The Joint Council on International Children's Services has worked tirelessly to ensure that the spirit of the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) of 2000 is honored by the government bodies responsible for implementing it. A particular problem recently has been USCIS's decision to allow only one renewal of the I-600A pre-approval for families waiting to adopt from China and Haiti. Soon, families who have already renewed once may be required to start their homestudy and other adoption paperwork over again. This requirement will be disruptive and expensive, and as JCICS articulates below, the requirement would be a violation of the intent of the IAA.
Caroline Hope is a member of JCICS, and we, too, urge the USCIS to solve this problem without putting an onerous burden on adoptive families.
Joint Council Position on I-600A Renewals
As previously noted, Joint Council and others in our field have great concern regarding the one-time renewal of I-600A approvals and the impact on Potential Adoptive Parents (PAPs). Following is Joint Council’s assessment and statement on this very important issue facing over 10,000 U.S. families.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has again confirmed that PAPs with an approved I-600A in a Hague country may only file for a renewal one-time. Thereafter, families must ‘start from the beginning’ and file an I-800A petition.
It is very clear that the authors of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 intended to ‘grandfather’ all I-600A petitions filed prior to the date on which the Hague Convention went into force in the United States (April 1, 2007). At the time the legislation was drafted, the authors did not foresee the lengthy processing time now associated with adoptions from countries such as China and Haiti. Yet the intent was clearly to allow PAPs to complete their adoptions under the I-600 process. This intent is now negated through what we consider an overly restrictive interpretation of the law and regulation.
Families, with the understanding that their case would be ‘grandfathered’, initiated their adoption proceedings in good faith. They rightfully believed that the United States Government would honor the initial information provided by USCIS and the intent of the law (Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000). It appears that their confidence in the USG was misplaced.
Specific to the impact on families, our concerns are focused on three primary areas.
(PAPs) required to file an I-800A (as a result of an expired I-600A approval) will come under undue hardship. These families will be forced to incur the costs associated with a new Hague compliant home study, new fingerprints, and the I-800A filing. These fees can total from $1,800 to over $3,000.
In addition many states require that new documentation including medicals, child abuse clearance and state fingerprints be provided with a new home study. The collection of these documents and completion of the home study will add a significant amount of time and effort to the family’s adoption process. The child abuse clearance alone can easily take months.
Finding a New ASP: Unnecessary Time, Cost and Uncertainty
Some PAP's now find themselves engaged with an ASP that was denied Hague Accreditation. As a result PAPs are discovering that filing an I800A will force them to contract with a Hague Accredited ASP. Disengaging from one ASP and contracting with a new ASP will cause further undue distress and hardship. In addition to the hardships noted above, these PAPs will incur the additional costs associated with contracting a new ASP. The newly contracted ASP will rightfully charge a fee for the case management, advocacy and other services they provide. The cost of contracting with a new ASP can range from $1,000 to $6,000.
Some have argued that the financial position of ASPs denied Hague accreditation are at the core of our concerns. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those ASPs making such claims will in fact be the beneficiary of new fees if families are required to change ASPs. Their argument is disingenuous, self-serving and not in the best interest of United States citizens seeking to adoption internationally.
In a brief survey of ASPs, virtually all indicated that the goal is to honor the intent of the IAA of 2000 and allow families to complete their adoption through the I-600A process with their original ASP. No reputable ASP is seeking to gain fees through an undue hardship on families.
Uncertain Processing by Central Authorities
Joint Council also expresses concern that the Central Authorities of sending countries have not definitively confirmed the impact of transitioning from the I-600 process to the I-800 process. Similarly, the U.S. Department of State, despite dialogue with other Central Authorities has yet to confirm the impact on families. Joint Council recognizes that some Central Authorities and DOS have provided suggested impacts, but no definitive confirmation has been issued to date. With an impact on over 10,000 families, now is not the time to rely on good will or suppositions.
Fixing the Problem
Joint Council and others have repeatedly expressed our concerns to the United States Government. In responding to our concerns the USCIS has confirmed that any change to the one-time renewal of I-600A approvals will require either a legislative or regulatory initiative. However, a timely change in the regulation would require the aggressive cooperation and leadership of USCIS. Unfortunately it seems apparent that such cooperation is not forthcoming. As a result, a change in the law is required and would involve Congressional action. Given the very short time left before Congress is out of session, legislative action also seems improbable. However, some Members of Congress have expressed their desire to fix the problem through legislation yet USCIS assistance is needed to craft legislation that addresses the problem without causing additional problems for families. Unfortunately USCIS has not responded to Congressional inquiries for such assistance.
Some branches of the United States Government have expressed that the renewal of I-600A approvals is not a significant problems. Others within the government have indicated that while a problem does exist, it is not within their power to resolve the issue and yet others point to resolve the issue. As a result, no solution is imminent and families suffer.
Joint Council suggests that relying on good faith or, probabilities is not a sufficient response to this very important issue. Given that over 10,000 families will be significantly and negatively impacted we continue to call on USCIS to work collaboratively and aggressively with Congress and others in the United States Government towards an immediate resolution.
In order to assist Joint Council with our advocacy on behalf of families, particularly those adopting from China, Joint Council will be asking all families impacted by the one-time limit of I-600A renewals to forward to Joint Council an email in support of an immediate resolution.