Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption News and Notices > Adoption Notice: Clarifications Related to Soft Referrals
The Office of Children’s Issues, in response to adoption service provider (ASP) and adoption stakeholder questions regarding existing soft referral guidance disseminated on March 16, 2018 and May 2, 2018, provides the following clarifications related to soft referrals made to prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) who have not yet completed a home study.
This clarification, together with the March 16, 2018 “Guidance on Soft Referrals” and the May 2, 2018 “FAQ on Soft Referrals,” together constitute the Department’s interpretive guidance on the topic of soft referrals. The Department is aware that some ASPs have expressed concern about language in the February 13, 2018 FAQ, “IAAME’s Fee Schedule,” included in response to a specific ASP request, that stated, “a soft referral is not acceptable practice under the regulations and may lead to adverse action.” The February 13, 2018 FAQ is not part of the Department’s interpretive guidance on the topic of soft referrals, and should not be understood as describing a broader range of conduct than those addressed in the Department’s guidance.
The guidance applies to all countries and to referrals of any child who is eligible for intercountry adoption, despite the fact that some examples refer to children with special needs.
If permitted by state law and the child’s country of origin, an informal match of an eligible child (commonly referred to as a “soft referral”), can be made prior to the completion of a home study, so long as the child is not “held” for the matched family and thus prevented from being referred to another family that may be suitable and already have a completed home study. Thus, an ASP may identify an eligible adoptive child to a prospective adoptive family that has not yet completed its home study, but must do so in a manner that does not restrict the child from consideration by other families or by the authorities of the child’s country of origin.
For example, if permitted by a foreign country, and provided that doing so is in the best interest of an eligible child concerned, an ASP may:
An ASP who makes a soft referral to prospective adoptive parents who have not yet completed a home study, regardless of its reason for doing so, may not take any action to “hold” the child for the prospective adoptive parents, or to prevent or impede the foreign government authorities from considering other placements for the child. Similarly, an ASP who has received a child’s “file” from the foreign central or competent authority for recruitment or other purposes may not “reserve” the child for its own clients, whether or not it has made a soft referral to a particular client, if another ASP has a suitable family ready to proceed with a child’s intercountry adoption.
Accordingly, an ASP in either of these circumstances may not:
This guidance relates to the roles and responsibilities of ASPs in the use of soft referrals, and does not limit the discretion of a foreign central or competent authority to determine, to the extent permissible under its own law, that it is in the best interests of the child to “hold” the child for adoption by a prospective adoptive parent who has not yet completed a home study, even when another prospective adoptive parent with a completed home study is waiting for a referral. However, an ASP may not take any action that would prevent, impede or dissuade the foreign central or competent authority from making a different placement.
Thus, an ASP:
This guidance does not prohibit ASPs from working with any foreign central or competent authorities, or from participating in any particular program, such as the China Special Focus Program, operated by the central or competent authorities of a foreign country. However, all ASPs must ensure that their conduct is consistent with the regulations, including this guidance, and operating within a particular program is not, by itself, a guarantee that an ASP’s conduct is consistent with this guidance.