Could the End be Near?
Hello, friends! As promised, here is a post about the plight of international adoption. This is long and to be honest, very confusing, but I tried to explain everything as thoroughly as I could while also trying to condense it as much as possible. This is based off of conversations I have had with our adoption agency, fellow adoptive parents, future adoptive parents who are in the Faith International Japan program currently, and my own research. When directly quoting someone, you will know. When I have not directly quoted someone, or when I have not said "according to..." then those are my own thoughts and opinions based on facts and research. Please feel free to share this post. The more awareness we bring, the better chance we have at saving international adoption.
Let me start by saying that international adoption is a controversial topic, and while that baffles me, I guess I do understand the mindset of those against it. Some people feel as if we should adopt domestically instead of internationally, and while I do believe we in the US have an orphan crisis as well, the plain and simple facts are that very few countries have a foster care system and/or enough foster homes, and many children live in orphanages, where they never feel the love of a family. The nannies in these institutions do the best they can with the resources they have, but let's be honest and just say it...there are not enough people, money, or resources to take care of these babies and children. The strangest and most heartbreaking thing I have ever read was about why orphanages don't have screaming babies all day long. Why aren't the babies crying nonstop? Because they tried that and they quickly realized there was nobody coming to comfort them. There just aren't enough hands. So eventually they learn, and they stop crying because no one comes. When I read this I cried, and I vowed to always run to our daughter when she cries. Her birth mom chose not to send her to an orphanage so that she would know a mother and father's love, and that is exactly what we give her. When she cries, we comfort her, and I thank God she has a family who would walk through fire to get to her. But 147 million children in the world do not have that. Also, there are many restrictions on who can adopt in each country and the legal rights of birth parents in our country. So each family has to weigh the pros and cons of each country and decide what's right for their family. This is a personal decision and one that does not warrant criticism. So why international adoption you might ask? My answer is simply, it was where our daughter was...it was where we felt drawn to...and because it was what was right for our family. And I thank God every single day for bringing her to us.
Now to move on to the problems the international adoption world is facing. I recently had several families who are in different stages of the waiting game in the Japan program through Faith International, reach out to me. They were panicked because they had received an email right before Easter that had them worried about the future of Faith International (FI) and adoption as a whole. While I had been made aware through research about the US Department of State and it's apparent fight to end international adoption, I had no idea it would affect our agency so directly and so quickly. I am going to attempt to explain what the assistant director of FI relayed to me a few days after Easter when she called to fill me in (since she knows several families follow us and are connected with us). Here is the most condensed version I can give.
Every four years, adoption agencies need to acquire accreditation. Accreditation is "The formal evaluation of an organization or program against best practice standards. It is both a status and a process" (COA website). COA was founded in 1977 and has been the ONLY accreditation service provider for years. Faith International decided since their accreditation was going to expire on March 31, 2018, that they would start the process early so they get it out of the way quickly. It involves months of interviews, paperwork, visits by inspectors, etc. They began in May of 2017 to allow plenty of time. On October 1, 2017, COA came out and visited the agency for four days (it was previously two days) and did a review of every file over the last few years. Faith was the first agency to be re-accredited under the new regulations put forth by the US Department of State (I will have more on that shortly). They sent in a report of items that needed further clarification. The items listed were from three years ago, and they didn't even really pertain to Faith's international adoption services; they were all about homestudies they provided for families who were using other primary agencies to adopt from other countries. Either way, FI took care of every item and resubmitted. On October 6, 2017, COA released a statement declaring that they were withdrawing as the primary accreditation provider at the end of 2017 because they did not agree with the new regulations the US Department of State was implementing and asking of them. This was a shock to the international adoption world. Faith International was told that since they had started their re-accreditation process with COA, that would continue and COA would work until December 2018 to accredit agencies that had already started the process in 2017. This is stated in a legal document signed by the US Department of State (DOS) and COA. While this was all being sorted out, the DOS handpicked a new accreditation entity called IAAME. From my research, I have found that this entity had no real funding and no way to start providing services the first of the year, which made them tack on additional fees to adoptive families and agencies (more on this later).
So FI was given a second report two months later of more items that needed addressed all of which focused on their foreign supervisors of agencies in the countries they work with. My question is why were those not listed in the first report? Faith once again got everything addressed and paperwork sent in. I might also add that every single request was quite strange and nothing like FI was used to seeing. Then on Friday, March 23, FI was given a third report. This report was entirely about the Japan program and how Faith International works with Canada. Let me go back and explain that when COA was visiting FI in October, Faith tried to give them their files on the Canada/Japan adoptions. COA said they did not need those since they were not concerned with Canadian families. Now, out of the blue, these files were needed. The director and assistant director of Faith International spent an entire day into the night getting everything ready. They submitted everything COA requested in one day on Monday, March 26. FI also reminded them that they needed approval by March 31, 2018. COA assured them it would be finished by then. On March 29, COA emailed Faith informing them they had no time to review the paperwork because the DOS told COA they had to have all files transferred to the new entity, IAAME, by April 1. They told FI they would review everything April 19 and would then issue the renewal.
On Friday, March 30, FI received an email from the DOS stating that if approval wasn't given on March 31, then they would be refused accreditation and would have to start the process over with the new IAAME, which would take months and obviously more money. When the director of FI called COA, they confirmed the news, but told them that this isn't legal since COA has a binding contract with the DOS saying they would be FI's accrediting agency through 2018. On April 2, the DOS released a list of re-accreditation refusals and Faith was on the list, so to the general public, it looks as if they were denied, when in actuality, their final paperwork just hasn't been reviewed yet. So at this time, FI is stuck in a battle between COA and the DOS. They are meeting with lawyers this week and have already met with their senators. They are fighting hard to right the wrongdoings of the DOS.
I'd like to also point out that every major adoption agency who knows about Faith's situation, along with COA, and the National Council for Adoption are all standing behind FI and are fighting along side them against the DOS.
In the meantime, FI families are stuck as well. One family is literally stuck in Japan because they were there when FI lost it's accreditation, and the DOS suddenly and unexpectedly sent word to the US Embassy in Tokyo not to release exit visas until the DOS can review everything. This family has been getting media coverage and has spoken to their senators and representatives. Action is happening. Search #bringsydneyhome on Facebook to read the whole story and for updates. Another family had to postpone picking up their daughter until next week because of the same issue. Other families have had to sign on with a partner agency that is volunteering their services to help FI until they get this mess figured out. Families are scared and in limbo and it is not okay.
It is widely believed that most of these issues have stemmed from the DOS and Trish Maskew, who is the head of the State Department's Office of Children's Issues. At first glance, it seems as if she is advocating for better ethical practices in international adoption; she has two internationally adopted children, used to work for an adoption agency, and then formed Ethica, an organization formed to stop unethical practices in international adoption. While this sounds wonderful, it seems there is more to this. My intention is not to slander her name, but I would like to point out some interesting pieces of information. It is widely known and discussed in the international adoption community that it seems as if the DOS has a goal, which is to shut down many small agencies, leaving only a handful in all of America, and the purpose of that would be so they can regulate these agencies to extremes while micromanaging them. In a letter addressed to Secretary of State, John Kerry, and signed by seventy accredited adoption agencies in America, it states, "The proposed rules, which we believe are unnecessary and discriminatory against accredited adoption agencies and foreign child welfare officials, represent an attempt by representatives of the State Department to exercise subjective and anti-adoption influence and control over the field of intercountry adoption" (Gobba).
Overseas adoptions have plummeted by 81% since their peak in 2004. The National Council for Adoption's president is Chuck Johnson. In an interview, he was quoted as saying, "[The State Department officials'] lack of leadership and their lack of proactivity has resulted in a decline in numbers and an inability really to open up new doors of opportunity for orphaned and abandoned children" (Gobba). There are new rules that are being put in place that make adopting an even more difficult task than it is. To find all the new regulations, see the first article I linked below. Essentially, these new rules draw from Trish Maskew's paper she wrote in 2008 entitled, "The Failure of Promise." The DOS actually "rejected her recommendations in 2008 because 'they were considered to be too burdensome or really impossible to regulate,' Johnson said. Those recommendations are now contained in the last month's proposal" (Gobba). I find it interesting that she is now the head of the department, and she has put in place all the regulations she wanted, which seem truly impossible to regulate.
With these new regulations, fees for agencies have increased 300%. The agencies, which are non-profit, cannot afford these increases. Who pays for them? The families adopting do, which will cause more families to be unable to afford adoption as an option, which in turn leaves more orphans alone in orphanages around the world. Do international adoption and agencies need to be held to the highest standards? Yes, of course they do. But if you do a little research, you will find that these new regulations go way above what the "intended goal" is.
When our agency and other agencies found out about their lapse in accreditation through no fault of their own, COA went to battle for them. COA stated that it was illegal to make these agencies begin the process all over again with the new entity, which, if you remember, needs funded. Trish Maskew was stated as saying that the government has the right to "interpret the law in any way" they wish or want. In a country built around democracy, that sounds a whole lot like an authoritarian government to me.
I'd like to point out one other piece of information I find interesting. So the DOS never said a word about the Japan program until the third report. Coincidentally, that was just a few weeks after another agency (who is a friend to FI) opened a Japan program. Trish Maskew used to work for this other agency. What does that mean? I honestly have no idea, and am not trying to imply anything, but I do find it ironic that shortly after the announcement of the new Japan program, the DOS has an issue with Japan adoption and wants to review all paperwork.
There is so much more I'd love to say and so much more to this. I have literally only scratched the surface. I will add links below to a couple articles I found interesting, along with the link to a video conference with the director of Faith International for anyone who would like to do more research. How can we help? We can educate ourselves, we can sign the petition (link is below), we can call and write our representatives and senators, and we can pray, because the future of orphans all across the world is depending on it.
If you are still reading, I'd like to thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read about the plight of international adoption. Is the end of international adoption nearing? I certainly hope and pray that it isn't. But who knows? If we join together and let our state reps know this is not okay, then maybe we can all make a difference. International adoption changed our lives and the life of our daughter, who might otherwise have never known the love of a mommy and daddy or felt the embrace of a parent’s arms. There are no words for how much we love her and for how thankful we are to Faith International. They gave us our daughter, and more importantly, they gave our daughter a home and a family to love her unconditionally. For that, we can never thank them enough.
So this is my first attempt at writing a blog post that was not just a life update full of my raw emotions. Stick with me as I navigate this new field of writing. It's messy and confusing and long and full of information. But as an adoptive parent and adoption advocate, I feel it is not only expected of me, but that it is my duty to spread awareness. #saveinternationaladoption
Petition to save international adoption: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/…/save-adoptions-reverse-8…