Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption News and Notices > Adoption Notice: Request for Statements of Interest for Accrediting Entities
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Overseas Citizen Services
Request for Statements of Interest
For Parties Interested in Seeking Department Designation as Accrediting Entities, to Accredit and Approve Adoption Service Providers in Intercountry Adoption
I. SUMMARY OF REQUEST FOR STATEMENTS OF INTEREST (RSI)
The Department of State (the Department) announces through this Request for Statements of Interest (RSI) an opportunity to become a designated accrediting entity (AE) to perform accreditation/approval, monitoring and oversight, and/or related duties for adoption service providers in intercountry adoption. This opportunity is 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 authorities with such expertise and responsibility for licensing adoption agencies.
B. Deadline and Process for Filing of Statements of Interest
Responses to this RSI, issued on March 31, 2017, are due by 5:00 p.m. EST on June 1, 2017, in electronic form only. Statements of Interest will be considered in the order in which they are received. An extension of time to submit a Statement of Interest may be considered upon request to the Department.
Completed Statements of Interest should be sent by email to Adoption@state.gov. Due to security restrictions, external media devices cannot be accepted. PDF documents are preferred for text-intensive documents. Excel spreadsheets are preferred for data-intensive documents. For further information on the content of this RSI, contact Adoption@state.gov.
C. Authorities Related to Selection of Accrediting Entities
Selection of AEs is carried out in conformance with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention), the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA), the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA), and applicable regulations in 22 CFR Part 96. Each AE will enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department to perform duties as required by the IAA in cases subject to the Convention, and as required by the UAA in non-Convention orphan cases defined in section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Department may designate more than one AE, may set geographic or other jurisdictional limitations for each AE, and may authorize an AE to perform some or all of the duties listed in 22 C.F.R. § 96.7(a).
D. Eligibility Requirements
Under the IAA and 22 CFR 96.5, to qualify to be designated as an AE, an entity must be either:
If designated as an AE, a State or local government public entity may only accredit or approve agencies or persons located in the State where it is located.
Hereinafter, nonprofit organizations and U.S. State or local government public entities responsible for licensing agencies are referred to collectively as “applicants” seeking designation as an AE.
The Department will only select for designation as an AE an applicant that meets the performance criteria set forth in 22 CFR 96.6.
E. Process for Designating Accrediting Entities
Steps in the AE selection process include:
1) Nonprofit organizations and State licensing authorities submit Statements of Interest by the submission deadline.
2) The Department makes an initial review of the Statements of Interest and determines based on established criteria which applicants may continue with the consideration process, informing applicants whether selected to continue or not.
3) The Department may, at its discretion, conduct on-site visits of applicant organizations.
4) The Department reviews with the applicant the terms of a proposed MOA.
5) On the basis of the Statements of Interest, any on-site visit conducted, any other information available to it concerning the applicants, and on discussions related to a proposed MOA, the Department makes a final selection of applicants with which it will sign an MOA, if any, and informs the parties of its decision.
6) The Department and the applicants, if any are selected, sign the MOAs, which formally designate applicants to be AEs and identify the jurisdiction of each AE.
7) The signed MOAs, if any, are published in the Federal Register.
The initial Memorandum of Agreement for accreditation and approval services will be for a period not to exceed five years.
F. The Department is Under No Obligation to Designate Particular Organizations as AEs
The Department is under no obligation to designate any particular applicant as an AE or to enter into a MOA with any respondent to this RSI. An AE is not authorized to act as a designated AE or represent to others that it is a designated AE until the Department and the AE have signed an MOA.
II. GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE ROLE AND AUTHORITY OF ACCREDITING ENTITIES
A. Introduction and Statutory Framework
The IAA designates the Department of State as the Central Authority for the United States. Some duties are explicitly assigned to other entities, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The IAA confers on the Department the authority and responsibility for establishing and overseeing the system for accreditation/approval and monitoring and oversight of accredited agencies and approved persons (hereinafter referred to as adoption service providers (ASP)) to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases. Rather than mandating the Department to directly accredit/approve ASPs, the IAA directs the Department to select and designate one or more AEs to carry out those functions. Under the IAA, agencies and persons that provide certain adoption services in Convention cases (cases pursuant to INA section 101(b)(1)(G)) must be accredited or approved. The UAA went into effect in the United States on July 14, 2014, and extended the requirement for accreditation or approval of ASPs to orphan cases (cases pursuant to INA section 101(b)(1)(F)) in non-Convention countries.
AE applicants should be familiar with the following statutes and regulations laying out the Department’s and AEs’ legal authority and regulatory requirements:
The 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Senate Treaty Doc. 105-51, 105th Cong., 2d Sess.);
The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-279; 114 Stat. 825; 42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.);
The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-276); and
The accreditation regulations published at 22 CFR Part 96.
The authorities and responsibilities of designated AEs are discussed at 22 CFR 96.7.
B. Duties Performed by Designated Accrediting Entities
The IAA and UAA require that agencies and persons that wish to provide adoption services (as defined in the accreditation regulations) in intercountry adoption cases must either be accredited, approved, or be operating under the supervision and responsibility of a U.S. accredited ASP, unless the agency or person falls under one of the exceptions to these requirements as set forth in the IAA. AEs will, pursuant to their MOAs with the Department, assume responsibility for determining whether agencies and persons are eligible for accreditation/approval in accordance with procedures and standards set forth in the implementing regulations. Any AE must use the Department’s standards in subpart F of the accreditation regulations and may not impose any different or additional accreditation/approval standards.
In addition, as set forth in 22 CFR 96.7, the Department authorizes designated AEs to perform monitoring and oversight of accredited/approved ASPs’ compliance with applicable standards in Subpart F, review of and response to complaints about accredited/ approved ASPs (including their use of supervised providers), the taking of adverse action, determination of eligibility for renewal, and/or data collection and reporting.
The AE may be responsible for any other responsibilities listed in 22 CFR 96.7 and/or other responsibilities set forth in the MOA.
C. Costs and Fees
Accreditation/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 U.S. Government.
AEs may recover their costs through the assessment and collection of fees for accreditation/ approval and monitoring/oversight. An AE’s fee schedule shall be subject to the approval of the Department. The fees that the AE expects to collect should be sufficient to cover costs associated with the full range of AE responsibilities and shall not exceed the full costs of accreditation/approval and monitoring/oversight, including but not limited to, costs for completing the accreditation/approval process, complaint review, routine oversight and enforcement, and other data collection and reporting activities.
III. PREPARATION OF THE STATEMENT OF INTEREST
Applicants should respond to the following prompts as fully as possible to discuss proposals for executing the AE authorities and responsibilities, as discussed in 22 CFR 96.7. Applicants may attach sample materials as exhibits to accompany any Statement of Interest.
(A) Evaluating Agencies or Persons for Accreditation or Approval (22 CFR 96.7(a)(1-2); 22 CFR 96, Subpart E; and 22 CFR 96, Subparts F and G)
22 CFR, Part 96, Subpart F discusses the standards for ASP accreditation/approval. An AE may not impose any additional standards. Questions in this section pertain to the measures and procedures you propose to use in the evaluation of an applicant seeking accreditation/approval. The Substantial Compliance System is the current scoring and weighting system for evaluating whether an ASP is in substantial compliance with applicable accreditation standards and whether it may or may not be accredited/ approved. An AE must use site visits as part of the process of evaluating an ASP’s substantial compliance.
Question 1: Mandatory procedures for evaluating new applicants for accreditation/approval can be found at 22 CFR, Part 96, Subpart E. Describe your proposed methods for evaluating an accreditation/approval applicant that has not been previously accredited/approved for intercountry adoption. Specifically, explain what questions you would ask and what documents you would review for the evaluation.
Question 2: Describe the on-site evaluation procedures that you would use. Include information on recruiting and training evaluators, whether or not you would rely on volunteers, and, if so, describe the qualifications you would require and how you would guard against potential conflicts of interest.
Question 3: Describe your proposed methods of assessing and scoring compliance with the existing Substantial Compliance System. If you currently assess and score compliance with accreditation criteria or licensing standards, provide relevant documentation of those procedures.
Question 4: Provide an analysis of or feedback about, and any recommended revisions to, the existing Substantial Compliance System.
(B) Monitoring Compliance with Applicable Requirements/Evaluating Renewal Requests (22 CFR 96.7(a)(3), 22 CFR 96, Subpart E, and Subparts H -K)
AEs are required to monitor the continued compliance of ASPs with the accreditation and approval standards. The normal period of accreditation/approval is four years, after which the ASP must apply for renewal of its accreditation/approval.
Question 5: In reviewing Subpart F, what is your understanding of the key activities that need monitoring and oversight in order to protect children and families? Describe how you propose to undertake these ongoing monitoring and oversight tasks for ASPs that are accredited/approved.
How would you determine if a site visit is warranted as part of the monitoring and oversight process, and discuss your position on announced versus unannounced visits?
Question 6: Describe your methods and process for renewing an ASP’s accreditation/approval, consistent with Subpart H, specifically addressing the relationship between monitoring/oversight and renewal of accreditation/approval.
Question 7: Specifically address how you would monitor and oversee compliance with the standards found at:
(C) Reviewing Complaints Against Agencies and Persons (22 CFR 96.7(a)(4), 22 CFR 96.41, and 22 CFR 96, Subpart J)
AEs will be required to process and review complaints submitted to the Hague Complaint Registry, as well as complaints referred from other sources, including the Department. Internal complaint procedures shall be subject to approval by the Department.
Question 8: Describe how you propose to review and respond to complaints about an accredited/approved ASP. Specifically, address how you will ensure the timely processing of complaints submitted to the Hague Complaint Registry; what types of complaints merit prioritized or expedited handling; how you will handle expedited processing; whether you would allow for anonymous or identity-protected complaints and what those procedures would be; and what process for objection or response, if any, you propose to make available to the ASP against whom the complaint has been filed.
(D) Enforcing Substantial Compliance with Accreditation and Approval Standards/Taking Adverse Actions (22 CFR 96.7(a)(5) and (6) and 22 CFR 96, Subpart K)
An AE must impose adverse actions against an accredited/approved ASP when it determines there was failure to be in substantial compliance with the standards in 22 CFR Part 96, subpart F and the ASP may not maintain accreditation/approval. The types of adverse actions that an AE can take against ASPs are described in 22 CFR Part 96, subpart K. Such actions may include suspending, cancelling, or refusing to renew accreditation/approval; requiring specific corrective action; or imposing other sanctions, as discussed in 22 CFR 96.75. ASPs may challenge adverse actions, and pursuant to the IAA, AEs must defend themselves against suits brought for judicial review in Federal court.
Question 9: Describe your proposed methods for handling adverse actions. Propose specific corrective actions and other sanctions that may be taken or imposed in response to an ASP’s failure to substantially comply with accreditation/approval standards.
Question 10: Describe the process that you propose to use to determine if an ASP’s accreditation/approval should be suspended or canceled. Indicate what materials you would review as part of the process. Under what situations would suspension be appropriate?
When would it be appropriate to cancel accreditation rather than continue to permit remedying deficiencies?
Question 11: Under 22 CFR 96.33(e), accredited/approved ASPs must operate on a sound financial basis and maintain two months’ worth of cash reserves, assets, or other financial resources to meet its operating expenses. Describe your views on the appropriate mechanisms ASPs should have in place in order to protect clients in the event the ASP closes or can no longer provide adoption services for any reason. If an ASP is found to be out of compliance with this regulatory requirement, what adverse actions would you take?
Question 12: In the event that an ASP’s accreditation/approval is suspended, cancelled, withdrawn, or not renewed, or if the provider is debarred or otherwise ceases to operate, the AE may be required to assist and oversee the ASP in transferring cases and related records, pursuant to 22 CFR 96.7(a)(8) and 22 CFR 96.77). Describe how you will manage this situation when the ASP has active intercountry adoption cases. Specifically, discuss how you believe pending cases should be handled and transferred and how the ASP’s records on completed and pending cases will be preserved and maintained. Describe what you would consider to be an effective case transfer plan and what measures should be in place to protect ASP clients.
(E) Collecting, Maintaining, and Reporting Data (22 CFR 96.7(a)(7))
22 CFR 96, Subpart M lists the data and additional information that AEs must report to the Department for inclusion in an annual report to Congress, as required by the IAA, and discusses records retention requirements.
Question 13: Describe how you will collect and report data to the Department, specifically addressing the following:
Question 14: Describe your proposed procedures for maintaining records on the ASPs that you accredit/approve and discuss your procedures for safeguarding sensitive or privacy-protected information.
Question 15: Discuss how you would ensure accredited/approved APSs maintain required records and comply with 22 CFR 96.34(d) on compensation.
(F) Communicating with the Department of State
AEs must communicate information to the Department about accredited/approved ASPs in accordance with 22 CFR Part 96, Subpart M. Such communication will include regularly updating the lists of accredited/approved ASPs, reporting on the results of complaint reviews, reporting on adverse actions taken against ASPs, recommending debarment of ASPs, providing information about case transfer plans, notifying the Department of cases involving disruption/dissolution and harm to a child, providing updates on the range of fees charged for services, and providing the information required for the IAA's reporting requirements.
Question 16: Describe your recommendation for establishing and maintaining communication of required information to the Department on a regular basis, as well as for facilitating effective communication with the Department regarding concerns, observations, performance, and AE or ASP needs.
Additional Services: In addition to the mandatory services discussed above, the Department may include additional required services in an MOA with an AE.
(G) Guidance for Accreditation/Approval Applicants
Question 17: Describe what kind of guidance, if any, beyond the application form and its instructions, you would anticipate offering potential accreditation/approval applicants to assist them in completing meaningful and useful applications and self-evaluations. Discuss types of training and assistance, if any, your organization would be willing to offer and provide for applicants and whether separate fees would be charged for such training services.
(H) Hiring and Training for Staff and Evaluators
Question 18: Describe your ability to recruit and train sufficient numbers of qualified individuals to undertake the functions described in this RSI. Describe the types of training you would develop and provide for staff and evaluators to prepare them for the processing of applications; evaluating first-time and renewal applicant ASPs; conducting site visits; and executing monitoring and oversight responsibilities.
(I) Standardized Procedures and Coordination
Question 19: Describe how you will encourage coordination across ASPs on matters of mutual interest or concern; ensure that all applications and on-site reviews are subject to uniform procedures for all ASPs; apply accreditation/approval standards consistently; and conduct monitoring and oversight functions equitably across ASP.
Question 20: Discuss how you recommend coordinating with the Department and other AEs on the format and requirements for application forms and other decision-making materials, policies, and procedures, as well as staff training materials, to ensure consistency among AEs, if multiple are designated. If multiple AEs are designated, what are your recommendations for how the Department should assign jurisdictions to each?
(J) Public Information about Complaints and General Performance (22 CFR 96, Subpart M)
Question 21: Discuss your proposal for how you will manage public inquiries regarding the performance of accredited/approved ASPs? In particular, how will you make information about accreditation/approval status and adverse actions available to the public?
Budget and Proposed Fee Schedule
The Department provides no funds to AEs for the process of accrediting/approving and monitoring/overseeing ASPs. The AEs may recoup the costs of providing the accreditation/approval services by charging fees, as discussed in 22 CFR 96.8. When considering budgets and fee schedules, AEs may want to consider the following issues: acquiring and training staff and evaluators; preparing policies, internal procedures, and application forms; processing applications (including performing site visits); providing counseling and training to applicants; monitoring compliance after accreditation or approval and until renewal; reviewing and handling complaints (which may include site visits); monitoring and overseeing compliance with accreditation/approval standards; imposing corrective and/or adverse action; travel and maintenance costs for standards evaluators; handling publicity, public relations, and public inquiries; litigation; assembling, collecting, and submitting required data; overseeing the appropriate transfer of pending cases and records of ASPs whose services under the Convention have been terminated through adverse action, closure, or other action.
An AE’s fee schedule must be approved by the Department and may not exceed the aggregate costs for providing accreditation/approval services and conducting monitoring and oversight responsibilities for a projected number of applicants. The Department understands that in the absence of more detailed information about the actual number of applicants, it may be difficult to project a fee schedule; therefore, the fee schedule will be discussed and prepared concurrently during the discussions between the Department and any applicant on the terms of the MOA. An AE may modify the schedule of fees, if justified, subject to the Department’s approval.
The projected budget of all applicants should identify all costs involved in fulfilling the tasks set out in the accreditation regulations outlined in this RSI. The costs should include the development costs that will be incurred prior to receipt of fees from applicants. The budget should reflect planning for these tasks.
AE applicants should consider how the transfer of ASPs from one AE to another would potentially impact the budget and fee schedule.
Question 22: Please project a budget for handling the tasks outlined in this RSI. For reference, please include a current budget for your organization’s accreditation or licensing program, if applicable. If you are a new entity, please provide a business plan that includes a projected budget and a detailed plan for financing startup operations.
Question 23: Based on this projected budget, please propose an estimated fee schedule for accreditation/approval services (including renewal of accreditation/approval services) and separately, for monitoring and oversight. The allowable fees are listed in subpart B of the accreditation regulations.
Question 24: How you would take the differing circumstances, such as geographic location, agency size, number of country programs and/or cases handled, revenue from adoption services provided, and budget size of applicants into account when assessing fees?
Question 25: How you would fund tasks associated with monitoring and oversight and with conducting research, reviews, and site visits associated with complaints?
Question 26: What fiscal management practices do you propose to have in place for the prudent use and proper disbursement and adequate accounting of all funds collected and disbursed?
Organizational Capacity to Perform Accrediting Entity Functions and Responsibilities
(K) History and Expertise in Operating an Accreditation System
Question 27: Discuss your experience and past performance that demonstrates your capacity to assume the tasks described in this RSI. Highlight a brief history of your organization, the development of your accreditation and/or licensing practice, and your experience in developing and administering standards for child welfare services. If applicable, briefly describe the range of other services provided by your organization. Describe your experience with intercountry adoption programs, if any. If you are a newly formed entity, describe the expertise, experience, and strengths of your organizational team.
Question 28: Provide the following information, if known, for the previous five-year period:
(L) Organizational Structure and Resources
Your organizational structure, human resources practices, financial resources, and systems of control must be adequate to undertake the tasks described in this RSI. Please provide information on the following:
Question 29: Describe your organizational structure and division of responsibilities. Provide a general description of the capacities and strengths of the organization’s personnel to carry out the accreditation/approval and monitoring/oversight functions.
Question 30: Describe your plans concerning liability insurance for AE related activities.
(M) Qualifications of Personnel
Question 31: Discuss the qualifications of the existing personnel and/or any personnel that may be recruited and hired and who would be responsible for the tasks described in this RSI.
(N) Past Practices
Question 32: Provide the following information for the previous ten-year period, unless otherwise stated:
O. Safeguards Against Conflicts of Interest or Appearance of Conflicts of Interest
Other Supporting Documents
Question 34: Provide audited financial statements from a Certified Public Accounting firm, including the management letter, for the most recent accounting period. If you are a State entity, please provide equivalent information for the most recent financial year. If you are a newly formed entity, please provide a letter from the accounting firm engaged to advise you with regard to financial management.
(Q) Additional Supporting Documents
Question 35: Include with your submission the following documents and supporting information:
(R) Compliance with Applicable Federal Laws
Question 36: Provide written assurances of your capacity and willingness to comply with all applicable Federal and State laws including, but not necessarily limited to, Federal and State anti-discrimination and EEO laws, State worker’s compensation laws, Federal and State tax laws and procedures and related requirements, and any other obligations applicable to entities performing work for the Department under a MOA.