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4 Things to Know about the Universal Accreditation Act

 Have you heard about the Universal Accreditation Act, or wondered if it really changes anything?
The UAA is a federal law that became effective on July 14, 2014, and YES–it does change a lot of things for US citizens adopting internationally.  Even at this point (six months after the law came into effect), many families are still contacting us for help sorting out what steps to take to proceed in their adoption.  But to understand what it means, let’s first look at what it is.

The Past

First, a bit of history: The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions (through things like protecting the interests of children and birthparents, preventing corruption, etc).  The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008.  At that time, the Convention regulations applied only when a US family was adopting from a country that had also joined the Convention.  This was the (then “new”) I-800 immigration process, while adoptions from countries that had not joined the Convention proceeded under the former I-600 process.
Fast forward to July 14, 2014: The Universal Accreditation Act became effective in the US, which basically means that now ALL international adoptions by US citizens are subject to the Hague Convention regulations.  This change is significant for people adopting from countries that are not part of the Hague Convention, as the process and requirements for those adoptions have now changed in several important ways.

The Present

Our offices are still answering calls daily from families trying to figure out what the UAA means for their adoption that is already in process, for their plans to adopt a relative in another country, and more.  Most situations have unique circumstances, and there are still quite a few gray areas when it comes to how this legislation will play out.  We have been and continue to be glad to talk with families about their situations and share what we know and how we can potentially help.
Here are the most important things to know if you want to adopt from a non-Hague country (or from a Hague country for that matter, since the regulations for all intercountry adoptions are now the same):
1)      Your home study must be in compliance with Hague standards.
2)      You must find a Hague-accreditated agency in the US that works with the country you’d like to adopt from.  This agency is called a primary provider.   Verify their accreditation status on your own to be sure.
3)     If there is no primary provider for the country you want to adopt from, there are still some steps you can take to see if the adoption is possible.  Contact the Central Authority governing adoptions in that country (often a government entity), and find out what they require for a home study and the dossier. If we know their requirements, we can often serve as the primary provider working directly with the Central Authority.  We cannot work with any other entities abroad such as attorneys or orphanages.
4)      Were you in the process of adopting from a non-Hague country when the UAA came into effect?  Wondering if your case can be “grandfathered in” under the old regulations?  In order for a case to be grandfathered in, the I-600A must have been submitted prior to July 14, 2014.  If that requirement is not met, the case will be subject to Hague regulations.
Still have questions?  Give us a call, and we’ll be glad to help.
This post was written by Donna Payner, M.Ed.  She supervises our home study and post-adoption services, and she provides insight and direction to many families considering adoption.

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