Substantial Compliance System

The accreditation and approval of adoption service providers (ASP) is carried out by one or more Department-designated accrediting entities (AE). Pursuant to federal regulations, AEs must use an approved method for determining whether an ASP has achieved and maintains substantial compliance with the regulations that govern intercountry adoption (22 CFR Part 96, Subpart F). The method, known as the Substantial Compliance System (SCS), includes an assigned value (weighting) for each standard, a manner of rating ASP compliance with each standard (rating indicator), and a method of evaluating each ASP’s overall compliance with all applicable standards. The SCS includes three weightings: foundational (lowest weight), critical, and mandatory (highest weight) and assigns a weighting to each accreditation standard. 

The SCS is a critical tool for protecting the safety and best interests of children adopted through the intercountry process, as well as adoptive families and birth families. On April 1, 2021, revisions to the original SCS went into effect.

The SCS update includes revised weightings for some standards as well as simplified and clarified rating indicators.

The revised SCS weightings and rating indicators apply as follows: 

  1. To all initial accreditation and approval applications filed after March 22, 2019;
  2. To all renewal accreditation and approval applications filed for agencies and persons whose accreditation or approval expires on or after April 1, 2021;
  3. On April 1, 2021, for all accredited or approved ASPs for the purposes of  the AE’s monitoring and oversight responsibilities in accordance with 22 CFR Part 96, Subpart F. 

Additional information is available on the AE websites:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: When did the original Substantial Compliance System go into effect?  

The original SCS weightings and rating indicators were in place since the publication of the accreditation regulations in 2006. 

Q2: Why was the Substantial Compliance System revised?  

22 CFR 96.27(d) establishes the requirement for a method to determine compliance with the accreditation standards.  In addition to defining the parameters of this method, the regulation requires the Secretary of State to “ensure that the value assigned to each standard reflects the relative important of that standard to compliance with the Convention, the IAA [Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000], and the UAA [Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012].” 

More than ten years after the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States, and almost five years since the effective date of the UAA, ASPs’ understanding of the accreditation standards is more robust and well-documented than it was when the original SCS was published.  The revised SCS addresses concerns that the original “foundational” weighting of some standards no longer adequately reflected “the relative importance of that standard to compliance with the Convention, the IAA, and the UAA.” 

Q3: Which weightings of standards were revised?  

The SCS identifies 144 separate accreditation standards.  The revised SCS changed the weighting of 46 of those standards as shown. 













Ten foundational, 76 critical, and 12 mandatory standards remain unchanged

Q4: Were there revisions to the rating indicators?

Yes.  The definitions for the rating indicators of “full compliance,” “substantial compliance,” “partial compliance,” and “non-compliance” were simplified to assist the AE in applying the indicators. The most significant change revised the lengthy definition of “non-compliance” to state simply that failure to achieve the required rating for any particular standard will result in a finding of non-compliance.  See below regarding changes to determining substantial compliance with all standards.

Q5: Did the original SCS “formula” for determining overall substantial compliance overall  change?

Yes. The method for evaluating substantial compliance with the accreditation regulations overall was revised in light of the reduction in the number of foundational standards.  Substantial compliance with the accreditation regulations overall will result when compliance with each standard’s applicable weighting is achieved. 

Last Updated: December 7, 2022