An accredited agency is an adoption service provider who has been accredited by either the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the Colorado Department of Human Services (CO) to provide adoption services in the United States for cases subject to the regulations set forth by the Hague Adoption Convention. An accredited agency does not include a temporarily accredited agency. There are more than 200 accredited adoption service providers in the U.S.
An accredited body is an adoption agency which has been through a process of accreditation including meeting criteria for accreditation imposed by the accrediting country, and can perform certain functions of the Convention in the place of, or in conjunction with, the U.S. Central Authority.
The Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CO) are the two organizations that have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of State to accredit adoption service providers in the United States for cases subject to the Hague Adoption Convention.
Legally speaking, adoption is the judicial and administrative act that establishes a permanent legal parent-child relationship between a minor and an adult who is not already the minor’s legal parent and terminates the legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive child and any former parents. Making the decision to adopt is one of the most important choices that you will make in your lifetime. This decision will not only forever change your life, but also the life of a child.
There are several key legal entities involved in the intercountry adoption process. State courts play dual roles-also as an adoption court-holding legal jurisdiction over the adoption or the grant of custody for the purpose of adoption.
In an adoption case, an adoption record is considered to be any information, supporting documents, or items related to a specific Convention adoption of a child including, but not limited to, photographs, videos, correspondence, personal effects, medical and social information, and any other information about the child. These records are received or maintained by an agency, person, or public domestic authority. We all recognize the importance of keeping accurate and up-to-date records.
There are six major services provided by adoption service providers: (1) Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption; (2) Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption; (3) Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study; (4) Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child; (5) Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or (6) When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.
An agency is a private, non-profit organization licensed to provide adoption services in at least one State. For-profit entities and individuals that provide adoption services are considered “persons.” Not every adoption service provider is considered an agency.
An Apostille is a simplified form that contains standardized numbered fields of common, yet essential information, which allows the data to be understood by all adoption officials regardless of the language spoken in Hague Adoption cases. A completed Apostille must be attached to the documents needed for Hague cases; it provides a certification of certain public and notarized documents. For more information, view The ABCs of Apostilles.
Approved Home Study
An approved home study is a comprehensive review of the home environment of the child’s prospective adoptive parents that has been: (1) Completed by an accredited adoption service provider; (2) Approved by an accredited adoption service provider. One of the most critical elements of the intercountry adoption process is the approved home study.
An adoption agency is not the only type of adoption service provider available to prospective adoptive parents. An approved person such as a lawyer or retired judge, is an individual that has been approved by an accrediting entity to provide adoption services in the United States for cases subject to the Hague Adoption Convention.
Best Interests of the Child
This pretty much means what it sounds like. The “best interests of the child” is a lawful determination by the law of the State with jurisdiction to decide whether a particular adoption or adoption-related action is in a child’s best interests.
In compliance with the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security jointly established the Case Registry, an adoption records system.
The U.S. Department of State has been designated as the United States Central Authority for the Hague Adoption Convention. As the U.S. Central Authority, the Department of State facilitates, oversees, and regulates Hague Adoption Convention cases in the U.S.
Central Authority Function
Knowing the U.S. Department of State is the Central Authority for the United States, Central Authority function is any duty required under the Convention to be carried out, directly or indirectly, by a Central Authority.
Just as the U.S. court system has legal jurisdiction here in the States, a competent authority is a court or governmental authority of a foreign country that has jurisdiction and authority to make decisions in matters of child welfare, including adoption in its own country.
As a source of accountability, the U.S. Secretary of State created the Complaint Registry as a tool to receive, distribute, and monitor complaints relevant to the accreditation or approval status of adoption service providers.
Whenever the “Convention” is mentioned on this website, we are referring to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption signed at The Hague, Netherlands on May 29, 1993. The Hague Adoption Convention is the important treaty that governs adoptions among the United States and nearly 75 other countries.
A Convention adoption occurs whenever a child who is a resident of a Convention country is adopted by a U.S. citizen. Another instance of a Convention adoption occurs when a child that is a U.S. resident, is adopted by an individual or individuals residing in a Convention country, when, in connection with the adoption, the child has moved or will move between the United States and the Convention country.
A Convention Country is one of 75 nations that has ratified, entered into force, and are party to (members of) the Hague Adoption Convention along with the United States.
Country of Origin
The country of origin is considered to be the country in which a child is a legal resident and will be emigrating from in conjunction with an adoption case.
DHS – Department of Homeland Security
DHS is the acronym for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. agency responsible for facilitating immigration cases, including those related to intercountry adoption.
A disruption is very much like it sounds. It occurs when there is an interruption of the intercountry adoption process during the post-placement period, but before the adoption is completely finalized.
Dissolution is the termination of the adoptive parents’ parental rights, after the adoption has occurred.
Another key player in the intercountry adoption process is the social worker. Social work professionals or organizations that perform home studies on prospective adoptive parents are called exempted providers. Exempted providers can also conduct child background studies in the United States in connection with a Convention adoption, but that is not currently providing and has not previously provided any other adoption service in the case. Exempted providers are not required to be accredited, approved, or supervised by an accredited agency or approved person, but the studies they perform must subsequently be approved.
Foreign Authorized Entity
Outside the U.S., a foreign authorized entity can be a foreign Central Authority or an accredited body or entity that has been authorized by that particular country to perform Central Authority functions in a Hague Adoption Convention case.
Hague Adoption Certificate
When a child emigrates from the United States (outgoing adoption case) to another Convention country, the U.S. Secretary of State issues a Hague Custody Declaration and a Hague Adoption Certificate. The Hague Adoption Certificate officially states that the child has been adopted in the United States, in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.
Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption
The Hague Adoption Convention is the landmark treaty on intercountry adoption that governs adoptions between the United States and nearly 75 other nations.
Hague Custody Declaration
When a child emigrates from the United States (outgoing adoption case) to another Convention country, the U.S. Secretary of State issues a Hague Adoption Certificate and a Hague Custody Declaration. A Hague Custody Declaration asserts that custody of a child for purposes of adoption has been granted in the United States in accordance with the Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.
IAA – Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000
IAA is the acronym for the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, the Public Law that provides for the implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention.
Abuses in the adoption process occur every day, and the Hague Adoption Convention was established to help prevent such abuses. An illegal adoption is an adoption resulting from abuses such as: abduction, the sale of, traffic in, and other illegal or illicit activities against children.
Adoption cases where the prospective adoptive parents are approved as eligible and suited to adopt by their Central Authority or accredited body and subsequently travel independently to a foreign country to find a child to adopt, is considered an independent adoption. Independent adoptions take place without the assistance of a Central Authority or accredited body in their State of origin.
Having legal custody means that an individual has responsibility for a child under the order of a court of law, a public domestic authority, competent authority, public foreign authority, or by operation of law.
Legal services are interpreted as any assistance that relates to legal advice, information, and to the drafting of legal instruments, such as: drawing up contracts; powers of attorney; and providing advice and counsel to accredited agencies, temporarily accredited agencies, approved persons, and/or prospective adoptive parent(s) on how to comply with the Hague Adoption Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.
A child may be considered an orphan for any of several reasons, including the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents; if a surviving parent or unwed mother is unable to properly care for the child, among other reasons as specified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The term “orphan” is also used in non-Hague adoption cases.
Orphan-First/Orphan First Country
The orphan-first determination was created in an effort to help prevent prospective adoptive parents from traveling overseas to complete a non-Hague adoption, only to find out they would have to return to the U.S. without the child because the Form I-604 investigation revealed the child was not technically considered to be an orphan. In an orphan-first country, a child’s orphan status is determined prior to the final adjudication of the Form I-600. Currently, Vietnam is the only orphan-first country.
The Permanent Bureau is another name for the general secretariat of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, based in The Hague, Netherlands. The Permanent Bureau may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In regards to the Hague Adoption Convention a “person” is an individual or a private, for-profit entity (including a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company) providing adoption services. It does not include public domestic authorities or public foreign authorities.
Post-adoption is the period of time after an adoption in a Convention country and is followed by a re-adoption in the United States.
After a child has been adopted, some countries of origin have post-adoption reporting requirements. Adoption service providers must comply with the state laws of the jurisdiction where you live regarding the number of post-adoption home visits that are required as well. The adoption service provider includes a requirement for such reports in the adoption services contract.
Post-placement is the period of time before an adoption, but after a grant of legal custody, or guardianship of the child to the prospective adoptive parents, or to a custodian for the purpose of escorting the child to the identified prospective adoptive parents.
The primary provider is any accredited agency, temporarily accredited agency, or approved person that is identified as responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services (mentioned earlier) are provided.
A private adoption occurs when arrangements for adoption have been made directly between a biological parent in one Contracting State and prospective adopters in another Contracting State.
Public Domestic Authority
A Public Domestic Authority is an official entity operated by a State, local, or tribal government within the United States.
Public Foreign Authority
Much like a Public Domestic Authority, a Public Foreign Authority is an official entity operated by a national or sub-national government of a Convention country.
Whenever we mention the Secretary, we are referring to the U.S. Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, or any other U.S. Department of State official exercising the Secretary of State’s authority under the Hague Adoption Convention and/or the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.
A simple adoption is an adoption in which the parent-child relationship which existed before the adoption is not terminated, but a new legal parent-child relationship between the child and his or her adoptive parents is established, and those adoptive parents have parental responsibility for the child.
In the United States, a “State” is not only considered to be the fifty States and the District of Columbia, but also includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A supervised provider is any agency, person, or other non-governmental entity, including any foreign entity, that is providing one or more adoption services in a Convention case under the supervision and responsibility of an accredited agency, temporarily accredited agency, or approved person that is acting as the primary provider in the case.
Temporarily Accredited Agency
A Temporarily Accredited Agency is an agency that has been accredited on a temporary basis by an accrediting entity to provide adoption services in the United States in cases subject to the Convention.
U.S. Authorized Entity
An U.S. Authorized Entity is an agency or person that is accredited or temporarily accredited or approved by an accrediting entity, or a supervised provider acting under the supervision and responsibility of an accredited agency or temporarily accredited agency or approved person.
A Visa is an official authorization permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region. When an orphan enters the United States with an immigrant visa, he/she is considered to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States, not a U.S. citizen.
For more information about this list, go to: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/adopt_ref/adoption-glossary.html