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Oct 01

UAA: Is it Enough?

This week I stumbled upon some thrilling news: The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). This fancy little piece of legislation goes into effect July of 2014 and may be a push in the right direction for addressing the loopholes in existence within the international adoption process.

So what is the UAA? This document, signed by President Obama in January of 2013, requires that all individuals who wish to participate in intercountry adoption must use an accredited agency or individual throughout their UAA#1adoption process. While unaccredited individuals may continue to assist people in their intercountry, adoptions, they must be supervised by an accredited agency while overseeing a case. This legislation will also require that all families or individuals must receive a certain amount of educational hours before travelling to bring their child back to the US and that all parties involved must be specifically concerned with the best interest of the child. This is a huge step forward for the adoption process! Essentially these agencies are ensuring individuals interested in adoption that they are complying with the Hague Convention standards and are, therefore, accredited, and able to assist a family with their international adoption process.

In the past, parents were able to work with a licensed attorney in securing a child to adopt from overseas. This meant that documentation indicating how the child was “orphaned” was not required and no follow-up reports on the well-being of the child after the adoption were necessary.  With the establishment of UAA, agencies hope to be able to eliminate the selling or trafficking of children into orphanages as a means to make money. This piece of legislation will also require post-adoption reports to occur when the child returns home with their adopted family. Depending on the requirements of the country the child is adopted from, will determine how many reports, and over how long a time period, these reports must be documented. For example, some Eastern European countries require that an annual post adoption report is completed until the child is 21 years of age. Other countries, like those in Africa, only require that three post adoption reports are written at  6, 12, and 24 months after the child has been home. This usually depends on how long the country has been working with US in adoption and simply the country’s mandate over the adoption process. These reports will aid in the country’s ability to ensure that the child is growing and developing in a significant way, within their adoptive families.

When I originally said that I “stumbled” across this information, I wasn’t exaggerating. For the Senate to pass this piece of legislation, in only a few short weeks, is unheard of, especially with how long the government seems to take on passing ANYTHING these days! However, while UAA certainly takes a stance for adopted children and adoptive families from a congressional point of view, it does not address the issue from a more grassroots perspective. (I’m always interested in addressing issues from both facets.) While the Senate is doing all it can to make international adoption more difficult for those with poor intentions, helping to “weed out” those that are not able to pass necessary background and psychological screenings, there still remains work to be done from the ground up.

So what can we do? UAA is doing its part. However, because post-adoption reports only must be documented for a certain period of time, there still exists a problem for intercountry adoption: money. Many of the countries that are working with US agencies enjoy bringing in the profits associated with adoption. Not only are profits brought it as a result of adoption costs, but they also receive the revenue created when adoptive families travel to the country, stay in hotels, and tour the country’s attractions, while waiting to bring their child back to the US. With so many children travelling, and a lack of tracking systems available to these country’s governments, money is slipping through the cracks and being used for other means than it should. A system of checks and balances must be put in place, starting with ordinary guys on the bottom of the totem pole: us.

From within their own colleges or organizations, people can start advocating that the number of adoption agencies be limited to a certain amount for each country interested in establishing an adoptive relationship with the US. While this may unintentionally create a market where smaller adoption agencies fail and larger ones prevail, the need for accountability of children outweighs this risk. One should note, however, that this solution assumes that agencies that do flourish push to better themselves and create good services for families and children. While the risk for haphazard agencies do still exist, because there will be only a handful working with each country, a system can be created with a government agency with intentions of overseeing the company’s handling of adoptions.

Hopefully this solution will mean that each adoption agency will strive to be the best when it comes to educating its parents, providing post-adoption support, and focusing on the best interest of the child. These numbers will also be UAA#2able to be better tracked, as only certain agencies can adopt from within these countries. These advocacy campaigns would be great projects for Social Workers working in their graduate degrees as well as a great movement for adoption agencies.. They can work to promote their stance to their client as well as the country’s government. They can advocate that, as an agency, they can provide the best services for both family and child as well as eliminate any chances of immoral practices occurring post-adoption. This is your call to action my friends. Spread the word and get involved. Lobby and write your local legislators or simply help start a grassroots campaign aimed at protecting the children brought into our country and “lost” each year.

Next week I will begin looking at the “loopholes” that exist within the international adoption process and delve into why exactly UAA was created to address these. What are your thoughts? Were you aware that international adoption had so many barriers associated with its process?

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