What to look for when selecting an adoption agency/organization in Haiti (or any other non-Hague country): This selection process discussion also pertains to non-U.S. families, but this discussion is very specific to U.S. families wanting to adopt from Haiti.
Decide whether you want to adopt independently or through the assistance of an adoption agency in your home country.
If you decide to go the independent route and you are a U.S. family, please realize that the U.S. State Department is the central adoption authority in the U.S. and the U.S. State Department is also the entity through which the Foreign Services Officers are employed. It is the Foreign Services Officers who approve or deny adopted children’s visas. Currently, the U.S. State Department is scrutinizing all Haiti adoptions from the standpoint that “all are fraud”, then they work their way backwards, so to speak. As an independent adopter, you do not have the support of a recognized U.S. adoption agency and if there is a problem at the end, during the visa issuance stage, you are “on your own”. Currently, independent adoptions are still permitted. It is my understanding that this will be allowed until the year 2010.
If you choose the independent route, ensure that you speak with other adoptive families who already have their children home. You will find that many families speak nicely of their orphanage while they are in process of their adoption, but in my opinion, that is not a reference to seek. When you speak to families who already have their children home, make sure to do this privately and not on a public forum. On a public forum (i.e. a yahoo group) you may not get honest feedback since anybody can be on the group reading the messages, including the orphanage’s staff.
If you choose the independent route, make sure that you can visit the orphanage to observe how the children are cared for, to observe the working of the people who process the adoptions, etc. A trip to the orphanage should not be to select your child, but it should be to ensure that this is an organization that you would want to work with in terms of your adoption. Anybody can have a beautiful website that looks impressive, but you need to find out through your own investigation whether this organization is ethical, works hard on the adoptions, treats the children well, etc.
If you choose the independent route, you will have to be ‘hands-on’ with your adoption and this suits some families more than others. For example, you have to compile your own dossier and work with USCIS, etc. without much assistance. However, there are groups of previous adopters who are very helpful in answering questions and guiding you through the process. Additionally, some orphanages are more supportive in helping families through the dossier paperwork jungle than others.
Whether you chose the independent or agency route, find out if you can visit with your child during the adoption process.
This is important for several reasons, obviously for bonding purposes, but also if you and your husband (or the single adoptive mother) visits the child in person during the adoption process, the child will enter the U.S. on an IR3 visa which upon entry to the U.S. makes the child an automatic U.S. citizen.
If you do not visit during the adoption process, then the child enters on a “non-final adoption” (definition of the U.S. State Department, even though the Haitian adoption decree states that it is a final adoption) and the child will enter the U.S. on an IR4 visa which is a “resident alien” visa. Families have to go through the readoption process in the U.S. and then have to submit an N-600 form with $470 to USCIS to obtain the child’s U.S. citizenship paper.
If you choose the agency route, some of the same research has to be done. The U.S. became a Hague Convention Country in 2008. You do not have to use a Hague accredited adoption agency to pursue an adoption in Haiti since it is not a Hague country. But, why would you not want to use a Hague accredited agency? After all, a Hague accredited agency has passed “muster” with the U.S. State Department and under Hague Convention standards. Hague accredited agencies are held to a higher standard.
In defense of some adoption agencies were not able to obtain Hague accreditation, they were not able to do so because part of the Hague accreditation process is to obtain an insurance bond/policy that some agencies were not able to afford. However, other agencies did not pursue the accreditation process or were denied accreditation for other varied reasons.
When you choose an agency, you need to find out how often they visit the Haitian orphanage in person. Does the adoption agency mostly have contact via telephone and email or does the agency personnel frequently spend time in-country. How familiar is the agency personnel with the process in Haiti? What level of supervision and accountability exists between the adoption agency and the orphanage? Does the agency personnel work in Haiti processing adoptions working alongside the Haitian orphanage personnel?
Also ask for the orphanage name. Find out if the orphanage they work with exclusively work with the adoption agency or is it an orphanage that contracts with multiple adoption agencies.
Find out what support services the agency uses for its families. For example, during the dossier compilation stage, how much does the agency assist? Is there one consistent contact person who will assist you?
Find out if you can visit the orphanage and what the policy is to spend time with your child. (see above regarding IR3 and IR4 visas)
Ask to speak to families who have their children home already.
Also, find out what the agency’s grievance policy is.
Your job as a prospective adoptive parent is to do your homework prior to selecting which adoption route to go. Research, research, research…
Often families select an agency or an orphanage based on speed of response back to their inquiries. That is not a good sole indicator. However, many families use that as the main indicator of selecting the agency or orphanage. Though responsiveness to inquiries is important, but look at the real indicators discussed above.