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Maintaining and Renewing Accreditation
Renewal of accreditation
The period of validity for accreditation or approval of an adoption service provider is generally four years. As the end of the period of accreditation or approval approaches, generally beginning about a year before the expiration of accreditation, the accrediting entity advises agencies and persons of the date by which they will need to apply for renewal of accreditation or approval. This allows the renewal process to be completed before the previously granted accreditation/approval expires. The accreditation standards require the accrediting entity to process the renewal request in a timely fashion.
If the agency or person does not wish its accreditation to be renewed, it must notify the accrediting entity immediately and complete or transfer its pending Convention adoption cases and records to an accredited or approved adoption service provider, under the oversight of the accrediting entity, before accreditation or approval expires.
For more information, please see subpart H of the accreditation regulations.
Monitoring and Oversight
Accredited agencies and approved persons must maintain substantial compliance with applicable accreditation standards throughout the period of their accreditation or approval or face adverse action. See information on adverse action, below. Accrediting entities are required to monitor accredited and approved adoption service providers at least annually and to investigate complaints, as discussed below. Accredited agencies and approved persons are required to report certain events that might impact their accreditation or approval to their accrediting entity and to attest annually that they have remained in substantial compliance with the standards of 22 CFR Part 96.
Accrediting entities may choose to conduct a site visit to an accredited/approved adoption service provider at any time to evaluate concerns raised about an agency or person's conduct and to verify continued substantial compliance.
Accrediting entities are required to investigate complaints filed against the agencies and persons it oversees if those complaints raise issues of compliance with principles of the Hague Adoption Convention, the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), the Universal Accreditation Act (UAA), or their implementing regulations. When a party to a specific adoption case has a complaint about an adoption service provider, he or she must first submit the complaint in writing directly to the provider, as well as to the primary provider in the case (if different). If the complaint cannot be resolved through the organization's complaint process, the party to the adoption case may file the complaint with the accrediting entity through the Hague Complaint Registry. (Note: Federal, State, or local government officials, foreign Central Authorities, or individuals who are not party to a specific Convention case are permitted to file complaints directly with the Hague Complaint Registry without first submitting them to the accredited agency or approved person.)
The Hague Complaint Registry is a web-based complaint tracking system hosted and monitored by the Department of State that records complaints against accredited and approved adoption service providers. Once a complaint is filed in the Hague Complaint Registry, the accrediting entity reviews the complaint and opens an investigation if the complaint raises an issue of compliance with the Convention principals, the IAA, UAA or their implementing regulations. The accrediting entity investigates the complaint in accordance with its complaint investigation procedures to determine whether the evidence substantiates that the accredited agency or approved person failed to substantially comply with applicable accreditation standards in 22 CFR Part 96, the IAA, the UAA or the Convention. The Department of State monitors the accrediting entity's handling of complaints filed in the Hague Complaint Registry.
Adverse Action Against an Accredited Agency or Approved Person
An accrediting entity is required to take adverse action if it determines that an accredited agency or approved person is not in substantial compliance with the accreditation or approval standards. It must decide what adverse action to take based on the seriousness and type of the violation as well as the extent to which the agency or person has corrected or failed to correct the deficiencies. Such adverse actions may include:
- Suspending or canceling accreditation or approval;
- Refusing to renew accreditation or approval;
- Requiring specific corrective action to bring an agency or person into compliance; and
- Imposing other sanctions, including requiring the agency or person to stop providing adoption services in a particular case or in a specific Convention country.
Accrediting entities refer certain types of substantiated complaints to State licensing authorities, the Attorney General, or other law enforcement authorities (22 CFR Part 96.72). The Department of State may also take adverse action against accredited agencies or approved persons in certain circumstances.
Permission to Re-apply
An agency or person must generally obtain permission from its accrediting entity to re-apply for accreditation or approval after the accrediting entity has cancelled or refused to renew its accreditation or approval. The accrediting entity may grant permission to re-apply only if the agency or person demonstrates to the accrediting entity's satisfaction that the specific deficiencies that led to the cancellation or refusal to renew have been corrected.
Additional accreditation information
Technical Guidance on Becoming Accredited / Approved for adoption service providers consists of pieces of interpretive guidance on specific standards or the framework of laws upon which the regulations are based. Technical guidance assists providers to bring themselves into substantial compliance with the accreditation regulations. The above link opens a PDF document, which the Department updates as needed, which contains the technical guidance with table of contents and an index.
Universal Accreditation of Providers in Convention and Non-Convention Cases
The President signed into law the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) that goes into effect on July 14, 2014. The impact of the UAA is wide-reaching: formerly, adoption service providers had to be accredited or approved to be permitted to provide adoption services in Convention cases only. More than half of all intercountry adoptions, however, are orphan process cases between the United States and countries not party to the Hague Adoption Convention. The UAA extends the protections of the IAA and its uniform accreditation standards of ethical practice to orphan process cases, placing all adoption service providers under the same ethical standards now applicable in all intercountry adoption cases. This includes the monitoring and oversight provisions of the IAA, which require the accrediting entity to monitor the conduct of accredited/approved providers and take adverse action when appropriate, as noted above.