Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Croatia Intercountry Adoption Information
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Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.
Please see our section on Adoptions from the United States for more information on the process for adopting a child from the United States. We urge prospective adoptive parents residing abroad who are considering adoption of a child from the United States to consult with the Croatia’s Central Authority,the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, for its determination as to whether it considers your adoption to be subject to the Convention.
Croatia is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries must be done in accordance with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations; as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Croatia.
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2014 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for Croatia), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your case: 1) you filed a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, identifying Croatia as the country where you intended to adopt and the approval is still valid; 2) you filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a child from Croatia, or 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s adoption could continue to be processed as a non-Convention intercountry adoption, provided the child’s country of origin agrees. For more information, read about Hague Transition Cases. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of the case if this situation applies to you.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Croatia, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from Croatia must meet the following requirements imposed by Croatia:
Minimum Residency: None.
Age of Adopting Parents: An adoptive parent must be at least twenty-one years old and at least eighteen years older than the adoptee. In certain circumstances with sufficient justification, the adoptive parent may be younger than twenty-one years of age and at least eighteen years older than the adoptee.
Marriage: A child can be adopted by a heterosexual married couple or by a couple in a common-law heterosexual marriage, by one married spouse with the consent of the other spouse, or a single individual.
Minimum Income: The Croatian Family Act does not specify minimum income requirements. The adoption authority relies on the U.S. home study when determining eligibility of prospective adoptive parents.
Other requirements: A child cannot be adopted by persons deprived of parental rights or legal capacity and persons whose previous behavior and personal characteristics indicate that they are not suitable to be entrusted with parental child care. A person cannot adopt her/his blood relative in a straight line, a brother or a sister. In accordance with Article 186 of the Croatian Family Act an adoptive parent, as a rule, can only be a Croatian citizen. In exceptional cases, a foreign citizen can qualify as an adoptive parent if such an adoption would be in the best interest of a child. If the adoptive parent is a foreigner the adoption can be established only with prior approval from the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy.
Because Croatia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Croatia must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for intercountry adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Croatia have determined that placement of the child within Croatia has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests.
In addition to qualifying as a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law, the child must also meet the following requirements imposed by Croatia:
Eligibility for adoption: A child without parental care and whose parents have given consent to the adoption to the adoption authority or local social services center can be adopted.
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are eligible for adoption. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have not relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
Warning: Do not adopt a child in Croatia before: 1) USCIS has approved your Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, 2) the Central Authority of Croatia has determined the child is eligible for intercountry adoption, 3) USCIS has provisionally approved your Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and 4) a U.S. consular officer has issued an “Article 5/17 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
Croatia’s Central Adoption Authority
Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy
Because Croatia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adoptions from Croatia must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is provided below. You must complete these steps in the following order to meet all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may cause significant delays or result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to act as your primary provider that has been authorized by Croatia’s Central Authority to operate in Croatia
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-800A)
3. Through your Adoption Service Provider apply to Croatia’s Central Authority to adopt, and be matched with a child
4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found provisionally eligible for immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee (Form I-800) and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption (Art. 5/17 letter)
5. Adopt the child in Croatia
6. Apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to Act as Your Primary Provider That Has Been Authorized by Croatia’s Central Authority to Operate in Croatia
The first step in adopting a child from Croatia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide intercountry adoption services to U.S. citizens and that has been authorized by Croatia’s Central Authority. A primary provider must be identified in each Convention case and only accredited or approved adoption service providers may act as the primary provider in your case. Unless a public domestic authority is providing all adoption services in your case, a primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case. Your primary provider is responsible for:
Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided consistent with applicable laws and regulations;
Supervising and being responsible for any supervised providers, and otherwise complying with the requirements regarding the provision of adoption services using other providers (see 22 CFR 96.14); and
Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Croatia, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Croatia and U.S. immigration law.
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must be found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS by submitting Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. You will need to submit a home study, provide biometrics, and cooperate in a background check as part of this application. Read more about Suitability and Eligibility Requirements. Unless an exception applies, the home study must be prepared by a person who is authorized under 22 CFR 96 to prepare home studies and must comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311.
3. Through your Adoption Service Provider Apply to Croatia’s Central Authority to Adopt and Be Matched with a Child
Submit Your Dossier to the Central AuthorityAfter USCIS determines that you are suitable and eligible to adopt and approves the Form I-800A application, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to a court-appointed translator in Croatian for translation of the dossier. The translator will deliver the completed package to the U.S. Embassy Zagreb Consular Section for submission to Croatia’s Central Authority, who will then forward your application to the adoption authority in Croatia as part of your adoption application. Croatia’s Central Authority will review your application to determine whether you are also suitable and eligible to adopt under Croatia’s law and the Convention.
Your dossier for the adoption application must include:
Evidence of citizenship of prospective adoptive parents (a certified and authenticated copy of your passport);
Evidence of residence of prospective adoptive parents (I-800A and additional evidence such as lease or purchase contracts, utilities bills, etc.);
Birth certificates of prospective adoptive parents;
Marriage certificate (if applicable);
Psychological assessment of prospective adoptive parents;
Home study (included in I-800A);
Certificate confirming that prospective adoptive parents have completed preparation and counselling concerning intercountry adoption;
Evidence of employment and income of prospective adoptive parents (letter of employment from your employer, W2 form, etc.);
Evidence that prospective adoptive parents have legal competence (contained within the home study);
Evidence that prospective adoptive parents have not lost parental rights;
Health certificate of prospective adoptive parents,
Criminal records and police certificates;
Photographs of adoptive parents, family members and family home; and
Written consent of prospective adoptive parents for registration in the Croatian Register of Prospective Adoptive Parents.
Important: All of the documents prospective adoptive parents submit from the United States must be certified and authenticated by an Apostille seal. They also must be translated into Croatian by a court appointed translator in Croatia. Croatia’s Central Authority may at any time in the process require additional documentation to be submitted.
Upon submission of complete documentation submitted by your adoption service provider your information will be entered into the Register of Prospective Adoptive Parents in the Republic of Croatia.
Receive a Referral for a Child from the Central Authority
If both the United States and Croatia determine that you are suitable and eligible to adopt, and Croatia’s Central Authority has determined that a child is eligible for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Central Authority in Croatia may provide you with a referral. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of the child. The Central Authority in Croatia will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral. We encourage families to consider consulting with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child but you must decide for yourself whether you will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for, a specific child. You must also adhere to the recommendations in the home study submitted to USCIS with respect to the number of children and capacity to deal with any special needs of an adoptive child. Learn more about Health Considerations. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the Central Authority in Croatia. Learn more about this critical decision.
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Provisionally Eligible for Immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption
Submit a Petition for a Determination on the Child’s Immigration Eligibility
After you accept being matched with a particular child, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States by filing the Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child appears to meet the definition of a Convention adoptee and will likely be eligible to be admitted to the United States.
Submit an Immigrant Visa Application
After provisional approval of the Form I-800 petition, you or your adoption service provider will submit a visa application to the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Croatia.
You should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and assigning a case number and an invoice ID number. Use this information to log into the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to file the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260) for the child. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Please review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact the NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form. The Consular Officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and will advise you if there are options to waive any noted grounds of inadmissibility. If the medical examination of the child has been completed, then the required medical exam will be considered at this provisional approval stage of the visa review. If the Consular Officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States and that the information provided indicates that the adoption process thus far has complied with the Convention and IAA, he or she will notify the Croatia’s Central Authority by issuing an Article 5/17 letter. The Article 5/17 letter will inform the foreign central authority that U.S. competent authorities have determined the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
In Convention adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with an intercountry adoption of a child until the Department of State has issued the Article 5/17 letter.
Warning: Do not attempt to adopt a child in Croatia before you receive provisional approval of your Form I-800 petition AND a U.S. consular officer issues the “Article 5/17 Letter” for your adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Meet the Child in Croatia
Croatia’s Central Authority notifies the local adoption authority of your acceptance of the referral and determines the date and time for a meeting between the prospective adoptive parents and a team of experts from Croatia’s Central Authority.
The prospective adoptive parents, the team of experts from the adoption authority and the individuals caring for the child meet at the Central Authority in Zagreb.The meeting is held in Croatian language and the prospective adoptive parents must utilize a court-appointed translator if they do not speak Croatian. During the meeting, the prospective adoptive parents will be familiarized with the remaining steps of the intercountry adoption in Croatia, the team of experts will interview the prospective adoptive parents, they will provide detailed information about the child, her/his habits, sleeping patterns, feeding, activities, games, etc.
The adoption authority or local social services center provides written approval for personal contact between the prospective adoptive parents and the child, and schedules the first meeting of the prospective adoptive parents and the child. A minimum of seven meetings on consecutive days for children under three years of age or a minimum of ten meetings on consecutive days for children over three years of age are required.
A team of experts from the adoption authority, or local social services center monitors the meetings and prepares a written report. The adoption authority, or local social services center, forwards the report and its conclusion to Croatia’s Central Authority in order to obtain prior approval for adoption.
6. Adopt the Child in Croatia
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Croatia, you must have completed the above five steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption.
The process for finalizing the adoption in Croatia generally includes the following:
Role of Central Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy is responsible for administering intercountry adoption. The Ministry prepares an adoption approval (or rejection) statement (or Article 17 letter) for submission to the adoption authority (Social Services Center) responsible for the final adoption decree. After the adoption decree becomes effective, the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy issues a statement certifying that the adoption has been completed in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention (Article 23 Certificate).
Role of the Court: The Courts have no role in adoption process in Croatia. The adoption is an administrative decision rendered by the competent authority (Social Services Center) in the jurisdiction where a child lives.
Role of Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Providers: Adoption service providers are not allowed to represent parents or assist with required translations and file adoption applications at the Ministry. Prospective adoptive parents are required to personally participate in adoption proceedings before the competent adoption authority.
Unless a public domestic authority is providing all adoption services in your case, there must be a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider acting as the primary provider in every case. Also, any agency or person providing an adoption service on behalf of prospective adoptive parents in any Convention or non-Convention intercountry adoption case must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. 22 CFR 96.2 Definitions.
Important: Only the child adopted by final and enforceable decision of the competent Croatian authority may leave the territory of the Republic of Croatia. It is not possible for foreign adoptive parents to obtain legal custody of a child in Croatia for the purposes of adoption in the Receiving State.
Adoption Application: See above for the adoption application process.
Time Frame: After the matching of prospective adoptive parents with a child, the intercountry adoption in Croatia may take approximately 3-6 months to complete. However, individual timing can vary.
Adoption Fees: We encourage prospective adoptive parents to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either by them directly or through your U.S. adoption service provider, and to raise any concerns regarding any payment that you believe may be contrary to the Convention, U.S. law, or the law of Croatia, with your adoption service provider, and, when appropriate, through the Complaint Registry. Improper payments may violate applicable law or create the appearance of buying a child, and could put all future adoptions in Croatia at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Further, the IAA makes certain actions relating to intercountry adoptions unlawful, and subject to civil and criminal penalties. These include offering, giving, soliciting, or accepting inducement by way of compensation intended to influence or affect the relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing functions as a competent central authority, or to engage another person as an agent to take any such action.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your adoption service provider will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from Croatia include:
The intercountry adoption in the Republic of Croatia is free of charge. However, prospective adoptive parents have to bear the costs of translations, costs of travel and accommodation as well as the administrative fees required by Croatian laws for issuance of a child’s birth certificate and a Croatian passport. Some of the fees may include:
Written translations (10 -20 USD per page of text)
Simultaneous interpretation services (50 – 60 USD per hour),
Croatian birth certificate, passport and administrative fees (150 – 200 USD).
7. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Once Croatia’s Central Authority gives final approval of the adoption, the local adoption authority, that is, the local social services center that has jurisdiction over the area where a child lives issues a decision on adoption and informs the prospective adoptive parents on how to obtain documents for the child (a birth certificate and a passport). After the decision on adoption becomes valid, the adoption authority, or local social service center submits a decision on adoption to the Vital Records Office in Croatia.
The Vital Records Office enters the adoptive parents into the Register of Births in accordance with the provisions of the Croatian Family Act. Croatia’s Central Authority issues a certificate that the adoption has been established in accordance with Article 23 of the Convention and delivers a certificate personally to the adoptive parents and submits it to the Central Authority of the receiving State and the local adoption authority enters data on adoption in the Register of Adoptions. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
You will need to obtain a birth certificate for your child.
After you have finalized the adoption in Croatia, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Croatia.
Once your name was entered into the Register of Births you will be able to apply for a child’s Croatian passport.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child you need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for a final review of the case, and if applicable, the issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, the final approval of the Form I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you and be admitted to the United States as your child. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb by email at ZagrebIV@state.gov to schedule your child’s immigrant visa appointment. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child if you did not provide it during the Form I-800 provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
If the consular officer determines that the child is eligible for an immigrant visa, visa issuance after the final interview generally takes 24 hours. It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. You should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb before making final travel arrangements. Additional information on immigrant visa processing can be found on our website.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s admission into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including that the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s admission into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s admission into the United States and before the child turns eighteen for the child (if he or she otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000) to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Once your child acquires U.S. citizenship, s/he will need a U.S. passport for international travel. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Department of State’s Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Croatia
U.S. citizens do not require a visa for travel to Croatia for a period of up to 90 days. To find information about obtaining a visa for Croatia, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country-Specific Information for every country in the world about various issues, including health conditions, crime, currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling abroad during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. Enrollment makes it possible for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Croatia, to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Croatia, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Croatia’s Central Authority requires two post adoption reports. The first report must be submitted by your ASP six months after the adoption.The second report must be submitted by your ASP two years after the adoption.
We urge you to comply with Croatia’s post-adoption/post-placement requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption service provider may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Croatia’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive parents.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. You may wish to take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. Your primary provider can provide or point you to post- placement/post-adoption services to help your adopted child and your family transition smoothly and deal effectively with the many adjustments required in an intercountry adoption.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a website, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which can be a useful resource to get you started on your support group search.
If you have concerns about your intercountry adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the Embassy in Zagreb, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously. Our Adoption Comment Page provides several points of contact for adoptive families to comment on their adoption service provider, their experience applying for their child’s visa, or about the Form I-800/A petition process.
The Complaint Registry is an internet based registry for filing complaints about the compliance of U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers with U.S. accreditation standards. If you think your provider's conduct may not have been in compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider's complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Complaint Registry.
U.S. Embassy in Croatia
Ulica Thomasa Jeffersona 2
Croatia’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy
Ulica grada Vukovara 78
10 000 Zagreb
Republic of Croatia
Numéro de téléphone/telephone number: +385 (1) 555 7111 / +385 (1) 555 7015 / +385 (1) 555 7222
Numéro de télécopie/telefax number: +385 (1) 555 7222
Embassy of Croatia
Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in the United States of America
2343 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C., 20008
Fax: +1-202-588-8937; +1-202-588-8936
Croatia also has consulates in: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or a Form I-800 petition:
USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax: 1- 913-214-5808
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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