Message from the Assistant Secretary – Intercountry Adoption

Last Updated: March 22, 2018

Dear Intercountry Adoption Community,

The Department of State (Department) is committed to maintaining intercountry adoption as an option around the world for children who cannot find permanent families in their countries of birth. There are many components to that effort, ranging from engaging bilaterally with other nations on intercountry adoption, to coordinating with other federal and state authorities, to providing information to prospective adoptive parents and adoption professionals. Our cooperation and collaboration with the adoption community to promote ethical and transparent adoptions is also critically important, and I thank you for your commitment and advocacy on behalf of children and families. This approach allows children in need to continue to find permanent, caring homes with U.S. families. That is a goal I support personally and to which my entire team at the Bureau of Consular Affairs is committed.

One of the Department’s most important responsibilities in support of this goal is ensuring that the Department’s designated accrediting entities (AE) appropriately and adequately monitor and oversee adoption service providers (ASPs) in accordance with the law. As you are aware, the Department of State is currently transitioning responsibilities for accreditation and monitoring and oversight of ASPs from the Council on Accreditation (COA) to the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ASPs who have worked with the Department and IAAME to effect this change in an orderly way. ASPs that have sought to share accurate information with families and reassure them during this time of transition have been instrumental in this effort. Effecting this transition in an orderly fashion is vital to ensuring that intercountry adoptions continue to be processed without interruption.  

The designation of an AE and supervision of that entity’s careful monitoring of accredited agencies and approved persons are regulatory responsibilities. The Office of Children’s Issues has appropriately sought proper enforcement of the regulatory standards that govern intercountry adoption, including those establishing the AE role and responsibilities. These regulations have been in place since 2008 and are not new. Monitoring and oversight activities are designed to protect children and families through the intercountry adoption process. Additionally, Department policy is created through a collaborative process, and is not driven by any one individual. Department leadership fully supports the efforts of the Office of Children’s Issues to diligently oversee the work of the AEs as they provide effective oversight of ASPs and their compliance with accreditation standards.

Were efforts to disrupt the AE transition effective, the Department would be left with no AE, and accreditation and approval of ASPs would cease until a new AE could be found, absent a change in the legislation governing intercountry adoptions. Such an outcome would almost certainly result in the interruption of intercountry adoption to the United States.

The Department’s efforts to maintain intercountry adoption as a viable option for children around the world in need of permanent homes are greatly undermined when foreign countries lose trust in our accreditation system, of which oversight and monitoring is an integral part. The Department will continue its efforts to ensure that the best interests of children and families, both birth and adoptive, are paramount and that they are protected.

As we move forward with the AE transition, I encourage all in the intercountry adoption community to support efforts to protect children and families and increase other countries’ confidence in our accreditation system, and I and my team look forward to continuing our close collaboration with you.


                                                                        Carl C. Risch