Revised UAA Guidance and Invitation to Submit Questions for UAA Training

April 11, 2014

Universal Accreditation Act:  Primary Providers, Independent Adoptions, and Adoptive Parents Acting on their Own Behalf in non-Convention Cases

On April 10, 2014, the Department updated its guidance for prospective adoptive families and U.S. adoption service providers (ASPs) with regard to the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012.  The new guidance responds to inquiries received in the Department about the impact of the UAA, especially as it relates to the role of primary providers, when families may act on their own behalf and how, and what to do when a country of origin does not authorize U.S accredited/approved adoption service providers to act within its borders in intercountry adoption cases.   

The updated guidance is available on the Department’s Intercountry Adoption website, Adoption.State.gov, on the Universal Accreditation Act web page under both the drop down menus for ASPs and for prospective adoptive parents (PAPs).  Scroll down to near the bottom of each section to find the five new FAQs.  You can also find the complete updated guidance below.

Training on the UAA: Questions Welcome

In the coming weeks, the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will hold training and outreach opportunities for ASPs and PAPs to provide information about the UAA and its implementation. We welcome receiving UAA-related questions in advance that you would like us to address in the trainings. Please send your questions to AskCI@State.gov. Make sure to include the word “training” in the subject line and send them no later than April 30, 2014.  Information about the training opportunities will be posted on this website and sent via our intercountry adoption listserv. If you are not already signed up to receive listserv notices, please email AdoptionUSCA@state.gov and request to be added to the list.

Expand All
Q: As of July 14, 2014, do I have to use an accredited or approved provider, or can I
act on my own behalf in the intercountry adoption process?

As of July 14, 2014, the UAA applies to all non-Convention cases (also known as orphan cases) unless the case has been grandfathered under the transition provisions, which are explained on the USCIS website. If your case is not grandfathered, you will need to work with an accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider in your case. Under 22 CFR Part 96 (the accreditation regulations), a primary provider is responsible for:

  1. Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided consistent with applicable laws and regulations;
  2. Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used (see 22 CFR 96.14); and
  3. Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

Only accredited agencies or approved persons can act as primary providers.
You may still act on your own behalf in your own adoption case if permitted under the laws of the state in which you reside and the laws of the country from which you seek to adopt. Although you do not need accreditation or approval to act on your own behalf, your actions need to comply with applicable law, and you will still need to work with an accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider in your case. A primary provider helps to ensure that non-Convention adoption services are provided with the same standards of practice and ethical conduct as Convention cases.

The Department strongly recommends starting to work with an accredited or approved adoption service provider that will act as primary provider from the outset in each intercountry adoption case that is not grandfathered, even before the UAA's effective date on July 14, 2014. Proceeding with your non-Convention adoption case without an accredited or approved primary provider may delay or impede the completion of the case after the UAA goes into effect.

Q: Can I do an independent adoption?

The terms independent adoption, private adoption, or family adoption are not defined in U.S. law or regulation and may be used in different ways depending on the context. Please refer to our FAQ on the use of primary providers and prospective adoptive parents acting on their own behalf, above.

Q: How can I complete an adoption in a country of origin if the primary provider is precluded from acting in that non-Convention country, or if no accredited or approved adoption service provider is authorized to act in a Convention country?

In all Convention cases and non-grandfathered non-Convention cases the U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parent(s) needs to work with an accredited or approved adoption service provider who will act as "primary provider" in the case. Adoption service providers (ASPs) must act in accordance with the laws of the country of origin. Countries of origin (COOs) approach the use of accredited or approved ASPs differently; some do not permit any U.S. ASPs to provide services directly or to supervise providers in the COO; others permit only a limited role for primary providers.

Regardless of limitations placed upon them by the COO, under 22 CFR 96.44, primary providers are responsible for developing and executing a service plan for providing the six adoption services by providing services directly, or through arrangements with others. The service plan identifies which person or entity will provide each adoption service. Where the primary provider is prohibited by the country of origin's law or regulation from acting or from supervising foreign providers in the country of origin, the prospective adoptive parent(s) (PAPs) may be able to act on their own behalf in the case. In those cases, the ASP and PAPs work jointly to identify which foreign public authority or foreign provider will provide each service. Working cooperatively is especially important when the adoption process in the COO is not fully transparent and identifying responsible authorities to complete adoption services is challenging. A good place to start to learn about a country of origin's intercountry adoption process, and to identify for the service plan which person or entity will provide each adoption service, is the adoption country information sheet for the country where you seek to adopt. Click here to find the country information sheets on this website.

Once a service has been completed, the primary provider should obtain documentation concerning the completion of the service from the service provider directly if appropriate or in rare instances, indirectly from the PAPs. If consents were obtained or a home study or child background study was performed by a foreign provider, the primary provider would use this information to verify that these services were provided in accordance with local law and the Convention.

Note: The above does not address situations in which Convention countries have authorized at least one U.S. adoption service provider.

Q: Does the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 apply to domestic adoptions in the United States?

No. The UAA only applies to intercountry adoptions by U.S. citizens of children from other countries that are not parties to the Convention. It does not extend the accreditation or approval requirements to services provided in the United States associated with domestic adoptions.

Q: Can I still adopt a child from a non-Convention country after July 14, 2014?

Yes. The UAA extends accreditation and approval requirements to intercountry adoptions of children from non-Convention countries. U.S. citizens may still adopt eligible children from both Convention and non-Convention countries provided that intercountry adoption is permitted by the child's country of origin.