Withdrawal of certain Department-filed Complaints related to Home Studies

The Office of Children’s Issues, Adoption Oversight Division (CI/AO) has received several inquiries from adoption service providers (ASPs) about complaints that the Department filed regarding the omission of information in the home study about a child the petitioner had already adopted but who was not yet living in the home because the immigration process has not been completed. Upon further review, the Department has withdrawn these complaints.

Why did the Department file the complaints?

Home studies are a key safeguard for both children and prospective adoptive parents. Last year, the Department observed that some home studies did not include information regarding the adopted child despite the fact that the adoption had been completed in the child’s country of origin prior to obtaining an accredited ASP and filing the appropriate immigration petitions with USCIS. The Department had concerns that these home studies failed to include this information and thus filed complaints with the accrediting entity for further investigation as to whether the omission of such information constituted a violation of the intercountry adoption regulations.

Complaints are not a finding of failure to maintain substantial compliance with accreditation standards. The complaint initiates a process for an Accrediting Entity to review and investigate potential concerns about ASP activities in a particular case. Complaints about an ASP’s conduct and potential compliance issues do not necessarily impact a child’s eligibility for a visa, and consular officers will not necessarily delay visa adjudication if the child’s eligibility to immigrate is not affected by the concerns identified in the complaint.

Why is the Department withdrawing the complaints?

The Department has consulted with USCIS, which provided the following clarification and guidance about its regulations regarding home studies for intercountry adoption. 

USCIS has jurisdiction over determining the suitability and eligibility of prospective adoptive parents who wish to adopt and immigrate a child to the United States through the intercountry adoption process. USCIS makes suitability determinations based on a review of the evidence in the record, including the home study. USCIS regulations do not specifically require that information on an adoption that has already occurred where the child is not yet living in the prospective adoptive parent’s home be included in the home study. However, USCIS regulations do not preclude a discussion of such adopted child in the home study which may be relevant to the suitability determination. The home study preparer should use their expertise to determine the extent to which an adopted child living abroad impacts the prospective adoptive parent’s suitability. Although USCIS generally gives significant weight to the home study, USCIS ultimately determines the prospective adoptive parent’s suitability and could request information about an adopted child living abroad if they believe the suitability is impacted.

To maintain consistency with USCIS’s position, the Department decided to withdraw complaints that were based on the omission of information regarding an already-adopted child in the home study.  

What happens next?

The Department does not intend to file complaints in the future based on the omission of information in the home study about a child the petitioner had already adopted but who was not yet living in the home. 

As indicated above, each complaint filed by the Department in this category initiated the complaint review process. As such, IAAME is in the process of reviewing the Department’s decision to withdraw previously-filed complaints and will communicate directly with affected ASPs regarding the effect of the withdrawal. Any questions regarding the specific complaints should be directed to IAAME.

Last Updated: November 19, 2020