriers to adoption and leads to permanency for children. Thank you for coming alongside the work MLJ Adoptions is committed to doing.

Nicole Skellenger works as MLJ Adoptions’ Chief Executive Officer and Adoption Attorney. Nicole has spent time in orphanages with children who have nothing and are desperate for affection and has committed herself to using her skills to create better futures for these deserving children.