Intercountry Adoption

Procedures Are Reasonable, but Sometimes Inefficiently Administered Gao ID: NSIAD-93-83 April 26, 1993

Each year, U.S. citizens adopt between 7,000 and 10,000 foreign children for a variety of reasons--often because the prospective parents believe that they are ineligible for domestic adoptions and consider intercountry adoptions to be faster, easier, and less expensive adoptions. Once involved in the adoption process, however, some parents find the process to be complex, stressful, and difficult to complete. GAO found that the procedures of the U.S. agencies involved in such adoptions are reasonable and necessary. A GAO survey of parents and private adoption agencies who completed intercountry adoptions in 1991 disclosed that 70 percent of the parents were generally satisfied with the overall adoption process. GAO did find that the U.S. agencies did not administer some of their procedures efficiently--specifically, in processing the parents' fingerprints for background checks and in transmitting case data to overseas visa-issuing offices. These inefficiencies sometimes led to adoption processing delays.

GAO found that: (1) although the intercountry adoption process was complex and involved many state, federal, and foreign country requirements and procedures, adoptive parents were generally satisfied with intercountry adoption procedures; (2) INS and State intercountry adoption procedures were consistent with U.S. immigration law requirements and sufficiently flexible for efficient and timely adoption processing; (3) adoption processing delays resulted from procedural, administration, and communication problems; (4) federal agencies did not sufficiently coordinate or routinely provide adoption information services to parents at the beginning of the adoption process; (5) adoptive parents' difficulties in the intercountry adoption process included getting accurate information about U.S. rules and regulations, working with foreign contacts, securing visas for children, meeting eligibility requirements, and INS administrative procedures; (6) adoption agencies found problems in the quality of U.S. agency service including an inaccessibility of personnel by telephone, a lack of courtesy and sensitivity, a lack of knowledge concerning intercountry adoption laws, and untimely responses to intercountry adoption inquiries; (7) in addition to meeting U.S. adoption requirements, adoptive parents must meet varying and often inconsistent foreign country adoption requirements; and (8) U.S. ratification of the proposed international agreement establishing intercountry adoption procedures or standards would not significantly affect U.S. intercountry adoption policies.


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