Regulatory Commissars

State Dept. Regulations Make International Adoption Harder

Children will not otherwise simply grow up happily ever after in their home countries.

Nate Jackson · Mar. 26, 2018

When Donald Trump was elected president, he implemented his famous two-for-one rule on regulations: For every new one, two must be eliminated. Some of the regulation this stopped was new State Department guidance on international adoption that would have seriously hampered Americans’ ability to do adopt from overseas. Unfortunately, as The Federalist’s Jayme Metzgar reports, “The relief was short-lived. Less than a year later, it appears the State Department has found a way to end-run around the president’s deregulation agenda. Without altering a single word of the regulations, [adoption] advocates say, the State Department is now implementing policies that will make international adoption rarer and more expensive than ever.”

For example, the Council on Accreditation has been accrediting private adoption agencies for 25 years, and has been the sole provider of that service for the State Department since 2013. But that will soon end. COA president Richard Klarberg wrote, “The Department of State … is requiring COA to make significant changes in the nature and scope of our work in ways which will fundamentally change our responsibilities … and which are inconsistent with COA’s philosophy and mission.” Klarberg warns that the number of eligible children will shrink, as will the number of agencies facilitating international adoption. And apparently, that’s the point — some bureaucrats at the State Department decided there were too many adoption agencies. “It is widely believed that the State Department’s goal is to reduce the number of small adoption service providers,” Klarberg says. “I think they feel that by doing so, they can better control the large agencies.”

Indeed, it may be the end of the line for some smaller agencies. “This situation has the potential to put all of us out of business,” says Lucy Armistead of All Blessings International. “And of course, it’s the children who will suffer.”

What’s going to replace COA? The brand new and untested International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). Brand new as in it incorporated in July 2017, and on the same day entered into a contract with State. Yet it still lacks IRS approval. And if you’re interested in international adoption, hold onto your wallets because fees are going up — way up. From application fees to accreditation fees to agency fees, adoptions are going to become even more astronomically expensive, because adoption agencies are estimating an increase of 800% to 1,500% for their own costs. As is typical with federal regulations, they hurt smaller operations most; only larger adoption agencies will be able to handle the burdensome requirements.

There are many other changes too, more detailed than we have space to cover. But suffice it to say there is a decidedly anti-adoption stance at the State Department, probably because of the misguided view that, if it weren’t for Western adoption agencies, children would simply live happily ever after in their home countries. There have been and will always be bad actors in adoption — child trafficking is real, as are deceptive tactics by some adoption agencies. Yet the vast majority of American families who adopt do so for the right reasons, and American adoption agencies have a good track record.

So why the anti-adoption stance at State? Metzgar writes, “The State Department has created a climate of fear and mistrust. In every interview I conducted, a single name emerged as the primary source of this adversarial relationship: Trish Maskew, chief of the Adoption Division in the Office of Children’s Issues. Maskew was appointed in 2014, and the relationship between the State Department and the adoption community has deteriorated ever since.” She has called international adoption “a profoundly problematic institution.” We’ll grant that it’s an imperfect solution to a serious problem, but orphans need homes. Adoption wouldn’t exist if there weren’t orphans. The State Department should be working to help solve the problem, not obstruct the best solution.

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