The End of Independent International Adoptions? The US Congressional Universal Accreditation Act


As an adoption professional, I have been closely monitoring the discussions in Washington in Congress and the U.S. State Department and the discussions at adoption conferences regarding the Universal Accreditation Act. The Universal Accreditation Act originated in the Senate and introduced by long standing adoption advocates Senator Lugar, Senator Kerry, Senator Landrieu and Senator Inhofe. These members of the Senate have researched, monitored and supported international adoption efforts for years. They have been staunch advocates for international adoption and adoptive parents and families.

The Universal Accreditation Act would require specific standards for international adoption service providers (adoption professionals). All individuals, groups, non-profits, entities, organizations, ministries or agencies providing adoption services would be required to obtain either Hague Accreditation or Approval or Universal Accreditation or Approval. This Accreditation or Approval is a type of licensing by the Federal government to provide adoption services. MLJ Adoptions is one of two agencies in the State of Indiana that is Hague Approved or Accredited. Adoption services may include (but are not limited to): adoption preparation education, home study, child matching or referral to adoptive parents, advertising about children waiting for adoption, and adoption document preparation.

The U.S. State Department and Joint Counsel on International Children’s Issues (JCICS) are in support of said requirements. According to these entities and many other adoption professionals, there is a firm belief that Universal Accreditation will be implemented in the next two years.

Why are so many in favor of accreditation/licensing of adoption service providers? Accreditation would promote the best interests of children, monitor adoption service providers to ensure ethical practices, promote transparent adoptions, protect children from child trafficking, protect adoptive parents from failed adoptions, and promote continued adoptions in countries (we often observe countries where numerous independent adoptions have occurred closely due to problems and fraud in these independent international adoptions). The choices and actions made by adoptive parents and adoption professional affect international adoption. While many are well-meaning, we must all continue to educate ourselves and strive to make the right decisions for all orphans and the international adoption process. This is often complicated by our personal desires, the complexities of the international adoption process and the unknowns in foreign cultures.

What affect will this Universal Accreditation Act have on the international adoption process? It may cause delays in adoptions. Adoptions in process by facilitators or independent international adoptions may be ceased or denied. Adoption agencies that do not obtain the accreditation likely will be prohibited from working on international adoptions. Often when an adoption is being completed independently or by an agency that loses the right to do the adoption (loses licenses or does not obtain accreditation), the adoptive parents and child suffer. The adoption may completely fail, the adoptive parents may lose precious time and have significant delays, and the adoptive parents may lose money paid and have to redo documents. The child is left waiting for their forever family and often in less healthy living conditions.

Universal Accreditation as it is currently proposed will end independent international adoptions and adoptions by facilitators. Whether you are adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or adopting from Nicaragua or adopting from any other country, you should understand that this law could impact your adoption. Many international adoptions take 1-2 years and during that time this Senate Bill could be passed.

Whether the Universal Accreditation is passed this year or next or the next, consider its effect on international adoption and consider how your choices and actions could also affect international adoption and the future for many orphans.


Photo Credit: Moche Fedor

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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.