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Adoption Notice: Council on Accreditation Statement of October 6, 2017

October 14, 2017

This Adoption Notice provides information regarding an October 6, 2017 announcement by the Council on Accreditation (COA) to accredited agencies and approved persons.

On October 6 2017, the Council on Accreditation (COA) informed the Department that it would be unable to continue to perform its duties as an accrediting entity (AE) due to “unforeseen circumstances.”  Under the terms of COA’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department, both parties will consult and make an effort to find a solution that will enable COA to continue to perform its duties until the end of the Agreement period, if possible.  If no solution can be reached, the agreement may be terminated on a mutually agreed date or not less than 14 months from the date the Department received written notice from COA.

Accrediting entities perform their duties pursuant to responsibilities set forth in 22 CFR 96.6 and 96.7.  These responsibilities, among other things, require an AE to monitor the performance of agencies it has accredited and persons it has approved (including their use of any supervised providers) to ensure their continued compliance with the Hague Adoption Convention, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA), the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA), and the regulations implementing the IAA and UAA; and to investigate and respond to complaints about adoption service providers (ASPs) (including their use of supervised providers).

In accordance with the IAA, the Department conducts an annual performance review of each AE to ensure it is in compliance with the IAA, the UAA, and implementing regulations.  Prior annual performance reviews made recommendations about COA’s implementation of certain policies and procedures in support of accreditation and approval decisions, as well as the ongoing monitoring and oversight of adoption service providers, including their supervision of foreign providers.  The discovery, during the debarment process of an adoption service provider in 2016, of issues that had existed prior to the provider’s most recent re-accreditation but did not prevent its re-accreditation, raised additional concerns with COA’s performance.  As a result of these and other concerns, the Department undertook a more extensive annual review of COA’s operations in the spring of 2017. 

On August 8, 2017, the Department provided its annual performance review to COA in which it identified numerous concerns and deficiencies in the implementation of many of its policies and procedures.  The Department required COA to undertake specific corrective measures to address these concerns and deficiencies.  For example, the Department instructed COA to act within 30 days to ensure adoption service providers comply with regulations regarding foreign-supervised providers.

To demonstrate their compliance with accreditation standards, adoption service providers have always been required to share information on foreign providers with the accrediting entities.  Adoption service providers should have done so through their self-study submission, during site visits, and during the accreditation cycle through mandatory self-reports.

Accredited agencies and approved persons must remain in substantial compliance with the accreditation standards.  The requirement to ensure that foreign providers providing adoption services are supervised in accordance with 22 CFR 96.46 is not new.

The Department relies on strong and effective accrediting entities to support the viability of intercountry adoption for children in need of permanent families.  Central to this effort is ensuring that adoption service providers meet ethical standards of practice that provide safeguards for children, birth families, and adoptive families.  

Some in the adoption community have expressed concern that in the event the MOA between the Department and COA terminates, intercountry adoption will be negatively impacted.  However, should COA cease to act as an accrediting entity, responsibility for all accredited agencies or approved persons under COA’s oversight will transfer to another accrediting entity.