DHHS Eagle graphic
ASL Header
Mission Nav Button Division Nav Button Grants Nav Button Testimony Nav Button Other Links Nav Button ASL Home Nav Button
US Capitol Building
HHS Home
Contact Us
dot graphic Testimony bar

This is an archive page. The links are no longer being updated.

Statement on The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption by Patricia Montoya
Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the House Committee on International Relations
October 20, 1999

Chairman Gilman and members of the Committee on International Relations, I am Patricia Montoya, the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at the U.S. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the role that HHS expects to play should we be given responsibility for implementing the accreditation provisions contained in Title II of the "Intercountry Adoption Act of 1999".

I would like to commend the approach that members of the House of Representatives have taken in the bipartisan and cross-Committee development of H.R. 2909. Both the Administration’s proposed legislation and the House bipartisan bill represent sincere efforts to develop consensus on the issues raised by the treaty and to implement the Convention’s provisions with the best interests of children firmly at the forefront. In all most respects, H.R. 2909 is similar to the Administration’s proposed implementing legislation. As you know, this treaty is an important step toward protecting the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents in the rapidly expanding practice of intercountry adoption.

In my statement I will comment on the purposes of accreditation under the Hague Adoption Convention, address why we believe that HHS is the federal agency best suited to implement the accreditation provisions of the bill, and discuss how we envision the accreditation process working once legislation is enacted.

Purpose of Accreditation

Accreditation is a system of measuring an organization's compliance with national standards of best practice. The Hague Adoption Convention requires that adoptions between party states be conducted only by organizations or persons that meet certain standards. Intercountry adoption services performed in the U.S. under the Convention would be covered by accreditation and approval here, while those performed in another country would be performed by providers accredited by that nation. Accreditation and approval are intended to assure that agencies and persons operating under the Convention have the organizational capacities to perform the functions for which they are responsible.

Accreditation will not replace the process of state licensure under which adoption agencies now operate, but rather will supplement it where intercountry adoptions under the Hague Adoption Convention are concerned. It is not our intent to create an excessive or burdensome set of rules, but only, as the Convention specifies, to establish a sound standard of practice. The vast majority of states’ licensing standards currently include standards relating only to domestic adoptions and therefore lack the means to assure that agencies are knowledgeable about their responsibilities under the Hague Adoption Convention or of the particular issues that arise with intercountry adoptions. In addition, licensing standards vary greatly among states, while accreditation standards must be consistent in order to assure other nations we have a uniform standard of quality that they may rely upon when they entrust their children to a U.S. agency and the prospective adoptive parents they represent. We hope that accreditation may also provide prospective adoptive parents some measure of assurance that agencies operate according to sound practice and high ethical standards.

HHS Adoption and Accreditation Experience

As you are aware, there has been some discussion about whether HHS or the State Department should be assigned responsibility for implementing the accreditation provisions of the legislation. While either HHS or the State Department would carry out the accreditation function through one or more private entities, the responsible federal agency would need to be involved in establishing the accreditation standards through promulgation of regulations and by overseeing the accreditation process. Because HHS has extensive experience in adoption and child welfare issues, the Administration believes that HHS is better positioned than the State Department to have responsibility for this function. HHS and the State Department are fully in agreement on this issue.

As you may know, this Administration, along with members of Congress from both parties, has focused a great deal of attention on the issue of adoption over the past several years. Within the federal government, HHS has primary responsibility for carrying out a wide range of programs and activities related to adoption. I would like briefly to describe my agency’s current adoption programs. HHS operates the Adoption Assistance Program authorized under title IV-E of the Social Security Act, which provides nearly one billion dollars to states to operate programs of subsidized adoptions for special needs children leaving the foster care system for loving homes. We are also implementing very successfully the Administration’s Adoption 2002 Initiative, the goal of which is to double by the year 2002 the annual number of children from the public child welfare system placed in adoptive homes or other permanent living arrangements. Our Adoption Opportunities Program provides $25 million per year in grants to national, state, tribal and local public and non-profit agencies and organizations to demonstrate a variety of adoption related services designed to increase the number of children with special needs adopted from the foster care system. These services include recruitment and preparation of families, kinship adoption, child preparation, agency and court collaborations, agency and community based collaborations, and post adoption services. HHS operates a National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, which, although it specializes in domestic adoption issues, does provide information upon request about intercountry adoption. Approximately 30 percent of the requests received deal with intercountry adoption. And we fund a National Resource Center on Special Needs Adoption which provides technical assistance and training to states regarding their adoption programs. HHS’s institutional experience in working with state and local agencies involved in adoption will be invaluable to our national efforts to establish an accreditation process for intercountry adoptions.

Implementation Plans

Once implementing legislation is passed, HHS would designate one or more accrediting entities and would work with them to develop accreditation standards that would be established by regulation. Agencies seeking accreditation would apply to an accrediting entity which would, through visits to the agency’s site and examination of the agency’s established procedures and policies, determine whether or not the standards for accreditation are met. The accrediting entity would collect fees from adoption agencies applying for accreditation to cover the costs of the accreditation process. We hope to keep these fees as low as possible and to scale them to agency size so that they will not become burdensome.

As you are aware, the Convention requires that accredited agencies be not-for-profit service providers. But in many nations, including the U.S., adoption services are offered by a variety of agencies, only some of which are nonprofit organizations. Under the Convention, each nation may decide whether for-profit entities or persons may participate in intercountry work.

Both your bill and the Administration’s proposal allow for approved persons as well as accredited agencies to perform adoptions under the Hague Adoption Convention. The Administration believes that the qualifications of the agency, not its IRS status, should determine whether it is allowed to offer intercountry adoption services. Provided a for-profit entity or person is able to meet accreditation standards, we do not believe it should be barred from operation under the Hague Adoption Convention.


Let me conclude by assuring the Committee that in implementing the accreditation provisions of the bill, we envision full cooperation with the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to assure that each of our activities meets the others’ needs and enhances the process of intercountry adoption for children and families. Over the past two years as our agencies have discussed implementation of the Convention, we have developed a positive working relationship which has served us well. We have taken the time to learn about each other’s agency, activities and organizational culture, we have become comfortable with each others’ perspectives and operating styles and we have learned a great deal about each agency’s strengths. We developed our proposal with these strengths in mind, to best make use of the strategic advantages of each agency. We fully expect that this positive working relationship will continue as the implementation phase of activity begins.

This concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Privacy Notice (www.hhs.gov/Privacy.html) | FOIA (www.hhs.gov/foia/) | What's New (www.hhs.gov/about/index.html#topiclist) | FAQs (answers.hhs.gov) | Reading Room (www.hhs.gov/read/) | Site Info (www.hhs.gov/SiteMap.html)