Adoption Notice: Upcoming Search for Accrediting Entities

The Department of State will be announcing a Request for Statements of Interest (RSI) from qualified entities interested in seeking the Department’s designation as an Accrediting Entity (AE), to be responsible for the accreditation of agencies and approval of persons who provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases.

The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) and the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) provide for the accreditation of agencies and approval of persons who provide one or more defined adoption services in intercountry adoption cases. Under the IAA, the Department is responsible for establishing and overseeing the system for accreditation and approval. Rather than mandating the Department to directly accredit agencies and approve persons, the IAA requires the Department to select and designate one or more accrediting entities (AEs) to carry out those functions.

The federal regulations governing intercountry adoption and the accreditation of agencies and approval of persons can be found at 22 CFR Part 96, with Subpart B focusing on the selection, designation, and duties of AEs.

When will the Department publish the RSI?

The Department intends to announce the RSI by the end of April 2017, which will establish a deadline for submission (approximately 8 weeks after the solicitation opens). We will publish a notice in the Federal Register and on the Office of Children’s Issues’ web page with information about how to submit a statement of interest and supporting information.

Who can apply?

This opportunity will be extended to nonprofit organizations with expertise in developing and administering standards for entities providing child welfare services and to U.S. State or local government public entities with such expertise and responsibility for licensing adoption agencies, per 22 CFR 96.5. Newly established nonprofit organizations may apply provided they have IRS Code 501(c)(3) status and can demonstrate that they have the required expertise, either as an entity or within their staffing.

Can States apply?

Yes, the regulations allow “any State or local government or governmental unit or any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof” to apply, provided it is responsible for licensing adoption agencies in a State and that it has expertise in developing and administering standards for entities providing welfare services, per 22 CFR 96.5(b).  If selected, the State or other public entity may only accredit/approve agencies and persons within the public entity’s State. Federal entities may not apply.

Is experience in accreditation required of applicants?

The regulations do not require specific accreditation experience. Under 22 CFR 96.5, designated AEs must have “expertise in developing and administering standards for entities providing child welfare services.”

How many AEs will be designated?

Under 22 CFR 96.4, the Department is authorized to designate one or more entities to perform the accreditation and/or approval functions. The Department currently works with one designated AE that is responsible for accreditation/approval of agencies and persons throughout the United States. The number of AEs selected through the upcoming RSI process will depend on the qualifications of the applicants and the Department’s determination regarding the best interests of the accreditation and approval program.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a designated AE?

The regulations under 22 CFR 96.7 outline the possible authorities and responsibilities of an AE, to be determined by the Secretary and memorialized in a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department. All such authorities and responsibilities stem from requirements in the IAA and UAA.

The potential authorities and responsibilities of the designated AE include:

(1) Determining whether agencies are eligible for accreditation;

(2) Determining whether persons are eligible for approval;

(3) Overseeing accredited agencies and/or approved persons by monitoring their compliance with applicable requirements;

(4) Investigating and responding to complaints about accredited agencies and approved persons (including their use of supervised providers);

(5) Taking adverse action against an accredited agency or approved person, and/or referring an accredited agency or approved person for possible action by the Secretary;

(6) Determining whether accredited agencies and approved persons are eligible for renewal of their accreditation or approval on a cycle consistent with § 96.60;

(7) Collecting data from accredited agencies and approved persons, maintaining records, and reporting information to the Secretary, State courts, and other entities; and

(8) Assisting the Secretary in taking appropriate action to help an agency or person in transferring its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records.

Does an AE receive funding?

Accreditation and approval services, as well as ongoing monitoring and oversight, are provided on a fee for service basis without costs to the Department or other parts of the United States Government.

Designated AEs may recover their costs through the assessment and collection of fees from the applicants for accreditation or approval. An AE’s fee schedule shall be subject to the approval of the Department. The fees that an AE expects to collect shall not exceed the full costs of accreditation and approval, including but not limited to, costs for completing the accreditation or approval process, complaint review and investigation, routine oversight and enforcement, and other data collection and reporting activities.

Where may additional questions be addressed?

This Notice provides basic background on the AE role and application process. Further details about submitting a statement of interest will be provided in the RSI, which will be announced by the end of April 2017.

Questions may be submitted to Adoption@state.gov.