About GPO   |   Newsroom/Media   |   Congressional Relations   |   Inspector General   |   Careers   |   Contact   |   askGPO   |   Help  
 
Home   |   Customers   |   Vendors   |   Libraries  

The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is a regularly updated, unofficial editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments produced by the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Printing Office.

Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules for the Code of Federal Regulations and the United States Code
Text | PDF

Find, review, and submit comments on Federal rules that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register using Regulations.gov.

Purchase individual CFR titles from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

Find issues of the CFR (including issues prior to 1996) at a local Federal depository library.

[2]
 
 

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of October 22, 2014

Title 22Chapter ISubchapter J → Part 96


Title 22: Foreign Relations


PART 96—INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION ACCREDITATION OF AGENCIES AND APPROVAL OF PERSONS


Contents

Subpart A—General Provisions

§96.1   Purpose.
§96.2   Definitions.
§96.3   [Reserved]

Subpart B—Selection, Designation, and Duties of Accrediting Entities

§96.4   Designation of accrediting entities by the Secretary.
§96.5   Requirement that accrediting entity be a nonprofit or public entity.
§96.6   Performance criteria for designation as an accrediting entity.
§96.7   Authorities and responsibilities of an accrediting entity.
§96.8   Fees charged by accrediting entities.
§96.9   Agreement between the Secretary and the accrediting entity.
§96.10   Suspension or cancellation of the designation of an accrediting entity by the Secretary.
§96.11   [Reserved]

Subpart C—Accreditation and Approval Requirements for the Provision of Adoption Services

§96.12   Authorized adoption service providers.
§96.13   Circumstances in which accreditation, approval, or supervision is not required.
§96.14   Providing adoption services using other providers.
§96.15   Examples.
§96.16   Public domestic authorities.
§96.17   Effective date of accreditation and approval requirements.

Subpart D—Application Procedures for Accreditation and Approval

§96.18   Scope.
§96.19   First-time application procedures for accreditation and approval.
§96.20   Choosing an accrediting entity.
§§96.21-96.22   [Reserved]

Subpart E—Evaluation of Applicants for Accreditation and Approval

§96.23   Scope.
§96.24   Procedures for evaluating applicants for accreditation or approval.
§96.25   Access to information and documents requested by the accrediting entity.
§96.26   Protection of information and documents by the accrediting entity.
§96.27   Substantive criteria for evaluating applicants for accreditation or approval.
§96.28   [Reserved]

Subpart F—Standards for Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Approval

§96.29   Scope.

Licensing and Corporate Governance

§96.30   State licensing.
§96.31   Corporate structure.
§96.32   Internal structure and oversight.

Financial and Risk Management

§96.33   Budget, audit, insurance, and risk assessment requirements.
§96.34   Compensation.

Ethical Practices and Responsibilities

§96.35   Suitability of agencies and persons to provide adoption services consistent with the Convention.
§96.36   Prohibition on child buying.

Professional Qualifications and Training for Employees

§96.37   Education and experience requirements for social service personnel.
§96.38   Training requirements for social service personnel.

Information Disclosure, Fee Practices, and Quality Control Policies and Practices

§96.39   Information disclosure and quality control practices.
§96.40   Fee policies and procedures.

Responding to Complaints and Records and Reports Management

§96.41   Procedures for responding to complaints and improving service delivery.
§96.42   Retention, preservation, and disclosure of adoption records.
§96.43   Case tracking, data management, and reporting.

Service Planning and Delivery

§96.44   Acting as primary provider.
§96.45   Using supervised providers in the United States.
§96.46   Using providers in foreign countries.

Standards for Cases in Which a Child Is Immigrating to the United States (Incoming Cases)

§96.47   Preparation of home studies in incoming cases.
§96.48   Preparation and training of prospective adoptive parent(s) in incoming cases.
§96.49   Provision of medical and social information in incoming cases.
§96.50   Placement and post-placement monitoring until final adoption in incoming cases.
§96.51   Post-adoption services in incoming cases.
§96.52   Performance of Convention communication and coordination functions in incoming cases.

Standards for Convention Cases in Which a Child Is Emigrating From the United States (Outgoing Cases)

§96.53   Background studies on the child and consents in outgoing Convention cases.
§96.54   Placement standards in outgoing Convention cases.
§96.55   Performance of Convention communication and coordination functions in outgoing Convention cases.
§96.56   [Reserved]

Subpart G—Decisions on Applications for Accreditation or Approval

§96.57   Scope.
§96.58   Notification of accreditation and approval decisions.
§96.59   Review of decisions to deny accreditation or approval.
§96.60   Length of accreditation or approval period.
§96.61   [Reserved]

Subpart H—Renewal of Accreditation or Approval

§96.62   Scope.
§96.63   Renewal of accreditation or approval.
§96.64   [Reserved]

Subpart I—Routine Oversight by Accrediting Entities

§96.65   Scope.
§96.66   Oversight of accredited agencies and approved persons by the accrediting entity.
§96.67   [Reserved]

Subpart J—Oversight Through Review of Complaints

§96.68   Scope.
§96.69   Filing of complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.
§96.70   Operation of the Complaint Registry.
§96.71   Review by the accrediting entity of complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.
§96.72   Referral of complaints to the Secretary and other authorities.
§96.73   [Reserved]

Subpart K—Adverse Action by the Accrediting Entity

§96.74   Scope.
§96.75   Adverse action against accredited agencies or approved persons not in substantial compliance.
§96.76   Procedures governing adverse action by the accrediting entity.
§96.77   Responsibilities of the accredited agency, approved person, and accrediting entity following adverse action by the accrediting entity.
§96.78   Accrediting entity procedures to terminate adverse action.
§96.79   Administrative or judicial review of adverse action by the accrediting entity.
§96.80   [Reserved]

Subpart L—Oversight of Accredited Agencies and Approved Persons by the Secretary

§96.81   Scope.
§96.82   The Secretary's response to actions by the accrediting entity.
§96.83   Suspension or cancellation of accreditation or approval by the Secretary.
§96.84   Reinstatement of accreditation or approval after suspension or cancellation by the Secretary.
§96.85   Temporary and permanent debarment by the Secretary.
§96.86   Length of debarment period and reapplication after temporary debarment.
§96.87   Responsibilities of the accredited agency, approved person, and accrediting entity following suspension, cancellation, or debarment by the Secretary.
§96.88   Review of suspension, cancellation, or debarment by the Secretary.
§96.89   [Reserved]

Subpart M—Dissemination and Reporting of Information by Accrediting Entities

§96.90   Scope.
§96.91   Dissemination of information to the public about accreditation and approval status.
§96.92   Dissemination of information to the public about complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.
§96.93   Reports to the Secretary about accredited agencies and approved persons and their activities.
§96.94   [Reserved]

Authority: The Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (done at the Hague, May 29, 1993), S. Treaty Doc. 105-51 (1998), 1870 U.N.T.S. 167 (Reg. No. 31922 (1993)); The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. 14901-14954; The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-276, 42 U.S.C. 14925.

Source: 71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, unless otherwise noted.

Subpart A—General Provisions

§96.1   Purpose.

This part provides for the accreditation and approval of agencies and persons pursuant to the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901-14954, Pub. L. 106-279,) and the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (42 U.S.C. 14925, Pub. L. 112-276). Subpart B of this part establishes the procedures for the selection and designation of accrediting entities to perform the accreditation and approval functions. Subparts C through H establish the general procedures and standards for accreditation and approval of agencies and persons (including renewal of accreditation or approval). Subparts I through M address the oversight of accredited or approved agencies and persons.

[79 FR 40632, July 14, 2014]

§96.2   Definitions.

As used in this part, the term:

Accredited agency means an agency that has been accredited by an accrediting entity, in accordance with the standards in subpart F of this part, to provide adoption services in the United States in intercountry adoption cases.

Accrediting entity means an entity that has been designated by the Secretary to accredit agencies and/or to approve persons for purposes of providing adoption services in the United States in intercountry adoption cases.

Adoption means the judicial or administrative act that establishes a permanent legal parent-child relationship between a minor and an adult who is not already the minor's legal parent and terminates the legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive child and any former parent(s).

Adoption record means any record, information, or item related to a specific intercountry adoption of a child received or maintained by an agency, person, or public domestic authority, including, but not limited to, photographs, videos, correspondence, personal effects, medical and social information, and any other information about the child.

Adoption service means any one of the following six services:

(1) Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;

(2) Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;

(3) Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;

(4) Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;

(5) Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or

(6) When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.

Agency means a private, nonprofit organization licensed to provide adoption services in at least one State. (For-profit entities and individuals that provide adoption services are considered “persons” as defined in this section.)

Approved home study means a review of the home environment of the child's prospective adoptive parent(s) that has been:

(1) Completed by an accredited agency; or

(2) Approved by an accredited agency.

Approved person means a person that has been approved, in accordance with the standards in subpart F of this part, by an accrediting entity to provide adoption services in the United States in intercountry adoption cases.

Best interests of the child shall have the meaning given to it by the law of the State with jurisdiction to decide whether a particular adoption or adoption-related action is in a child's best interests.

Case Registry means the tracking system jointly established by the Secretary and DHS to comply with section 102(e) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14912).

Central Authority means the entity designated as such under Article 6(1) of the Convention by any Convention country, or, in the case of the United States, the United States Department of State. In countries that are not Convention countries, Central Authority means the relevant “competent authority” as defined in this section.

Child welfare services means services, other than those defined as “adoption services” in this section, that are designed to promote and protect the well-being of a family or child. Such services include, but are not limited to, recruiting and identifying adoptive parent(s) in cases of disruption (but not assuming custody of the child), arranging or providing temporary foster care for a child in connection with an intercountry adoption or providing educational, social, cultural, medical, psychological assessment, mental health, or other health-related services for a child or family in an intercountry adoption case.

Competent authority means a court or governmental authority of a foreign country that has jurisdiction and authority to make decisions in matters of child welfare, including adoption.

Complaint Registry means the system created by the Secretary pursuant to §96.70 to receive, distribute, and monitor complaints relevant to the accreditation or approval status of agencies and persons.

Convention means the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption done at The Hague on May 29, 1993.

Convention adoption means the adoption of a child resident in a Convention country by a United States citizen, or an adoption of a child resident in the United States by an individual or individuals residing in a Convention country, when, in connection with the adoption, the child has moved or will move between the United States and the Convention country.

Convention country means a country that is a party to the Convention and with which the Convention is in force for the United States.

Country of origin means the country in which a child is a resident and from which a child is emigrating in connection with his or her adoption.

Debarment means the loss of accreditation or approval by an agency or person as a result of an order of the Secretary under which the agency or person is temporarily or permanently barred from accreditation or approval.

DHS means the Department of Homeland Security and encompasses the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or any successor entity designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security to assume the functions vested in the Attorney General by the IAA relating to the INS's responsibilities.

Disruption means the interruption of a placement for adoption during the post-placement period.

Dissolution means the termination of the adoptive parent(s)' parental rights after an adoption.

Exempted provider means a social work professional or organization that performs a home study on prospective adoptive parent(s) or a child background study (or both) in the United States in connection with an intercountry adoption (including any reports or updates), but that is not currently providing and has not previously provided any other adoption service in the case.

IAA means the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, Public Law 106-279 (2000) (42 U.S.C. 14901-14954), as amended from time to time.

INA means the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), as amended.

Intercountry adoption means a Convention adoption or the adoption of a child described in INA section 101(b)(1)(F).

Legal custody means having legal responsibility for a child under the order of a court of law, a public domestic authority, competent authority, public foreign authority, or by operation of law.

Legal services means services, other than those defined in this section as “adoption services,” that relate to the provision of legal advice and information and to the drafting of legal instruments. Such services include, but are not limited to, drawing up contracts, powers of attorney, and other legal instruments; providing advice and counsel to adoptive parent(s) on completing DHS or Central Authority forms; and providing advice and counsel to accredited agencies, approved persons, or prospective adoptive parent(s) on how to comply with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, and the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA.

Person means an individual or a private, for-profit entity (including a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company) providing adoption services. It does not include public domestic authorities or public foreign authorities.

Post-adoption means after an adoption; in cases in which an adoption occurs in a foreign country and is followed by a re-adoption in the United States, it means after the adoption in the foreign country.

Post-placement means after a grant of legal custody or guardianship of the child to the prospective adoptive parent(s), or to a custodian for the purpose of escorting the child to the identified prospective adoptive parent(s), and before an adoption.

Primary provider means the accredited agency or approved person that is identified pursuant to §96.14 as responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided and for supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used.

Public domestic authority means an authority operated by a State, local, or tribal government within the United States.

Public foreign authority means an authority operated by a national or subnational government of a foreign country.

Secretary means the Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, or any other Department of State official exercising the Secretary of State's authority under the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or any regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, pursuant to a delegation of authority.

State means the fifty States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Supervised provider means any agency, person, or other non-governmental entity, including any foreign entity, regardless of whether it is called a facilitator, agent, attorney, or by any other name, that is providing one or more adoption services in an intercountry adoption case under the supervision and responsibility of an accredited agency or approved person that is acting as the primary provider in the case.

UAA means the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, (42 U.S.C. 14925, Pub. L. 112-276 (2012)).

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40632, July 14, 2014]

§96.3   [Reserved]

Subpart B—Selection, Designation, and Duties of Accrediting Entities

§96.4   Designation of accrediting entities by the Secretary.

(a) The Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, will designate one or more entities that meet the criteria set forth in §96.5 to perform the accreditation and/or approval functions. Each accrediting entity's designation will be set forth in an agreement between the Secretary and the accrediting entity. The agreement will govern the accrediting entity's operations. The agreements will be published in the Federal Register.

(b) The Secretary's designation may authorize an accrediting entity to accredit agencies, to approve persons, or to both accredit agencies and approve persons. The designation may also limit the accrediting entity's geographic jurisdiction or impose other limits on the entity's jurisdiction.

(c) A public entity may only be designated to accredit agencies and approve persons that are located in the public entity's State.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.5   Requirement that accrediting entity be a nonprofit or public entity.

An accrediting entity must qualify as either:

(a) An organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, that has expertise in developing and administering standards for entities providing child welfare services; or

(b) A public entity (other than a Federal entity), including, but not limited to, any State or local government or governmental unit or any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, that is responsible for licensing adoption agencies in a State and that has expertise in developing and administering standards for entities providing child welfare services.

§96.6   Performance criteria for designation as an accrediting entity.

An entity that seeks to be designated as an accrediting entity must demonstrate to the Secretary:

(a) That it has a governing structure, the human and financial resources, and systems of control adequate to ensure its reliability;

(b) That it is capable of performing the accreditation or approval functions or both on a timely basis and of administering any renewal cycle authorized under §96.60;

(c) That it can monitor the performance of agencies it has accredited and persons it has approved (including their use of any supervised providers) to ensure their continued compliance with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, and the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA;

(d) That it has the capacity to take appropriate adverse actions against agencies it has accredited and persons it has approved;

(e) That it can perform the required data collection, reporting, and other similar functions;

(f) Except in the case of a public entity, that it operates independently of any agency or person that provides adoption services, and of any membership organization that includes agencies or persons that provide adoption services;

(g) That it has the capacity to conduct its accreditation and approval functions fairly and impartially;

(h) That it can comply with any conflict-of-interest prohibitions set by the Secretary in its agreement;

(i) That it prohibits conflicts of interest with agencies or persons or with any membership organization that includes agencies or persons that provide adoption services; and

(j) That it prohibits its employees or other individuals acting as site evaluators, including, but not limited to, volunteer site evaluators, from becoming employees or supervised providers of an agency or person for at least one year after they have evaluated such agency or person for accreditation or approval.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.7   Authorities and responsibilities of an accrediting entity.

(a) An accrediting entity may be authorized by the Secretary to perform some or all of the following functions:

(1) Determining whether agencies are eligible for accreditation;

(2) Determining whether persons are eligible for approval;

(3) Overseeing accredited agencies and/or approved persons by monitoring their compliance with applicable requirements;

(4) Investigating and responding to complaints about accredited agencies and approved persons (including their use of supervised providers);

(5) Taking adverse action against an accredited agency or approved person, and/or referring an accredited agency or approved person for possible action by the Secretary;

(6) Determining whether accredited agencies and approved persons are eligible for renewal of their accreditation or approval on a cycle consistent with §96.60;

(7) Collecting data from accredited agencies and approved persons, maintaining records, and reporting information to the Secretary, State courts, and other entities; and

(8) Assisting the Secretary in taking appropriate action to help an agency or person in transferring its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records.

(b) The Secretary may require the accrediting entity:

(1) To utilize the Complaint Registry as provided in subpart J of this part; and

(2) To fund a portion of the costs of operating the Complaint Registry with fees collected by the accrediting entity pursuant to the schedule of fees approved by the Secretary as provided in §96.8.

(c) An accrediting entity must perform all responsibilities in accordance with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, and its agreement with the Secretary.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.8   Fees charged by accrediting entities.

(a) An accrediting entity may charge fees for accreditation or approval services under this part only in accordance with a schedule of fees approved by the Secretary. Before approving a schedule of fees proposed by an accrediting entity, or subsequent proposed changes to an approved schedule, the Secretary will require the accrediting entity to demonstrate:

(1) That its proposed schedule of fees reflects appropriate consideration of the relative size and geographic location and volume of intercountry adopton cases of the agencies or persons it expects to serve;

(2) That the total fees the accrediting entity expects to collect under the schedule of fees will not exceed the full costs of accreditation or approval under this part (including, but not limited to, costs for completing the accreditation or approval process, complaint review and investigation, routine oversight and enforcement, and other data collection and reporting activities).

(b) The schedule of fees must:

(1) Establish separate non-refundable fees for accreditation and approval;

(2) Include in each fee for accreditation or approval the costs of all activities associated with the accreditation or approval cycle, including but not limited to, costs for completing the accreditation or approval process, complaint review and investigation, routine oversight and enforcement, and other data collection and reporting activities, except that separate fees based on actual costs incurred may be charged for the travel and maintenance of evaluators.

(c) An accrediting entity must make its approved schedule of fees available to the public, including prospective applicants for accreditation or approval, upon request. At the time of application, the accrediting entity must specify the fees to be charged to the applicant in a contract between the parties and must provide notice to the applicant that no portion of the fee will be refunded if the applicant fails to become accredited or approved.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to provide a private right of action to challenge any fee charged by an accrediting entity pursuant to a schedule of fees approved by the Secretary.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.9   Agreement between the Secretary and the accrediting entity.

An accrediting entity must perform its functions pursuant to a written agreement with the Secretary that will be published in the Federal Register. The agreement will address:

(a) The responsibilities and duties of the accrediting entity;

(b) The method by which the costs of delivering the accreditation or approval services may be recovered through the collection of fees from those seeking accreditation or approval, and how the entity's schedule of fees will be approved;

(c) How the accrediting entity will address complaints about accredited agencies and approved persons (including their use of supervised providers) and complaints about the accrediting entity itself;

(d) Data collection requirements;

(e) Matters of communication and accountability between both the accrediting entity and the applicant(s) and between the accrediting entity and the Secretary; and

(f) Other matters upon which the parties have agreed.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.10   Suspension or cancellation of the designation of an accrediting entity by the Secretary.

(a) The Secretary will suspend or cancel the designation of an accrediting entity if the Secretary concludes that it is substantially out of compliance with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, other applicable laws, or the agreement with the Secretary. Complaints regarding the performance of the accrediting entity may be submitted to the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Secretary will consider complaints in determining whether an accrediting entity's designation should be suspended or canceled.

(b) The Secretary will notify an accrediting entity in writing of any deficiencies in the accrediting entity's performance that could lead to the suspension or cancellation of its designation, and will provide the accrediting entity with an opportunity to demonstrate that suspension or cancellation is unwarranted, in accordance with procedures established in the agreement entered into pursuant to §96.9.

(c) An accrediting entity may be considered substantially out of compliance under circumstances that include, but are not limited to:

(1) Failing to act in a timely manner when presented with evidence that an accredited agency or approved person is substantially out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part;

(2) Accrediting or approving significant numbers of agencies or persons whose performance results in intervention of the Secretary for the purpose of suspension, cancellation, or debarment;

(3) Failing to perform its responsibilities fairly and objectively;

(4) Violating prohibitions on conflicts of interest;

(5) Failing to meet its reporting requirements;

(6) Failing to protect information or documents that it receives in the course of performing its responsibilities; and

(7) Failing to monitor frequently and carefully the compliance of accredited agencies, and approved persons with the home study requirements of the Convention, section 203(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14923(b)(1)(A)(ii)), and §96.47.

(d) An accrediting entity that is subject to a final action of suspension or cancellation may petition the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or the United States district court in the judicial district in which the accrediting entity is located to set aside the action as provided in section 204(d) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14924(d)).

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.11   [Reserved]

Subpart C—Accreditation and Approval Requirements for the Provision of Adoption Services

§96.12   Authorized adoption service providers.

(a) Except as provided in section 505(b) of the IAA (relating to transitional cases), and once the UAA becomes effective, except as provided in section 2(c) of the UAA (relating to transitional cases), an agency or person may not offer, provide, or facilitate the provision of any adoption service in the United States in connection with an intercountry adoption unless it is:

(1) An accredited agency or an approved person;

(2) A supervised provider; or

(3) An exempted provider, if the exempted provider's home study or child background study will be reviewed and approved by an accredited agency pursuant to §96.47(c) or §96.53(b).

(b) A public domestic authority may also offer, provide, or facilitate the provision of any such adoption service.

(c) Neither conferral nor maintenance of accreditation or approval, nor status as an exempted or supervised provider, nor status as a public domestic authority shall be construed to imply, warrant, or establish that, in any specific case, an adoption service has been provided consistently with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA. Conferral and maintenance of accreditation or approval under this part establishes only that the accrediting entity has concluded, in accordance with the standards and procedures of this part, that the agency or person conducts adoption services in substantial compliance with the applicable standards set forth in this part; it is not a guarantee that in any specific case the accredited agency or approved person is providing adoption services consistently with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, or any other applicable law, whether Federal, State, or foreign. Neither the Secretary nor any accrediting entity shall be responsible for any acts of an accredited agency, approved person, exempted provider, supervised provider, or other entity providing services in connection with an intercountry adoption.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.13   Circumstances in which accreditation, approval, or supervision is not required.

(a) Home studies and child background studies. Home studies and child background studies, when performed by exempted providers, may be performed without accreditation, approval, or supervision; provided, however, that an exempted provider's home study must be approved by an accredited agency in accordance with §96.47(c), and an exempted provider's child background study must be approved by an accredited agency in accordance with §96.53(b).

(b) Child welfare services. An agency or person does not need to be accredited, approved, or operate as a supervised provider if it is providing only child welfare services, and not providing any adoption services, in connection with an intercountry adoption. If the agency or person provides both a child welfare service and any adoption service in the United States in an intercountry adoption case, it must be accredited, approved or operate as a supervised provider unless the only adoption service provided is preparation of a home study and/or a child background study.

(c) Legal services. An agency or person does not need to be accredited, approved, or to operate as a supervised provider if it is providing only legal services, and not providing any adoption services, in connection with an intercountry adoption. If the agency or person provides both a legal service and any adoption service in the United States in an intercountry adoption case, it must be accredited, approved or operate as a supervised provider unless the only adoption service provided is preparation of a home study and/or a child background study. Nothing in this part shall be construed:

(1) To permit an attorney to provide both legal services and adoption services in an adoption case where doing so is prohibited by State law; or

(2) To require any attorney who is providing one or more adoption services as part of his or her employment by a public domestic authority to be accredited or approved or operate as a supervised provider.

(d) Prospective adoptive parent(s) acting on own behalf. Prospective adoptive parent(s) may act on their own behalf without being accredited, or approved unless so acting is prohibited by State law or the law of the foreign country. In the case of a child immigrating to the United States in connection with his or her adoption, such conduct must be permissible under the laws of the State in which the prospective adoptive parent(s) reside and the laws of the foreign country from which the parent(s) seek to adopt. In the case of a child emigrating from the United States in connection with his or her adoption, such conduct must be permissible under the laws of the State where the child resides and the laws of the Convention country in which the parent(s) reside.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14, 2014]

§96.14   Providing adoption services using other providers.

(a) Accreditation and approval under this part require that, in each Convention adoption case, an accredited agency or an approved person will be identified and act as the primary provider. If one accredited agency or approved person is providing all adoption services by itself, it must act as the primary provider. If just one accredited agency or approved person is involved in providing adoption services, the sole accredited agency or approved person must act as the primary provider. If adoption services in the intercountry adoptioncase are being provided by more than one accredited agency or approved person, the agency or person that has child placement responsibility, as evidenced by the following, must act as the primary provider throughout the case:

(1) Entering into placement contracts with prospective adoptive parent(s) to provide child referral and placement;

(2) Accepting custody from a birth parent or other legal custodian in a foreign country for the purpose of placement for adoption;

(3) Assuming responsibility for liaison with a foreign country's Central Authority or its designees with regard to arranging an adoption; or

(4) Receiving from or sending to a foreign country information about a child that is under consideration for adoption, unless acting as a local service provider that conveys such information to parent(s) on behalf of the primary provider.

(b) Pursuant to §96.44, in the case of accredited agencies or approved persons, the primary provider may only use the following to provide adoption services in the United States:

(1) A supervised provider, including an accredited agency or approved person;

(2) An exempted provider, if the exempted provider's home study or child background study will be reviewed and approved by an accredited agency pursuant to §96.47(c) or §96.53(b); or

(3) A public domestic authority.

(c) Pursuant to §96.44 of subpart F, in the case of accredited agencies or approved persons, the primary provider may only use the following to provide adoption services in a foreign country:

(1) A Central Authority, competent authority, or a public foreign authority;

(2) A foreign supervised provider, including a provider accredited by the foreign country; or

(3) A foreign provider (agency, person, or other non-governmental entity) who

(i) Has secured or is securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption, if the primary provider verifies consent pursuant to §96.46(c); or

(ii) Has prepared or is preparing a background study on a child in a case involving immigration to the United States (incoming case) or a home study on prospective adoptive parent(s) in a case involving emigration from the United States (outgoing case), and a report on the results of such a study, if the primary provider verifies the study and report pursuant to §96.46(c).

(d) The primary provider is not required to provide supervision or to assume responsibility for:

(1) Public domestic authorities; or

(2) Central Authorities, competent authorities, and public foreign authorities.

(e) The primary provider must adhere to the standards contained in §96.45 (Using supervised providers in the United States) when using supervised providers in the United States and the applicable standards contained in §96.46 (Using providers in foreign countries) when using providers outside the United States.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40633, July 14`, 2014]

§96.15   Examples.

The following examples illustrate the rules of §§96.12 to 96.14:

Example 1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption. Agency X identifies children eligible for adoption in the United States on a TV program in an effort to recruit prospective adoptive parent(s). A couple in a foreign country calls Agency X about one of the children. Agency X refers them to an agency or person in the United States who arranges intercountry adoptions. Agency X does not require accreditation, temporarily accreditation, approval or supervision because it is not both identifying and arranging the adoption. In contrast, Agency Y, located in the United States, provides information about children eligible for adoption in a foreign country on a website and then arranges for interested U.S. parents to adopt those children. Agency Y must be accredited, approved, or supervised because, in addition to identifying children eligible for adoption, it is also helping to arrange the adoption.
Example 2. Child welfare services exemption. Doctor X evaluates the medical records and a video of Child Y. The evaluation will be used in an intercountry adoption as part of the placement of Child Y and is the only service that Doctor X provides in the United States with regard to Child Y's adoption. Doctor X (not employed with an accredited agency or approved person) does not need to be approved or supervised because she is not providing an adoption service as defined in §96.2.
Example 3. Home study exemption. Social Worker X, in the United States, (not employed with an accredited agency or approved person) interviews Prospective Adoptive Parent Y, obtains a criminal background study, and checks the references of Prospective Adoptive Parent Y, then composes a report and submits the report to an accredited agency for use in an intercountry adoption. Social Worker X does not provide any other services to Prospective Adoptive Parent Y. Social Worker X qualifies as an exempted provider and therefore need not be approved or operate as supervised provider. In contrast, Social Worker Z, in the United States, (not employed with an accredited agency or approved person) prepares a home study report for Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) W, and in addition re-enters the house after Child V has been placed with Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) W to assess how V and W are adjusting to life as a family. This assessment is post-placement monitoring, which is an adoption service. Therefore, Social Worker Z would need to become approved before providing this assessment for this intercountry adoption or else operate as a supervised provider. If an agency or person provides an adoption service in addition to a home study or child background study, the agency or person needs to become accredited, approved, or supervised before providing that adoption service.
Example 4. Child background study exemption. An employee of Agency X interviews Child Y in the United States and compiles a report concerning Child Y's social and developmental history for use in an intercountry adoption. Agency X provides no other adoption services on behalf of Child Y. Agency X does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised. Agency X is only conducting and creating a child background study, and therefore is an exempted provider. In contrast, an employee of Agency Z interviews Child W in the United States and creates a child background study for use in an intercountry adoption. Agency Z subsequently identifies prospective adoptive parent(s) and arranges a new adoption when Child W's previous adoption becomes disrupted. Agency Z needs to be accredited, approved, or supervised before providing this service. If an agency or person provides an adoption service in addition to a child background study or home study, the agency or person needs to be accredited, approved, or supervised before providing the additional service.
Example 5. Home study and child welfare services exemptions. Agency X interviews Prospective Adoptive Parent Y, obtains a criminal background check, checks the references of Prospective Adoptive Parent Y, then composes a home study and submits it to an accredited agency for use in an intercountry adoption in the United States. Parent Y later joins a post-adoption support group for adoptive parents sponsored by Agency X. If Agency X performs no other adoption services, Agency X does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised. If an agency or person provides a home study or child background study as well as other services in the United States that do not require accreditation, approval, or supervision, and no other adoption services, the agency or person is an exempted provider.
Example 6. Exempted provider. Agency X interviews Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y, obtains a criminal background check, checks the references of Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y, and then composes a home study and submits the report to an accredited agency. In addition, Agency X interviews Child Z and compiles a report concerning Child Z's social and developmental history. All of Agency X's work is done in the United States. Both reports will be used in an intercountry adoption. If Agency X performs no other adoption services, Agency X does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised. If an agency or person provides a home study and child background study as well as other services that do not require accreditation, approval or supervision, and no other adoption services, the agency or person is an exempted provider.
Example 7. Legal services exemption. Attorney X (not employed with an accredited agency or approved person) provides advice and counsel to Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y on filling out DHS paperwork required for an intercountry adoption. Among other papers, Attorney X prepares an affidavit of consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption of Child W to be signed by the birth mother in the United States. Attorney X must be approved or supervised because securing consent to termination of parental rights is an adoption service. In contrast, Attorney Z (not employed with an accredited agency or approved person) assists Adoptive Parent(s) T to complete an adoption in the State in which they reside, after they have been granted an adoption in Child V's foreign country of origin. Attorney Z is exempt from approval or supervision because she is providing legal services, but no adoption services.
Example 8. Post-placement monitoring. A court in a foreign country has granted custody of Child W to Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y pending the completion of W's adoption. Agency X interviews both Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y and Child W in their home in the United States. Agency X gathers information on the adjustment of Child W as a member of the family and inquires into the social and educational progress of Child W. Agency X must be accredited, approved, or supervised. Agency X's activities constitute post-placement monitoring, which is an adoption service. In contrast, if Person Z provided counseling for Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y and/or Child W, but provided no adoption services in the United States to the family, Person Z would not need to be approved or supervised. Post-placement counseling is different than post-placement monitoring because it does not relate to evaluating the adoption placement. Post-placement counseling is not an adoption service and does not trigger the accreditation/approval requirements of the IAA or the UAA and this part.
Example 9. Post-adoption services. Foreign Country H requires that post-adoption reports be completed and sent to its Central Authority every year until adopted children reach the age of 18. Agency X provides support groups and a newsletter for U.S. parents that have adopted children from Country H and encourages parents to complete their post-adoption reports annually. Agency X does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised because it is providing only post-adoption services. Post-adoption services are not included in the definition of adoption services, and therefore, do not trigger accreditation/approval requirements of the IAA or the UAA and this part.
Example 10. Assuming custody and providing services after a disruption. Agency X provides counseling for Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y and for Child W pending the completion of Child W's intercountry adoption. The adoption eventually disrupts. Agency X helps recruit and identify new prospective adoptive parent(s) for Child W, but it is Agency P that assumes custody of Child W and places him in foster care until an alternative adoptive placement can be found. Agency X is not required to be accredited, approved, or supervised because it is not providing an adoption service in the United States as defined in §96.2. Agency P, on the other hand, is providing an adoption service and would have to be accredited, approved, or supervised.
Example 11. Making non-judicial determinations of best interest of child and appropriateness of adoptive placement of child. Agency X receives information about and a videotape of Child W from the institution where Child W lives in a foreign country. Based on the age, sex, and health problems of Child W, Agency X matches Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y with Child W. Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y receive a referral from Agency X and agree to accept the referral and proceed with the adoption of Child W. Agency X determines that Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) Y are a good placement for Child W and notifies the competent authority in W's country of origin that it has found a match for Child W and will start preparing adoption paperwork. All of Agency X's services are provided in the United States. Agency X is performing an adoption service and must be accredited, approved, or supervised.
Example 12. Securing necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption. Facilitator Y is accredited by Convention Country Z. He has contacts at several orphanages in Foreign Country Z and helps Agency X match children eligible for adoption with prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States. Facilitator Y works with the institution that is the legal guardian of Child W in order to get the documents showing the institution's legal consent to the adoption of Child W. Agency X is the only U.S. agency providing adoption services in the case. Agency X must be accredited, or approved and must either treat Facilitator Y as a foreign supervised provider in accordance with §96.46(a) and (b) or verify the consents Facilitator Y secured, in accordance with §96.46(c).

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.16   Public domestic authorities.

Public domestic authorities are not required to become accredited to be able to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases, but must comply with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, and other applicable law when providing services in an intercountry adoption case.

[79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.17   Effective date of accreditation and approval requirements.

The Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. As of that date, the regulations in subpart C of this part govern Convention adoptions between the United States and Convention countries, and require agencies or persons providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parent(s) to comply with §96.12 and applicable Federal regulations. The Secretary maintains for the public a current listing of Convention countries. The effective date of the UAA is July 14, 2014. As of that date, consistent with the UAA, the regulations in subpart C of this part will govern adoptions of children described in INA §101(b)(1)(F), and will require agencies or persons providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parent(s) in connection with a child described in section 101(b)(1)(F) to comply with §96.12 and applicable Federal regulations.

[79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

Subpart D—Application Procedures for Accreditation and Approval

§96.18   Scope.

(a) Agencies are eligible to apply for “accreditation.” Persons are eligible to apply for “approval.” Applications for accreditation or approval will be processed in accordance with §§96.19 and 96.20.

(b) If an agency or person is reapplying for accreditation or approval following cancellation of its accreditation or approval by an accrediting entity or refusal by an accrediting entity to renew its accreditation or approval, it must comply with the procedures in §96.78.

(c) If an agency or person that has been accredited or approved is seeking renewal, it must comply with the procedures in §96.63.

[79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.19   First-time application procedures for accreditation and approval.

(a) Agencies or persons seeking accreditation or approval for the first time may submit an application at any time, with the required fee(s), to an accrediting entity with jurisdiction to evaluate the application.

(b) The accrediting entity must establish and follow uniform application procedures and must make information about those procedures available to agencies and persons that are considering whether to apply for accreditation or approval. An accrediting entity must evaluate the applicant for accreditation or approval in a timely fashion.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006. Redesignated and amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.20   Choosing an accrediting entity.

(a) An agency that seeks to become accredited must apply to an accrediting entity that is designated to provide accreditation services and that has jurisdiction over its application. A person that seeks to become approved must apply to an accrediting entity that is designated to provide approval services and that has jurisdiction over its application. The agency or person may apply to only one accrediting entity at a time.

(b)(1) If the agency or person is applying for accreditation or approval pursuant to this part for the first time, it may apply to any accrediting entity with jurisdiction over its application. However, the agency or person must apply to the same accrediting entity that handled its prior application when it next applies for accreditation or approval, if the agency or person:

(i) Has been denied accreditation or approval;

(ii) Has withdrawn its application in anticipation of denial;

(iii) Has had its accreditation or approval cancelled by an accrediting entity or the Secretary;

(iv) Has been temporarily debarred by the Secretary; or

(v) Has been refused renewal of its accreditation or approval by an accrediting entity.

(2) If the prior accrediting entity is no longer providing accreditation or approval services, the agency or person may apply to any accrediting entity with jurisdiction over its application.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006. Redesignated at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§§96.21-96.22   [Reserved]

Subpart E—Evaluation of Applicants for Accreditation and Approval

§96.23   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart govern the evaluation of agencies and persons for accreditation or approval.

[79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.24   Procedures for evaluating applicants for accreditation or approval.

(a) The accrediting entity must designate at least two evaluators to evaluate an agency or person for accreditation or approval. The accrediting entity's evaluators must have expertise in intercountry adoption, standards evaluation, or experience with the management or oversight of child welfare organizations and must also meet any additional qualifications required by the Secretary in the agreement with the accrediting entity.

(b) To evaluate the agency's or person's eligibility for accreditation or approval, the accrediting entity must:

(1) Review the agency's or person's written application and supporting documentation;

(2) Verify the information provided by the agency or person by examining underlying documentation;

(3) Consider any complaints received by the accrediting entity pursuant to subpart J of this part; and

(4) Conduct site visit(s).

(c) The site visit(s) may include, but need not be limited to, interviews with birth parents, adoptive parent(s), prospective adoptive parent(s), and adult adoptee(s) served by the agency or person, interviews with the agency's or person's employees, and interviews with other individuals knowledgeable about the agency's or person's provision of adoption services. It may also include a review of on-site documents. The accrediting entity must, to the extent practicable, advise the agency or person in advance of the type of documents it wishes to review during the site visit. The accrediting entity must require at least one of the evaluators to participate in each site visit. The accrediting entity must determine the number of evaluators that participate in a site visit in light of factors such as:

(1) The agency's or person's size;

(2) The number of adoption cases it handles;

(3) The number of sites the accrediting entity decides to visit; and

(4) The number of individuals working at each site.

(d) Before deciding whether to accredit an agency or approve a person, the accrediting entity may, in its discretion, advise the agency or person of any deficiencies that may hinder or prevent its accreditation or approval and defer a decision to allow the agency or person to correct the deficiencies.

§96.25   Access to information and documents requested by the accrediting entity.

(a) The agency or person must give the accrediting entity access to information and documents, including adoption case files and proprietary information, that it requires or requests to evaluate an agency or person for accreditation or approval and to perform its oversight, enforcement, renewal, data collection, and other functions. The agency or person must also cooperate with the accrediting entity by making employees available for interviews upon request.

(b) Accrediting entity review of adoption case files pursuant to paragraph (a) shall be limited to Convention adoption case files and cases subject to the UAA, except that, in the case of first-time applicants for accreditation or approval, the accrediting entity may review adoption case files related to other non-Convention cases for purposes of assessing the agency's or person's capacity to comply with record-keeping and data-management standards in subpart F of this part. The accrediting entity shall permit the agency or person to redact names and other information that identifies birth parent(s), prospective adoptive parent(s), and adoptee(s) from such non-Convention adoption case files not subject to the UAA prior to their inspection by the accrediting entity.

(c) If an agency or person fails to provide requested documents or information, or to make employees available as requested, the accrediting entity may deny accreditation or approval or, in the case of an accredited agency or approved person, take appropriate adverse action against the agency or person solely on that basis.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.26   Protection of information and documents by the accrediting entity.

(a) The accrediting entity must protect from unauthorized use and disclosure all documents and information about the agency or person it receives including, but not limited to, documents and proprietary information about the agency's or person's finances, management, and professional practices received in connection with the perf ormance of its accreditation or approval, oversight, enforcement, renewal, data collection, or other functions under its agreement with the Secretary and this part.

(b) The documents and information received may not be disclosed to the public and may be used only for the purpose of performing the accrediting entity's accreditation or approval functions and related tasks under its agreement with Secretary and this part, or to provide information to the Secretary, the Complaint Registry, or an appropriate Federal, State, or local authority, including, but not limited to, a public domestic authority or local law enforcement authority unless:

(1) Otherwise authorized by the agency or person in writing;

(2) Otherwise required under Federal or State laws; or

(3) Required pursuant to subpart M of this part.

(c) Unless the names and other information that identifies the birth parent(s), prospective adoptive parent(s), and adoptee(s) are requested by the accrediting entity for an articulated reason, the agency or person may withhold from the accrediting entity such information and substitute individually assigned codes in the documents it provides. The accrediting entity must have appropriate safeguards to protect from unauthorized use and disclosure of any information in its files that identifies birth parent(s), prospective adoptive parent(s), and adoptee(s). The accrediting entity must ensure that its officers, employees, contractors, and evaluators who have access to information or documents provided by the agency or person have signed a non-disclosure agreement reflecting the requirements of §96.26(a) and (b). The accrediting entity must maintain an accurate record of the agency's or person's application, the supporting documentation, and the basis for its decision.

§96.27   Substantive criteria for evaluating applicants for accreditation or approval.

(a) The accrediting entity may not grant an agency accreditation or a person approval, or permit an agency's or person's accreditation or approval to be maintained, unless the agency or person demonstrates to the satisfaction of the accrediting entity that it is in substantial compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part.

(b) When the agency or person makes its initial application for accreditation or approval under the standards contained in subpart F of this part, the accrediting entity may measure the capacity of the agency or person to achieve substantial compliance with these standards where relevant evidence of its actual performance is not yet available. Once the agency or person has been accredited or approved pursuant to this part, the accrediting entity must, for the purposes of monitoring, renewal, enforcement, and reapplication after adverse action, consider the agency's or person's actual performance in deciding whether the agency or person is in substantial compliance with the standards contained in subpart F of this part, unless the accrediting entity determines that it is still necessary to measure capacity because adequate evidence of actual performance is not available.

(c) The standards contained in subpart F of this part apply during all the stages of accreditation and approval, including, but not limited to, when the accrediting entity is evaluating an applicant for accreditation or approval, when it is determining whether to renew an agency's or person's accreditation or approval, when it is monitoring the performance of an accredited agency or approved person, and when it is taking adverse action against an accredited agency or approved person. Except as provided in §96.25 and paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, the accrediting entity may only use the standards contained in subpart F of this part when determining whether an agency or person may be granted or permitted to maintain accreditation or approval.

(d) The Secretary will ensure that each accrediting entity performs its accreditation and approval functions using only a method approved by the Secretary that is substantially the same as the method approved for use by each other accrediting entity. Each such method will include: an assigned value for each standard (or element of a standard); a method of rating an agency's or person's compliance with each applicable standard; and a method of evaluating whether an agency's or person's overall compliance with all applicable standards establishes that the agency or person is in substantial compliance with the standards and can be accredited or approved. The Secretary will ensure that the value assigned to each standard reflects the relative importance of that standard to compliance with the Convention, the IAA, and the UAA and is consistent with the value assigned to the standard by other accrediting entities. The accrediting entity must advise applicants of the value assigned to each standard (or elements of each standard) at the time it provides applicants with the application materials.

(e) If an agency or person has previously been denied accreditation or approval, has withdrawn its application in anticipation of denial, or is reapplying for accreditation or approval after cancellation, refusal to renew, or temporary debarment, the accrediting entity may take the reasons underlying such actions into account when evaluating the agency or person for accreditation or approval, and may deny accreditation or approval on the basis of the previous action.

(f) If an agency or person that has an ownership or control interest in the applicant, as that term is defined in section 1124 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320a-3), has been debarred pursuant to §96.85, the accrediting entity may take into account the reasons underlying the debarment when evaluating the agency or person for accreditation or approval, and may deny accreditation or approval or refuse to renew accreditation or approval on the basis of the debarment.

(g) The standards contained in subpart F of this part do not eliminate the need for an agency or person to comply fully with the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates. An agency or person must provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases consistent with the laws of any State in which it operates and with the Convention, the IAA and the UAA. Persons that are approved to provide adoption services may only provide such services in States that do not prohibit persons from providing adoption services. Nothing in the application of subparts E and F should be construed to require a State to allow persons to provide adoption services if State law does not permit them to do so.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.28   [Reserved]

Subpart F—Standards for Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Approval

§96.29   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart provide the standards for accrediting agencies and approving persons.

[79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

Licensing and Corporate Governance

§96.30   State licensing.

(a) The agency or person is properly licensed or otherwise authorized by State law to provide adoption services in at least one State.

(b) The agency or person follows applicable State licensing and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions in which it provides adoption services.

(c) If it provides adoption services in a State in which it is not itself licensed or authorized to provide such services, the agency or person does so only:

(1) Through agencies or persons that are licensed or authorized by State law to provide adoption services in that State and that are exempted providers or acting as supervised providers; or

(2) Through public domestic authorities.

(d) In the case of a person, the individual or for-profit entity is not prohibited by State law from providing adoption services in any State where it is providing adoption services, and does not provide adoption services in foreign countries that prohibit individuals or for-profit entities from providing adoption services.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.31   Corporate structure.

(a) The agency qualifies for nonprofit tax treatment under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or qualifies for nonprofit status under the laws of any State.

(b) The person is an individual or is a for-profit entity organized as a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company, or other legal entity under the laws of any State.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.32   Internal structure and oversight.

(a) The agency or person has (or, in the case of an individual, is) a chief executive officer or equivalent official who is qualified by education, adoption service experience, and management credentials to ensure effective use of resources and coordinated delivery of the services provided by the agency or person, and has authority and responsibility for management and oversight of the staff and any supervised providers in carrying out the adoption-related functions of the organization.

(b) The agency or person has a board of directors or a similar governing body that establishes and approves its mission, policies, budget, and programs; provides leadership to secure the resources needed to support its programs; includes one or more individuals with experience in adoption, including but not limited to, adoptees, birth parents, prospective adoptive parent(s), and adoptive parents; and appoints and oversees the performance of its chief executive officer or equivalent official. This standard does not apply where the person is an individual practitioner.

(c) The agency or person keeps permanent records of the meetings and deliberations of its governing body and of its major decisions affecting the delivery of adoption services.

(d) The agency or person has in place procedures and standards, pursuant to §96.45 and §96.46, for the selection, monitoring, and oversight of supervised providers.

(e) The agency or person discloses to the accrediting entity the following information:

(1) Any other names by which the agency or person is or has been known, under either its current or any former form of organization, and the addresses and phone numbers used when such names were used;

(2) The name, address, and phone number of each current director, manager, and employee of the agency or person, and, for any such individual who previously served as a director, manager, or employee of another provider of adoption services, the name, address, and phone number of such other provider; and

(3) The name, address, and phone number of any entity it uses or intends to use as a supervised provider.

Financial and Risk Management

§96.33   Budget, audit, insurance, and risk assessment requirements.

(a) The agency or person operates under a budget approved by its governing body, if applicable, for management of its funds. The budget discloses all remuneration (including perquisites) paid to the agency's or person's board of directors, managers, employees, and supervised providers.

(b) The agency's or person's finances are subject to annual internal review and oversight and are subject to independent audits every four years. The agency or person submits copies of internal financial review reports for inspection by the accrediting entity each year.

(c) The agency or person submits copies of each audit, as well as any accompanying management letter or qualified opinion letter, for inspection by the accrediting entity.

(d) The agency or person meets the financial reporting requirements of Federal and State laws and regulations.

(e) The agency's or person's balance sheets show that it operates on a sound financial basis and maintains on average sufficient cash reserves, assets, or other financial resources to meet its operating expenses for two months, taking into account its projected volume of cases and its size, scope, and financial commitments. The agency or person has a plan to transfer its intercountry adoption cases if it ceases to provide or is no longer permitted to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases. The plan includes provisions for an organized closure and reimbursement to clients of funds paid for services not yet rendered.

(f) If it accepts charitable donations, the agency or person has safeguards in place to ensure that such donations do not influence child placement decisions in any way.

(g) The agency or person assesses the risks it assumes, including by reviewing information on the availability of insurance coverage for intercountry adoption-related activities. The agency or person uses the assessment to meet the requirements in paragraph (h) of this section and as the basis for determining the type and amount of professional, general, directors' and officers', errors and omissions, and other liability insurance to carry.

(h) The agency or person maintains professional liability insurance in amounts reasonably related to its exposure to risk, but in no case in an amount less than $1,000,000 in the aggregate.

(i) The agency's or person's chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and other officers or employees with direct responsibility for financial transactions or financial management of the agency or person are bonded.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.34   Compensation.

(a) The agency or person does not compensate any individual who provides intercountry adoption services with an incentive fee or contingent fee for each child located or placed for adoption.

(b) The agency or person compensates its directors, officers, employees, and supervised providers who provide intercountry adoption services only for services actually rendered and only on a fee-for-service, hourly wage, or salary basis rather than a contingent fee basis.

(c) The agency or person does not make any payments, promise payment, or give other consideration to any individual directly or indirectly involved in provision of adoption services in a particular case, except for salaries or fees for services actually rendered and reimbursement for costs incurred. This does not prohibit an agency or person from providing in-kind or other donations not intended to influence or affect a particular adoption.

(d) The fees, wages, or salaries paid to the directors, officers, employees, and supervised providers of the agency or person are not unreasonably high in relation to the services actually rendered, taking into account the country in which the adoption services are provided and norms for compensation within the intercountry adoption community in that country, to the extent that such norms are known to the accrediting entity; the location, number, and qualifications of staff; workload requirements; budget; and size of the agency or person.

(e) Any other compensation paid to the agency's or person's directors or members of its governing body is not unreasonably high in relation to the services rendered, taking into account the same factors listed in paragraph (d) of this section and its for-profit or nonprofit status.

(f) The agency or person identifies all vendors to whom clients are referred for non-adoption services and discloses to the accrediting entity any corporate or financial arrangements and any family relationships with such vendors.

Ethical Practices and Responsibilities

§96.35   Suitability of agencies and persons to provide adoption services consistent with the Convention.

(a) The agency or person provides adoption services ethically and in accordance with the Convention's principles of:

(1) Ensuring that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of children; and

(2) Preventing the abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.

(b) In order to permit the accrediting entity to evaluate the suitability of an agency or person for accreditation or approval, the agency or person discloses to the accrediting entity the following information related to the agency or person, under its current or any former name:

(1) Any instances in which the agency or person has lost the right to provide adoption services in any State or country, including the basis for such action(s);

(2) Any instances in which the agency or person was debarred or otherwise denied the authority to provide adoption services in any State or country, including the basis and disposition of such action(s);

(3) Any licensing suspensions for cause or other negative sanctions by oversight bodies against the agency or person, including the basis and disposition of such action(s);

(4) For the prior ten-year period, any disciplinary action(s) against the agency or person by a licensing or accrediting body, including the basis and disposition of such action(s);

(5) For the prior ten-year period, any written complaint(s) related to the provision of adoption-related services, including the basis and disposition of such complaints, against the agency or person filed with any State or Federal or foreign regulatory body and of which the agency or person was notified;

(6) For the prior ten-year period, any known past or pending investigation(s) (by Federal authorities or by public domestic authorities), criminal charge(s), child abuse charge(s), or lawsuit(s) against the agency or person, related to the provision of child welfare or adoption-related services, and the basis and disposition of such action(s).

(7) Any instances where the agency or person has been found guilty of any crime under Federal, State, or foreign law or has been found to have committed any civil or administrative violation involving financial irregularities under Federal, State, or foreign law;

(8) For the prior five-year period, any instances where the agency or person has filed for bankruptcy; and

(9) Descriptions of any businesses or activities that are inconsistent with the principles of the Convention and that have been or are currently carried out by the agency or person, affiliate organizations, or by any organization in which the agency or person has an ownership or controlling interest.

(c) In order to permit the accrediting entity to evaluate the suitability of an agency or person for accreditation or approval, the agency or person (for its current or any former names) discloses to the accrediting entity the following information about its individual directors, officers, and employees:

(1) For the prior ten-year period, any conduct by any such individual related to the provision of adoption-related services that was subject to external disciplinary proceeding(s);

(2) Any convictions or current investigations of any such individual who is in a senior management position for acts involving financial irregularities;

(3) The results of a State criminal background check and a child abuse clearance for any such individual in the United States in a senior management position or who works directly with parent(s) and/or children (unless such checks have been included in the State licensing process); and

(4) A completed FBI Form FD-258 for each such individual in the United States in a senior management position or who works directly with parent(s) and/or children, which the agency or person must keep on file in case future allegations warrant submission of the form for a Federal criminal background check of any such individual.

(5) Descriptions of any businesses or activities that are inconsistent with the principles of the Convention and that are known to have been or are currently carried out by current individual directors, officers, or employees of the agency or person.

(d) In order to permit the accrediting entity to evaluate the suitability of a person who is an individual practitioner for approval, the individual:

(1) Provides the results of a State criminal background check and a child abuse clearance to the accrediting entity;

(2) Completes and retains a FBI Form FD-258 on file in case future allegations warrant submission of the form for a Federal criminal background check;

(3) If a lawyer, for every jurisdiction in which he or she has ever been admitted to the Bar, provides a certificate of good standing or an explanation of why he or she is not in good standing, accompanied by any relevant documentation and immediately reports to the accrediting entity any disciplinary action considered by a State bar association, regardless of whether the action relates to intercountry adoption; and

(4) If a social worker, for every jurisdiction in which he or she has been licensed, provides a certificate of good standing or an explanation of why he or she is not in good standing, accompanied by any relevant documentation.

(e) In order to permit the accrediting entity to monitor the suitability of an agency or person, the agency or person must disclose any changes in the information required by §96.35 within thirty business days of learning of the change.

§96.36   Prohibition on child buying.

(a) The agency or person prohibits its employees and agents from giving money or other consideration, directly or indirectly, to a child's parent(s), other individual(s), or an entity as payment for the child or as an inducement to release the child. If permitted or required by the child's country of origin, an agency or person may remit reasonable payments for activities related to the adoption proceedings, pre-birth and birth medical costs, the care of the child, the care of the birth mother while pregnant and immediately following birth of the child, or the provision of child welfare and child protection services generally. Permitted or required contributions shall not be remitted as payment for the child or as an inducement to release the child.

(b) The agency or person has written policies and procedures in place reflecting the prohibitions in paragraph (a) of this section and reinforces them in its employee training programs.

Professional Qualifications and Training for Employees

§96.37   Education and experience requirements for social service personnel.

(a) The agency or person only uses employees with appropriate qualifications and credentials to perform, in connection with an intercountry adoption, adoption-related social service functions that require the application of clinical skills and judgment (home studies, child background studies, counseling, parent preparation, post-placement, and other similar services).

(b) The agency's or person's employees meet any State licensing or regulatory requirements for the services they are providing.

(c) The agency's or person's executive director, the supervisor overseeing a case, or the social service employee providing adoption-related social services that require the application of clinical skills and judgment (home studies, child background studies, counseling, parent preparation, post-placement, and other similar services) has experience in the professional delivery of intercountry adoption services.

(d) Supervisors. The agency's or person's social work supervisors have prior experience in family and children's services, adoption, or intercountry adoption and either:

(1) A master's degree from an accredited program of social work;

(2) A master's degree (or doctorate) in a related human service field, including, but not limited to, psychology, psychiatry, psychiatric nursing, counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or pastoral counseling; or

(3) In the case of a social work supervisor who is or was an incumbent at the time the Convention enters into force for the United States, the supervisor has significant skills and experience in intercountry adoption and has regular access for consultation purposes to an individual with the qualifications listed in paragraph (d)(1) or paragraph (d)(2) of this section.

(e) Non-supervisory employees. The agency's or person's non-supervisory employees providing adoption-related social services that require the application of clinical skills and judgment other than home studies or child background studies have either:

(1) A master's degree from an accredited program of social work or in another human service field; or

(2) A bachelor's degree from an accredited program of social work; or a combination of a bachelor's degree in any field and prior experience in family and children's services, adoption, or intercountry adoption; and

(3) Are supervised by an employee of the agency or person who meets the requirements for supervisors in paragraph (d) of this section.

(f) Home studies. The agency's or person's employees who conduct home studies:

(1) Are authorized or licensed to complete a home study under the laws of the States in which they practice;

(2) Meet the requirements for home study preparers in 8 CFR 204.301; and

(3) Are supervised by an employee of the agency or person who meets the requirements in paragraph (d) of this section.

(g) Child background studies. The agency's or person's employees who prepare child background studies:

(1) Are authorized or licensed to complete a child background study under the laws of the States in which they practice; and

(2) Are supervised by an employee of the agency or person who meets the requirements in paragraph (d) of this section.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

§96.38   Training requirements for social service personnel.

(a) The agency or person provides newly hired employees who have adoption-related responsibilities involving the application of clinical skills and judgment (home studies, child background studies, counseling services, parent preparation, post-placement and other similar services) with a comprehensive orientation to intercountry adoption that includes training on:

(1) The requirements of the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, and other applicable Federal regulations;

(2) The INA regulations applicable to the immigration of children described in INA 101(b)(1)(F) and 101(b)(1)(G);

(3) The adoption laws of any foreign country where the agency or person provides adoption services;

(4) Relevant State laws;

(5) Ethical considerations in intercountry adoption and prohibitions on child-buying;

(6) The agency's or person's goals, ethical and professional guidelines, organizational lines of accountability, policies, and procedures; and

(7) The cultural diversity of the population(s) served by the agency or person.

(b) In addition to the orientation training required under paragraph (a) of this section, the agency or person provides initial training to newly hired or current employees whose responsibilities include providing adoption-related social services that involve the application of clinical skills and judgment (home studies, child background studies, counseling services, parent preparation, post-placement and other similar services) that addresses:

(1) The factors in the countries of origin that lead to children needing adoptive families;

(2) Feelings of separation, grief, and loss experienced by the child with respect to the family of origin;

(3) Attachment and post-traumatic stress disorders;

(4) Psychological issues facing children who have experienced abuse or neglect and/or whose parents' rights have been terminated because of abuse or neglect;

(5) The impact of institutionalization on child development;

(6) Outcomes for children placed for adoption internationally and the benefits of permanent family placements over other forms of government care;

(7) The most frequent medical and psychological problems experienced by children from the countries of origin served by the agency or person;

(8) The process of developing emotional ties to an adoptive family;

(9) Acculturation and assimilation issues, including those arising from factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, and culture and the impact of having been adopted internationally; and

(10) Child, adolescent, and adult development as affected by adoption.

(c) The agency or person ensures that employees who provide adoption-related social services that involve the application of clinical skills and judgment (home studies, child background studies, counseling services, parent preparation, post-placement and other similar services) also receive, in addition to the orientation and initial training described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, no less than thirty hours of training every two years, or more if required by State law, on current and emerging adoption practice issues through participation in seminars, conferences, documented distance learning courses, and other similar programs. Continuing education hours required under State law may count toward the thirty hours of training as long as the training is related to current and emerging adoption practice issues.

(d) The agency or person exempts newly hired and current employees from elements of the orientation and initial training required in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section only where the employee has demonstrated experience with intercountry adoption and knowledge of the Convention, the IAA, and the UAA.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40634, July 14, 2014]

Information Disclosure, Fee Practices, and Quality Control Policies and Practices

§96.39   Information disclosure and quality control practices.

(a) The agency or person fully discloses in writing to the general public upon request and to prospective client(s) upon initial contact:

(1) Its adoption service policies and practices, including general eligibility criteria and fees;

(2) The supervised providers with whom the prospective client(s) can expect to work in the United States and in the child's country of origin and the usual costs associated with their services; and

(3) A sample written adoption services contract substantially like the one that the prospective client(s) will be expected to sign should they proceed.

(b) The agency or person discloses to client(s) and prospective client(s) that the following information is available upon request and makes such information available when requested:

(1) The number of its adoption placements per year for the prior three calendar years, and the number and percentage of those placements that remain intact, are disrupted, or have been dissolved as of the time the information is provided;

(2) The number of parents who apply to adopt on a yearly basis, based on data for the prior three calendar years; and

(3) The number of children eligible for adoption and awaiting an adoptive placement referral via the agency or person.

(c) The agency or person does not give preferential treatment to its board members, contributors, volunteers, employees, agents, consultants, or independent contractors with respect to the placement of children for adoption and has a written policy to this effect.

(d) The agency or person requires a client to sign a waiver of liability as part of the adoption service contract only where that waiver complies with applicable State law. Any waiver required is limited and specific, based on risks that have been discussed and explained to the client in the adoption services contract.

(e) The agency or person cooperates with reviews, inspections, and audits by the accrediting entity or the Secretary.

(f) The agency or person uses the internet in the placement of individual children eligible for adoption only where:

(1) Such use is not prohibited by applicable State or Federal law or by the laws of the child's country of origin;

(2) Such use is subject to controls to avoid misuse and links to any sites that reflect practices that involve the sale, abduction, exploitation, or trafficking of children;

(3) Such use, if it includes photographs, is designed to identify children either who are currently waiting for adoption or who have already been adopted or placed for adoption (and who are clearly so identified); and

(4) Such use does not serve as a substitute for the direct provision of adoption services, including services to the child, the prospective adoptive parent(s), and/or the birth parent(s).

§96.40   Fee policies and procedures.

(a) The agency or person provides to all applicants, prior to application, a written schedule of expected total fees and estimated expenses and an explanation of the conditions under which fees or expenses may be charged, waived, reduced, or refunded and of when and how the fees and expenses must be paid.

(b) Before providing any adoption service to prospective adoptive parent(s), the agency or person itemizes and discloses in writing the following information for each separate category of fees and estimated expenses that the prospective adoptive parent(s) will be charged in connection with an intercountry adoption:

(1) Home study. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for home study preparation and approval, whether the home study is to be prepared directly by the agency or person itself, or prepared by a supervised provider, exempted provider, or approved person and approved as required under §96.47;

(2) Adoption expenses in the United States. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for all adoption services other than the home study that will be provided in the United States. This category includes, but is not limited to, personnel costs, administrative overhead, operational costs, training and education, communications and publications costs, and any other costs related to providing adoption services in the United States;

(3) Foreign country program expenses. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for all adoption services that will be provided in the child's country of origin. This category includes, but is not limited to, costs for personnel, administrative overhead, training, education, legal services, and communications, and any other costs related to providing adoption services in the child's Convention country;

(4) Care of the child. The expected total fees and estimated expenses charged to prospective adoptive parent(s) for the care of the child in the country of origin prior to adoption, including, but not limited to, costs for food, clothing, shelter and medical care; foster care services; orphanage care; and any other services provided directly to the child;

(5) Translation and document expenses. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for obtaining any necessary documents and for any translation of documents related to the adoption, along with information on whether the prospective adoptive parent(s) will be expected to pay such costs directly or to third parties, either in the United States or in the child's country of origin, or through the agency or person. This category includes, but is not limited to, costs for obtaining, translating, or copying records or documents required to complete the adoption, costs for the child's court documents, passport, adoption certificate and other documents related to the adoption, and costs for notarizations and certifications;

(6) Contributions. Any fixed contribution amount or percentage that the prospective adoptive parent(s) will be expected or required to make to child protection or child welfare service programs in the child's country of origin country or in the United States, along with an explanation of the intended use of the contribution and the manner in which the transaction will be recorded and accounted for; and

(7) Post-placement and post-adoption reports. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for any post-placement or post-adoption reports that the agency or person or parent(s) must prepare in light of any requirements of the expected country of origin.

(c) If the following fees and estimated expenses were not disclosed as part of the categories identified in paragraph (b) of this section, the agency or person itemizes and discloses in writing any:

(1) Third party fees. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for services that the prospective adoptive parent(s) will be responsible to pay directly to a third party. Such third party fees include, but are not limited to, fees to competent authorities for services rendered or Central Authority processing fees; and

(2) Travel and accommodation expenses. The expected total fees and estimated expenses for any travel, transportation, and accommodation services arranged by the agency or person for the prospective adoptive parent(s).

(d) The agency or person also specifies in its adoption services contract when and how funds advanced to cover fees or expenses will be refunded if adoption services are not provided.

(e) When the agency or person uses part of its fees to provide special services, such as cultural programs for adoptee(s), scholarships or other services, it discloses this policy to the prospective adoptive parent(s) in advance of providing any adoption services and gives the prospective adoptive parent(s) a general description of the programs supported by such funds.

(f) The agency or person has mechanisms in place for transferring funds to foreign countries when the financial institutions of the foreign country so permit and for obtaining written receipts for such transfers, so that direct cash transactions by the prospective adoptive parent(s) to pay for adoption services provided in the Convention country are minimized or unnecessary.

(g) The agency or person does not customarily charge additional fees and expenses beyond those disclosed in the adoption services contract and has a written policy to this effect. In the event that unforeseen additional fees and expenses are incurred in the foreign country, the agency or person charges such additional fees and expenses only under the following conditions:

(1) It discloses the fees and expenses in writing to the prospective adoptive parent(s);

(2) It obtains the specific consent of the prospective adoptive parent(s) prior to expending any funds in excess of $1000 for which the agency or person will hold the prospective adoptive parent(s) responsible or gives the prospective adoptive parent(s) the opportunity to waive the notice and consent requirement in advance. If the prospective adoptive parent(s) has the opportunity to waive the notice and consent requirement in advance, this policy is reflected in the written policies and procedures of the agency or person; and

(3) It provides written receipts to the prospective adoptive parent(s) for fees and expenses paid directly by the agency or person in the foreign country and retains copies of such receipts.

(h) The agency or person returns any funds to which the prospective adoptive parent(s) may be entitled within sixty days of the completion of the delivery of services.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

Responding to Complaints and Records and Reports Management

§96.41   Procedures for responding to complaints and improving service delivery.

(a) The agency or person has written complaint policies and procedures that incorporate the standards in paragraphs (b) through (h) of this section and provides a copy of such policies and procedures, including contact information for the Complaint Registry, to client(s) at the time the adoption services contract is signed.

(b) The agency or person permits any birth parent, prospective adoptive parent or adoptive parent, or adoptee to lodge directly with the agency or person signed and dated complaints about any of the services or activities of the agency or person (including its use of supervised providers) that he or she believes raise an issue of compliance with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, and advises such individuals of the additional procedures available to them if they are dissatisfied with the agency's or person's response to their complaint.

(c) The agency or person responds in writing to complaints received pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section within thirty days of receipt, and provides expedited review of such complaints that are time-sensitive or that involve allegations of fraud.

(d) The agency or person maintains a written record of each complaint received pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section and the steps taken to investigate and respond to it and makes this record available to the accrediting entity or the Secretary upon request.

(e) The agency or person does not take any action to discourage a client or prospective client from, or retaliate against a client or prospective client for: making a complaint; expressing a grievance; providing information in writing or interviews to an accrediting entity on the agency's or person's performance; or questioning the conduct of or expressing an opinion about the performance of an agency or person.

(f) The agency or person provides to the accrediting entity and the Secretary, on a semi-annual basis, a summary of all complaints received pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section during the preceding six months (including the number of complaints received and how each complaint was resolved) and an assessment of any discernible patterns in complaints received against the agency or person pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, along with information about what systemic changes, if any, were made or are planned by the agency or person in response to such patterns.

(g) The agency or person provides any information about complaints received pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section as may be requested by the accrediting entity or the Secretary.

(h) The agency or person has a quality improvement program appropriate to its size and circumstances through which it makes systematic efforts to improve its adoption services as needed. The agency or person uses quality improvement methods such as reviewing complaint data, using client satisfaction surveys, or comparing the agency's or person's practices and performance against the data contained in the Secretary's annual reports to Congress on intercountry adoptions.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.42   Retention, preservation, and disclosure of adoption records.

(a) The agency or person retains or archives adoption records in a safe, secure, and retrievable manner for the period of time required by applicable State law.

(b) The agency or person makes readily available to the adoptee and the adoptive parent(s) upon request all non-identifying information in its custody about the adoptee's health history or background.

(c) The agency or person ensures that personal data gathered or transmitted in connection with an adoption is used only for the purposes for which the information was gathered and safeguards sensitive individual information.

(d) The agency or person has a plan that is consistent with the provisions of this section, the plan required under §96.33, and applicable State law for transferring custody of adoption records that are subject to retention or archival requirements to an appropriate custodian, and ensuring the accessibility of those adoption records, in the event that the agency or person ceases to provide or is no longer permitted to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases.

(e) The agency or person notifies the accrediting entity and the Secretary in writing within thirty days of the time it ceases to provide or is no longer permitted to provide adoption services and provides information about the transfer of its adoption records.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.43   Case tracking, data management, and reporting.

(a) When acting as the primary provider, the agency or person maintains all the data required in this section in a format approved by the accrediting entity and provides it to the accrediting entity on an annual basis.

(b) When acting as the primary provider, the agency or person routinely generates and maintains reports as follows:

(1) For cases involving children immigrating to the United States, information and reports on the total number of Convention and non-Convention adoptions undertaken by the agency or person each year and, for each case:

(i) The foreign country from which the child emigrated;

(ii) The State to which the child immigrated;

(iii) The State or foreign country in which the adoption was finalized;

(iv) The age of the child; and

(v) The date of the child's placement for adoption.

(2) For cases involving children emigrating from the United States, information and reports on the total number of Convention and non-Convention adoptions undertaken by the agency or person each year and, for each case:

(i) The State from which the child emigrated;

(ii) The foreign country to which the child immigrated;

(iii) The State or foreign country in which the adoption was finalized;

(iv) The age of the child; and

(v) The date of the child's placement for adoption.

(3) For each disrupted placement involving an intercountry adoption, information and reports about the disruption, including information on:

(i) The foreign country from which the child emigrated;

(ii) The State to which the child immigrated;

(iii) The age of the child;

(iv) The date of the child's placement for adoption;

(v) The reason(s) for and resolution(s) of the disruption of the placement for adoption, including information on the child's re-placement for adoption and final legal adoption;

(vi) The names of the agencies or persons that handled the placement for adoption; and

(vii) The plans for the child.

(4) Wherever possible, for each dissolution of an intercountry adoption, information and reports on the dissolution, including information on:

(i) The foreign country from which the child emigrated;

(ii) The State to which the child immigrated;

(iii) The age of the child;

(iv) The date of the child's placement for adoption;

(v) The reason(s) for and resolution(s) of the dissolution of the adoption, to the extent known by the agency or person;

(vi) The names of the agencies or persons that handled the placement for adoption; and

(vii) The plans for the child.

(5) Information on the shortest, longest, and average length of time it takes to complete an intercountry adoption, set forth by the child's country of origin, calculated from the time the child is matched with the prospective adoptive parent(s) until the time the adoption is finalized by a court, excluding any period for appeal;

(6) Information on the range of adoption fees, including the lowest, highest, average, and the median of such fees, set forth by the child's country of origin, charged by the agency or person for intercountry adoptions involving children immigrating to the United States in connection with their adoption.

(c) If the agency or person provides adoption services in cases not subject to the Convention that involve a child emigrating from the United States for the purpose of adoption or after an adoption has been finalized, it provides such information as required by the Secretary directly to the Secretary and demonstrates to the accrediting entity that it has provided this information.

(d) The agency or person provides any of the information described in paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section to the accrediting entity or the Secretary within thirty days of request.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

Service Planning and Delivery

§96.44   Acting as primary provider.

(a) When required by §96.14(a), the agency or person acts as primary provider and adheres to the provisions in §96.14(b) through (e). When acting as the primary provider, the agency or person develops and implements a service plan for providing all adoption services and provides all such services, either directly or through arrangements with supervised providers, exempted providers, public domestic authorities, competent authorities, Central Authorities, public foreign authorities, or, to the extent permitted by §96.14(c), other foreign providers (agencies, persons, or other non-governmental entities).

(b) The agency or person has an organizational structure, financial and personnel resources, and policies and procedures in place that demonstrate that the agency or person is capable of acting as a primary provider in any intercountry adoption case and, when acting as the primary provider, provides appropriate supervision to supervised providers and verifies the work of other foreign providers in accordance with §§96.45 and 96.46.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.45   Using supervised providers in the United States.

(a) The agency or person, when acting as the primary provider and using supervised providers in the United States to provide adoption services, ensures that each such supervised provider:

(1) Is in compliance with applicable State licensing and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions in which it provides adoption services;

(2) Does not engage in practices inconsistent with the Convention's principles of furthering the best interests of the child and preventing the sale, abduction, exploitation, or trafficking of children; and

(3) Before entering into an agreement with the primary provider for the provision of adoption services, discloses to the primary provider the suitability information listed in §96.35.

(b) The agency or person, when acting as the primary provider and using supervised providers in the United States to provide adoption services, ensures that each such supervised provider operates under a written agreement with the primary provider that:

(1) Identifies clearly the adoption service(s) to be provided by the supervised provider and requires that the service(s) be provided in accordance with the applicable service standard(s) for accreditation and approval (for example: home study (§96.47); parent training (§96.48); child background studies and consent (§96.53));

(2) Requires the supervised provider to comply with the following standards regardless of the type of adoption services it is providing: §96.36 (prohibition on child-buying), §96.34 (compensation), §96.38 (employee training), §96.39(d) (waivers of liability), and §96.41(b) through (e) (complaints);

(3) Identifies specifically the lines of authority between the primary provider and the supervised provider, the employee of the primary provider who will be responsible for supervision, and the employee of the supervised provider who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the written agreement;

(4) States clearly the compensation arrangement for the services to be provided and the fees and expenses to be charged by the supervised provider;

(5) Specifies whether the supervised provider's fees and expenses will be billed to and paid by the client(s) directly or billed to the client through the primary provider;

(6) Provides that, if billing the client(s) directly for its service, the supervised provider will give the client(s) an itemized bill of all fees and expenses to be paid, with a written explanation of how and when such fees and expenses will be refunded if the service is not completed, and will return any funds collected to which the client(s) may be entitled within sixty days of the completion of the delivery of services;

(7) Requires the supervised provider to meet the same personnel qualifications as accredited agencies and approved persons, as provided for in §96.37, except that, for purposes of §§96.37(e)(3), (f)(3), and (g)(2), the work of the employee must be supervised by an employee of an accredited agency or approved person;

(8) Requires the supervised provider to limit the use of and safeguard personal data gathered or transmitted in connection with an adoption, as provided for in §96.42;

(9) Requires the supervised provider to respond within a reasonable period of time to any request for information from the primary provider, the Secretary, or the accrediting entity that issued the primary provider's accreditation or approval;

(10) Requires the supervised provider to provide the primary provider on a timely basis any data that is necessary to comply with the primary provider's reporting requirements;

(11) Requires the supervised provider to disclose promptly to the primary provider any changes in the suitability information required by §96.35;

(12) Permits suspension or termination of the agreement on reasonable notice if the primary provider has grounds to believe that the supervised provider is not in compliance with the agreement or the requirements of this section.

§96.46   Using providers in foreign countries.

(a) The agency or person, when acting as the primary provider and using foreign supervised providers to provide adoption services in foreign countries, ensures that each such foreign supervised provider:

(1) Is in compliance with the laws of the foreign country in which it operates;

(2) Does not engage in practices inconsistent with the Convention's principles of furthering the best interests of the child and preventing the sale, abduction, exploitation, or trafficking of children;

(3) Before entering into an agreement with the primary provider for the provision of adoption services, discloses to the primary provider the suitability information listed in §96.35, taking into account the authorities in the foreign country that are analogous to the authorities identified in that section;

(4) Does not have a pattern of licensing suspensions or other sanctions and has not lost the right to provide adoption services in any jurisdiction for reasons germane to the Convention or the Convention's principles of ensuring that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of children and preventing the abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children; and

(5) Is accredited in the foreign country in which it operates, if such accreditation is required by the laws of that Convention country to perform the adoption services it is providing.

(b) The agency or person, when acting as the primary provider and using foreign supervised providers to provide adoption services in foreign countries, ensures that each such foreign supervised provider operates under a written agreement with the primary provider that:

(1) Identifies clearly the adoption service(s) to be provided by the foreign supervised provider;

(2) Requires the foreign supervised provider, if responsible for obtaining medical or social information on the child, to comply with the standards in §96.49(d) through (j);

(3) Requires the foreign supervised provider to adhere to the standard in §96.36(a) prohibiting child buying; and has written policies and procedures in place reflecting the prohibitions in §96.36(a) and reinforces them in training programs for its employees and agents;

(4) Requires the foreign supervised provider to compensate its directors, officers, and employees who provide intercountry adoption services on a fee-for-service, hourly wage, or salary basis, rather than based on whether a child is placed for adoption, located for an adoptive placement, or on a similar contingent fee basis;

(5) Identifies specifically the lines of authority between the primary provider and the foreign supervised provider, the employee of the primary provider who will be responsible for supervision, and the employee of the supervised provider who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the written agreement;

(6) States clearly the compensation arrangement for the services to be provided and the fees and expenses to be charged by the foreign supervised provider;

(7) Specifies whether the foreign supervised provider's fees and expenses will be billed to and paid by the client(s) directly or billed to the client through the primary provider;

(8) Provides that, if billing the client(s) directly for its service, the foreign supervised provider will give the client(s) an itemized bill of all fees and expenses to be paid, with a written explanation of how and when such fees and expenses will be refunded if the service is not completed, and will return any funds collected to which the client(s) may be entitled within sixty days of the completion of the delivery of services;

(9) Requires the foreign supervised provider to respond within a reasonable period of time to any request for information from the primary provider, the Secretary, or the accrediting entity that issued the primary provider's accreditation or approval;

(10) Requires the foreign supervised provider to provide the primary provider on a timely basis any data that is necessary to comply with the primary provider's reporting requirements;

(11) Requires the foreign supervised provider to disclose promptly to the primary provider any changes in the suitability information required by §96.35; and

(12) Permits suspension or termination of the agreement on reasonable notice if the primary provider has grounds to believe that the foreign supervised provider is not in compliance with the agreement or the requirements of this section.

(c) The agency or person, when acting as the primary provider and, in accordance with §96.14, using foreign providers that are not under its supervision, verifies, through review of the relevant documentation and other appropriate steps, that:

(1) Any necessary consent to termination of parental rights or to adoption obtained by the foreign provider was obtained in accordance with applicable foreign law and Article 4 of the Convention;

(2) Any background study and report on a child in a case involving immigration to the United States (an incoming case) performed by the foreign provider was performed in accordance with applicable foreign law and Article 16 of the Convention.

(3) Any home study and report on prospective adoptive parent(s) in a case involving emigration from the United States (an outgoing case) performed by the foreign provider was performed in accordance with applicable foreign law and Article 15 of the Convention.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

Standards for Cases in Which a Child Is Immigrating to the United States (Incoming Cases)

§96.47   Preparation of home studies in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person ensures that a home study on the prospective adoptive parent(s) (which for purposes of this section includes the initial report and any supplemental statement submitted to DHS) is completed that includes the following:

(1) Information about the prospective adoptive parent(s)' identity, eligibility and suitability to adopt, background, family and medical history, social environment, reasons for adoption, ability to undertake an intercountry adoption, and the characteristics of the children for whom the prospective adoptive parent(s) would be qualified to care (specifying in particular whether they are willing and able to care for a child with special needs);

(2) A determination whether the prospective adoptive parent(s) are eligible and suited to adopt;

(3) A statement describing the counseling and training provided to the prospective adoptive parent(s);

(4) The results of a criminal background check on the prospective adoptive parent(s) and any other individual for whom a check is required by 8 CFR 204.311;

(5) A full and complete statement of all facts relevant to the eligibility and suitability of the prospective adoptive parent(s) to adopt a child under any specific requirements identified to the Secretary by the Central Authority of the child's country of origin; and

(6) A statement in each copy of the home study that it is a true and accurate copy of the home study that was provided to the prospective adoptive parent(s) or DHS.

(b) The agency or person ensures that the home study is performed in accordance with 8 CFR 204.311, and any applicable State law.

(c) Where the home study is not performed in the first instance by an accredited agency, the agency or person ensures that the home study is reviewed and approved in writing by an accredited agency. The written approval must include a determination that the home study:

(1) Includes all of the information required by paragraph (a) of this section and is performed in accordance with 8 CFR 204.311, and applicable State law; and

(2) Was performed by an individual who meets the requirements in §96.37(f), or, if the individual is an exempted provider, ensures that the individual meets the requirements for home study providers established by 8 CFR 204.301.

(d) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure the timely transmission of the same home study that was provided to the prospective adoptive parent(s) or to DHS to the Central Authority of the child's country of origin (or to an alternative authority designated by that Central Authority).

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.48   Preparation and training of prospective adoptive parent(s) in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person provides prospective adoptive parent(s) with at least ten hours (independent of the home study) of preparation and training, as described in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, designed to promote a successful intercountry adoption. The agency or person provides such training before the prospective adoptive parent(s) travel to adopt the child or the child is placed with the prospective adoptive parent(s) for adoption.

(b) The training provided by the agency or person addresses the following topics:

(1) The intercountry adoption process, the general characteristics and needs of children awaiting adoption, and the in-country conditions that affect children in the foreign country from which the prospective adoptive parent(s) plan to adopt;

(2) The effects on children of malnutrition, relevant environmental toxins, maternal substance abuse, and of any other known genetic, health, emotional, and developmental risk factors associated with children from the expected country of origin;

(3) Information about the impact on a child of leaving familiar ties and surroundings, as appropriate to the expected age of the child;

(4) Data on institutionalized children and the impact of institutionalization on children, including the effect on children of the length of time spent in an institution and of the type of care provided in the expected country of origin;

(5) Information on attachment disorders and other emotional problems that institutionalized or traumatized children and children with a history of multiple caregivers may experience, before and after their adoption;

(6) Information on the laws and adoption processes of the expected country of origin, including foreseeable delays and impediments to finalization of an adoption;

(7) Information on the long-term implications for a family that has become multicultural through intercountry adoption; and

(8) An explanation of any reporting requirements associated with intercountry adoptions, including any post-placement or post-adoption reports required by the expected country of origin.

(c) The agency or person also provides the prospective adoptive parent(s) with training that allows them to be as fully prepared as possible for the adoption of a particular child. This includes counseling on:

(1) The child's history and cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, and linguistic background;

(2) The known health risks in the specific region or country where the child resides; and

(3) Any other medical, social, background, birth history, educational data, developmental history, or any other data known about the particular child.

(d) The agency or person provides such training through appropriate methods, including:

(1) Collaboration among agencies or persons to share resources to meet the training needs of prospective adoptive parents;

(2) Group seminars offered by the agency or person or other agencies or training entities;

(3) Individual counseling sessions;

(4) Video, computer-assisted, or distance learning methods using standardized curricula; or

(5) In cases where training cannot otherwise be provided, an extended home study process, with a system for evaluating the thoroughness with which the topics have been covered.

(e) The agency or person provides additional in-person, individualized counseling and preparation, as needed, to meet the needs of the prospective adoptive parent(s) in light of the particular child to be adopted and his or her special needs, and any other training or counseling needed in light of the child background study or the home study.

(f) The agency or person provides the prospective adoptive parent(s) with information about print, internet, and other resources available for continuing to acquire information about common behavioral, medical, and other issues; connecting with parent support groups, adoption clinics and experts; and seeking appropriate help when needed.

(g) The agency or person exempts prospective adoptive parent(s) from all or part of the training and preparation that would normally be required for a specific adoption only when the agency or person determines that the prospective adoptive parent(s) have received adequate prior training or have prior experience as parent(s) of children adopted from abroad.

(h) The agency or person records the nature and extent of the training and preparation provided to the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the adoption record.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.49   Provision of medical and social information in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person provides a copy of the child's medical records (including, to the fullest extent practicable, a correct and complete English-language translation of such records) to the prospective adoptive parent(s) as early as possible, but no later than two weeks before either the adoption or placement for adoption, or the date on which the prospective adoptive parent(s) travel to the foreign country to complete all procedures in such country relating to the adoption or placement for adoption, whichever is earlier.

(b) Where any medical record provided pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section is a summary or compilation of other medical records, the agency or person includes those underlying medical records in the medical records provided pursuant to paragraph (a) if they are available.

(c) The agency or person provides the prospective adoptive parent(s) with any untranslated medical reports or videotapes or other reports and provides an opportunity for the client(s) to arrange for their own translation of the records, including a translation into a language other than English, if needed.

(d) The agency or person itself uses reasonable efforts, or requires its supervised provider in the child's country of origin who is responsible for obtaining medical information about the child on behalf of the agency or person to use reasonable efforts, to obtain available information, including in particular:

(1) The date that the foreign country or other child welfare authority assumed custody of the child and the child's condition at that time;

(2) History of any significant illnesses, hospitalizations, special needs, and changes in the child's condition since the foreign country or other child welfare authority assumed custody of the child;

(3) Growth data, including prenatal and birth history, and developmental status over time and current developmental data at the time of the child's referral for adoption; and

(4) Specific information on the known health risks in the specific region or country where the child resides.

(e) If the agency or person provides medical information, other than the information provided by public foreign authorities, to the prospective adoptive parent(s) from an examination by a physician or from an observation of the child by someone who is not a physician, the agency or person uses reasonable efforts to include the following:

(1) The name and credentials of the physician who performed the examination or the individual who observed the child;

(2) The date of the examination or observation; how the report's information was retained and verified; and if anyone directly responsible for the child's care has reviewed the report;

(3) If the medical information includes references, descriptions, or observations made by any individual other than the physician who performed the examination or the individual who performed the observation, the identity of that individual, the individual's training, and information on what data and perceptions the individual used to draw his or her conclusions;

(4) A review of hospitalizations, significant illnesses, and other significant medical events, and the reasons for them;

(5) Information about the full range of any tests performed on the child, including tests addressing known risk factors in the child's country of origin; and

(6) Current health information.

(f) The agency or person itself uses reasonable efforts, or requires its supervised provider in the child's country of origin who is responsible for obtaining social information about the child on behalf of the agency or person to use reasonable efforts, to obtain available information, including in particular:

(1) Information about the child's birth family and prenatal history and cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, and linguistic background;

(2) Information about all of the child's past and current placements prior to adoption, including, but not limited to any social work or court reports on the child and any information on who assumed custody and provided care for the child; and

(3) Information about any birth siblings whose existence is known to the agency or person, or its supervised provider, including information about such siblings' whereabouts.

(g) Where any of the information listed in paragraphs (d) and (f) of this section cannot be obtained, the agency or person documents in the adoption record the efforts made to obtain the information and why it was not obtainable. The agency or person continues to use reasonable efforts to secure those medical or social records that could not be obtained up until the adoption is finalized.

(h) Where available, the agency or person provides information for contacting the examining physician or the individual who made the observations to any physician engaged by the prospective adoptive parent(s), upon request.

(i) The agency or person ensures that videotapes and photographs of the child are identified by the date on which the videotape or photograph was recorded or taken and that they were made in compliance with the laws in the country where recorded or taken.

(j) The agency or person does not withhold from or misrepresent to the prospective adoptive parent(s) any available medical, social, or other pertinent information concerning the child.

(k) The agency or person does not withdraw a referral until the prospective adoptive parent(s) have had two weeks (unless extenuating circumstances involving the child's best interests require a more expedited decision) to consider the needs of the child and their ability to meet those needs, and to obtain physician review of medical information and other descriptive information, including videotapes of the child if available.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.50   Placement and post-placement monitoring until final adoption in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure that the transfer of the child takes place in secure and appropriate circumstances, with properly trained and qualified escorts, if used, and, if possible, in the company of the prospective adoptive parent(s).

(b) In the post-placement phase, the agency or person monitors and supervises the child's placement to ensure that the placement remains in the best interests of the child, and ensures that at least the number of home visits required by State law or by the child's country of origin are performed, whichever is greater.

(c) When a placement for adoption is in crisis in the post-placement phase, the agency or person makes an effort to provide or arrange for counseling by an individual with appropriate skills to assist the family in dealing with the problems that have arisen.

(d) If counseling does not succeed in resolving the crisis and the placement is disrupted, the agency or person assuming custody of the child assumes responsibility for making another placement of the child.

(e) The agency or person acts promptly and in accord with any applicable legal requirements to remove the child when the placement may no longer be in the child's best interests, to provide temporary care, to find an eventual adoptive placement for the child, and, in consultation with the Secretary, to inform the Central Authority of the child's country of origin about any new prospective adoptive parent(s).

(1) In all cases where removal of a child from a placement is considered, the agency or person considers the child's views when appropriate in light of the child's age and maturity and, when required by State law, obtains the consent of the child prior to removal.

(2) The agency or person does not return from the United States a child placed for adoption in the United States unless the Central Authority of the country of origin and the Secretary have approved the return in writing.

(f) The agency or person includes in the adoption services contract with the prospective adoptive parent(s) a plan describing the agency's or person's responsibilities if a placement for adoption is disrupted. This plan addresses:

(1) Who will have legal and financial responsibility for transfer of custody in an emergency or in the case of impending disruption and for the care of the child;

(2) If the disruption takes place after the child has arrived in the United States, under what circumstances the child will, as a last resort, be returned to the child's country of origin, if that is determined to be in the child's best interests;

(3) How the child's wishes, age, length of time in the United States, and other pertinent factors will be taken into account; and

(4) How the Central Authority of the child's country of origin and the Secretary will be notified.

(g) The agency or person provides post-placement reports until final adoption of a child to the foreign country when required by the foreign country. Where such reports are required, the agency or person:

(1) Informs the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the adoption services contract of the requirement prior to the referral of the child for adoption;

(2) Informs the prospective adoptive parent(s) that they will be required to provide all necessary information for the report(s); and

(3) Discloses who will prepare the reports and the fees that will be charged.

(h) The agency or person takes steps to:

(1) Ensure that an order declaring the adoption as final is sought by the prospective adoptive parent(s), and in Convention adoptions is entered in compliance with section 301(c) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14931(c)); and

(2) Notify the Secretary of the finalization of the adoption within thirty days of the entry of the order.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.51   Post-adoption services in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure that the transfer of the child takes place in secure and appropriate circumstances, with properly trained and qualified escorts, if used, and, if possible, in the company of the adoptive parent(s).

(b) The agency or person informs the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the adoption services contract whether the agency or person will or will not provide any post-adoption services. The agency or person also informs the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the adoption services contract whether it will provide services if an adoption is dissolved, and, if it indicates it will, it provides a plan describing the agency's or person's responsibilities.

(c) When post-adoption reports are required by the child's country of origin, the agency or person includes a requirement for such reports in the adoption services contract and makes good-faith efforts to encourage adoptive parent(s) to provide such reports.

(d) The agency or person does not return from the United States an adopted child whose adoption has been dissolved unless the Central Authority of the country of origin and the Secretary have approved the return in writing.

§96.52   Performance of Convention communication and coordination functions in incoming cases.

(a) The agency or person keeps the Central Authority of the foreign country and the Secretary informed as necessary about the adoption process and the measures taken to complete it, as well as about the progress of the placement if a probationary period is required.

(b) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures, consistent with the procedures of the U.S. Central Authority and of the foreign country, to:

(1) Transmit on a timely basis the home study to the Central Authority or other competent authority of the child's country of origin;

(2) Obtain the child background study, proof that the necessary consents to the child's adoption have been obtained, and the necessary determination that the prospective placement is in the child's best interests, from the Central Authority or other competent authority in the child's country of origin;

(3) Provide confirmation that the prospective adoptive parent(s) agree to the adoption to the Central Authority or other competent authority in the child's country of origin; and

(4) Transmit the determination that the child is or will be authorized to enter and reside permanently in the United States to the Central Authority or other competent authority in the child's country of origin.

(c) The agency or person takes all necessary and appropriate measures, consistent with the procedures of the foreign country, to obtain permission for the child to leave his or her country of origin and to enter and reside permanently in the United States.

(d) Where the transfer of the child does not take place, the agency or person returns the home study on the prospective adoptive parent(s) and/or the child background study to the authorities that forwarded them.

(e) The agency or person takes all necessary and appropriate measures to perform any tasks in an intercountry adoption case that the Secretary identifies are required to comply with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or any regulations implementing the IAA or UAA.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

Standards for Convention Cases in Which a Child Is Emigrating From the United States (Outgoing Cases)

§96.53   Background studies on the child and consents in outgoing Convention cases.

(a) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure that a child background study is performed that includes information about the child's identity, adoptability, background, social environment, family history, medical history (including that of the child's family), and any special needs of the child. The child background study must include the following:

(1) Information that demonstrates that consents were obtained in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section;

(2) Information that demonstrates consideration of the child's wishes and opinions in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section and;

(3) Information that confirms that the child background study was prepared either by an exempted provider or by an individual who meets the requirements set forth in §96.37(g).

(b) Where the child background study is not prepared in the first instance by an accredited agency, the agency or person ensures that the child background study is reviewed and approved in writing by an accredited agency. The written approval must include a determination that the background study includes all the information required by paragraph (a) of this section.

(c) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure that consents have been obtained as follows:

(1) The persons, institutions, and authorities whose consent is necessary for adoption have been counseled as necessary and duly informed of the effects of their consent, in particular, whether or not an adoption will result in the termination of the legal relationship between the child and his or her family of origin;

(2) All such persons, institutions, and authorities have given their consents;

(3) The consents have been expressed or evidenced in writing in the required legal form, have been given freely, were not induced by payments or compensation of any kind, and have not been withdrawn;

(4) The consent of the mother, where required, was executed after the birth of the child;

(5) The child, as appropriate in light of his or her age and maturity, has been counseled and duly informed of the effects of the adoption and of his or her consent to the adoption; and

(6) The child's consent, where required, has been given freely, in the required legal form, and expressed or evidenced in writing and not induced by payment or compensation of any kind.

(d) If the child is twelve years of age or older, or as otherwise provided by State law, the agency or person gives due consideration to the child's wishes or opinions before determining that an intercountry placement is in the child's best interests.

(e) The agency or person prior to the child's adoption takes all appropriate measures to transmit to the Central Authority or other competent authority or accredited bodies of the Convention country the child background study, proof that the necessary consents have been obtained, and the reasons for its determination that the placement is in the child's best interests. In doing so, the agency or person, as required by Article 16(2) of the Convention, does not reveal the identity of the mother or the father if these identities may not be disclosed under State law.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.54   Placement standards in outgoing Convention cases.

(a) Except in the case of adoption by relatives or in the case in which the birth parent(s) have identified specific prospective adoptive parent(s) or in other special circumstances accepted by the State court with jurisdiction over the case, the agency or person makes reasonable efforts to find a timely adoptive placement for the child in the United States by:

(1) Disseminating information on the child and his or her availability for adoption through print, media, and internet resources designed to communicate with potential prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States;

(2) Listing information about the child on a national or State adoption exchange or registry for at least sixty calendar days after the birth of the child;

(3) Responding to inquiries about adoption of the child; and

(4) Providing a copy of the child background study to potential U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s).

(b) The agency or person demonstrates to the satisfaction of the State court with jurisdiction over the adoption that sufficient reasonable efforts (including no efforts, when in the best interests of the child) to find a timely and qualified adoptive placement for the child in the United States were made.

(c) In placing the child for adoption, the agency or person:

(1) To the extent consistent with State law, gives significant weight to the placement preferences expressed by the birth parent(s) in all voluntary placements;

(2) To the extent consistent with State law, makes diligent efforts to place siblings together for adoption and, where placement together is not possible, to arrange for contact between separated siblings, unless it is in the best interests of one of the siblings that such efforts or contact not take place; and

(3) Complies with all applicable requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

(d) The agency or person complies with any State law requirements pertaining to the provision and payment of independent legal counsel for birth parents. If State law requires full disclosure to the birth parent(s) that the child is to be adopted by parent(s) who reside outside the United States, the agency or person provides such disclosure.

(e) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to give due consideration to the child's upbringing and to his or her ethnic, religious, and cultural background.

(f) When particular prospective adoptive parent(s) in a Convention country have been identified, the agency or person takes all appropriate measures to determine whether the envisaged placement is in the best interests of the child, on the basis of the child background study and the home study on the prospective adoptive parent(s).

(g) The agency or person thoroughly prepares the child for the transition to the Convention country, using age-appropriate services that address the child's likely feelings of separation, grief, and loss and difficulties in making any cultural, religious, racial, ethnic, or linguistic adjustment.

(h) The agency or person takes all appropriate measures to ensure that the transfer of the child takes place in secure and appropriate circumstances, with properly trained and qualified escorts, if used, and, if possible, in the company of the adoptive parent(s) or the prospective adoptive parent(s);

(i) Before the placement for adoption proceeds, the agency or person identifies the entity in the receiving country that will provide post-placement supervision and reports, if required by State law, and ensures that the child's adoption record contains the information necessary for contacting that entity.

(j) The agency or person ensures that the child's adoption record includes the order granting the adoption or legal custody for the purpose of adoption in the Convention country.

(k) The agency or person consults with the Secretary before arranging for the return to the United States of any child who has emigrated to a Convention country in connection with the child's adoption.

§96.55   Performance of Convention communication and coordination functions in outgoing Convention cases.

(a) The agency or person keeps the Central Authority of the Convention country and the Secretary informed as necessary about the adoption process and the measures taken to complete it, as well as about the progress of the placement if a probationary period is required.

(b) The agency or person ensures that:

(1) Copies of all documents from the State court proceedings, including the order granting the adoption or legal custody, are provided to the Secretary;

(2) Any additional information on the adoption is transmitted to the Secretary promptly upon request; and

(3) It otherwise facilitates, as requested, the Secretary's ability to provide the certification that the child has been adopted or that custody has been granted for the purpose of adoption, in accordance with the Convention and the IAA.

(c) Where the transfer of the child does not take place, the agency or person returns the home study on the prospective adoptive parent(s) and/or the child background study to the authorities that forwarded them.

(d) The agency or person provides to the State court with jurisdiction over the adoption:

(1) Proof that consents have been given as required in §96.53(c);

(2) An English copy or certified English translation of the home study on the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the Convention country, and the determination by the agency or person that the placement with the prospective adoptive parent(s) is in the child's best interests;

(3) Evidence that the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the Convention country agree to the adoption;

(4) Evidence that the child will be authorized to enter and reside permanently in the Convention country or on the same basis as that of the prospective adoptive parent(s); and

(5) Evidence that the Central Authority of the Convention country has agreed to the adoption, if such consent is necessary under its laws for the adoption to become final.

(e) The agency or person makes the showing required by §96.54(b) to the State court with jurisdiction over the adoption.

(f) The agency or person takes all necessary and appropriate measures to perform any tasks in a Convention adoption case that the Secretary identifies are required to comply with the Convention, the IAA, or any regulations implementing the IAA.

§96.56   [Reserved]

Subpart G—Decisions on Applications for Accreditation or Approval

§96.57   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures for when the accrediting entity issues decisions on applications for accreditation or approval.

[79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.58   Notification of accreditation and approval decisions.

(a) The accrediting entity must routinely inform applicants in writing of its accreditation and approval decisions—whether an application has been granted or denied—as those decisions are finalized. The accrediting entity must routinely provide this information to the Secretary in writing.

(b) The accrediting entity may, in its discretion, communicate with agencies and persons that have applied for accreditation or approval about the status of their pending applications to afford them an opportunity to correct deficiencies that may hinder or prevent accreditation or approval.

[79 FR 40635, July 14, 2014]

§96.59   Review of decisions to deny accreditation or approval.

(a) There is no administrative or judicial review of an accrediting entity's decision to deny an application for accreditation or approval. As provided in §96.79, a decision to deny for these purposes includes:

(1) A denial of the agency's or person's initial application for accreditation or approval;

(2) A denial of an application made after cancellation or refusal to renew by the accrediting entity; and

(3) A denial of an application made after cancellation or debarment by the Secretary.

(b) The agency or person may petition the accrediting entity for reconsideration of a denial. The accrediting entity must establish internal review procedures that provide an opportunity for an agency or person to petition for reconsideration of the denial.

§96.60   Length of accreditation or approval period.

The accrediting entity will accredit or approve an agency or person for a period of four years. The accreditation or approval period will commence on the date that the agency or person is granted accreditation or approval.

[79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.61   [Reserved]

Subpart H—Renewal of Accreditation or Approval

§96.62   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures for renewal of an agency's accreditation or a person's approval.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.63   Renewal of accreditation or approval.

(a) The accrediting entity must advise accredited agencies and approved persons that it monitors of the date by which they should seek renewal of their accreditation or approval so that the renewal process can reasonably be completed prior to the expiration of the agency's or person's current accreditation or approval. If the accredited agency or approved person does not wish to renew its accreditation or approval, it must immediately notify the accrediting entity and take all necessary steps to complete its intercountry adoption cases and to transfer its pending intercountry adoption cases and adoption records to other accredited agencies, approved persons, or a State archive, as appropriate, under the oversight of the accrediting entity, before its accreditation or approval expires.

(b) The accredited agency or approved person may seek renewal from a different accrediting entity than the one that handled its prior application. If it changes accrediting entities, the accredited agency or approved person must so notify the accrediting entity that handled its prior application by the date on which the agency or person must (pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section) seek renewal of its status. The accredited agency or approved person must follow the new accrediting entity's instructions when submitting a request for renewal and preparing documents and other information for the new accrediting entity to review in connection with the renewal request.

(c) The accrediting entity must process the request for renewal in a timely fashion. Before deciding whether to renew the accreditation or approval of an agency or person, the accrediting entity may, in its discretion, advise the agency or person of any deficiencies that may hinder or prevent its renewal and defer a decision to allow the agency or person to correct the deficiencies. The accrediting entity must notify the accredited agency, approved person, and the Secretary in writing when it renews or refuses to renew an agency's or person's accreditation or approval.

(d) Sections 96.24, 96.25, and 96.26, which relate to evaluation procedures and to requests for and use of information, and §96.27, which relates to the substantive criteria for evaluating applicants for accreditation or approval, other than §96.27(e), will govern determinations about whether to renew accreditation or approval. In lieu of §96.27(e), if the agency or person has been suspended by an accrediting entity or the Secretary during its most current accreditation or approval cycle, the accrediting entity may take the reasons underlying the suspension into account when determining whether to renew accreditation or approval and may refuse to renew accreditation or approval based on the prior suspension.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.64   [Reserved]

Subpart I—Routine Oversight by Accrediting Entities

§96.65   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures for routine oversight of accredited agencies and approved persons.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.66   Oversight of accredited agencies and approved persons by the accrediting entity.

(a) The accrediting entity must monitor agencies it has accredited and persons it has approved at least annually to ensure that they are in substantial compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part, as determined using a method approved by the Secretary in accordance with §96.27(d). The accrediting entity must investigate complaints about accredited agencies and approved persons, as provided in subpart J of this part.

(b) An accrediting entity may, on its own initiative, conduct site visits to inspect an agency's or person's premises or programs, with or without advance notice, for purposes of random verification of its continued compliance or to investigate a complaint. The accrediting entity may consider any information about the agency or person that becomes available to it about the compliance of the agency or person. The provisions of §§96.25 and 96.26 govern requests for and use of information.

(c) The accrediting entity must require accredited agencies or approved persons to attest annually that they have remained in substantial compliance and to provide supporting documentation to indicate such ongoing compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part.

§96.67   [Reserved]

Subpart J—Oversight Through Review of Complaints

§96.68   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures that the accrediting entity will use for processing complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons (including complaints concerning their use of supervised providers) that raise an issue of compliance with the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA, as determined by the accrediting entity or the Secretary, and that are therefore relevant to the oversight functions of the accrediting entity or the Secretary.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.69   Filing of complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.

(a) Complaints described in §96.68 will be subject to review by the accrediting entity pursuant to §§96.71 and 96.72, when submitted as provided in this section and §96.70.

(b) Complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons by parties to specific intercountry adoption cases and relating to that case must first be submitted by the complainant in writing to the primary provider and to the agency or person providing adoption services, if a U.S. provider different from the primary provider. If the complaint cannot be resolved through the complaint processes of the primary provider or the agency or person providing the services (if different), or if the complaint was resolved by an agreement to take action but the primary provider or the agency or person providing the service (if different) failed to take such action within thirty days of agreeing to do so, the complaint may then be filed with the Complaint Registry in accordance with §96.70.

(c) An individual who is not party to a specific intercountry adoption case but who has information about an accredited agency or approved person may provide that information by filing it in the form of a complaint with the Complaint Registry in accordance with §96.70.

(d) A Federal, State, or local government official or a foreign Central Authority may file a complaint with the Complaint Registry in accordance with §96.70, or may raise the matter in writing directly with the accrediting entity, who will record the complaint in the Complaint Registry, or with the Secretary, who will record the complaint in the Complaint Registry, if appropriate, and refer it to the accrediting entity for review pursuant to §96.71 or take such other action as the Secretary deems appropriate.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.70   Operation of the Complaint Registry.

(a) The Secretary will establish a Complaint Registry to support the accrediting entities in fulfilling their oversight responsibilities, including the responsibilities of recording, screening, referring, and otherwise taking action on complaints received, and to support the Secretary in the Secretary's oversight responsibilities as the Secretary deems appropriate. The Secretary may provide for the Complaint Registry to be funded in whole or in part from fees collected by the Secretary pursuant to section 403(b) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14943(b)) or by the accrediting entities.

(b) The Complaint Registry will:

(1) Receive and maintain records of complaints about accredited agencies, approved persons and agencies temporarily accredited for one or two years after the Convention entered into force (including complaints concerning their use of supervised providers) and make such complaints available to the appropriate accrediting entity and the Secretary;

(2) Receive and maintain information regarding action taken to resolve each complaint by the accrediting entity or the Secretary;

(3) Track compliance with any deadlines applicable to the resolution of complaints;

(4) Generate reports designed to show possible patterns of complaints; and

(5) Perform such other functions as the Secretary may determine.

(c) Forms and information necessary to submit complaints to the Complaint Registry electronically or by such other means as the Secretary may determine will be accessible through the Department's website to persons who wish to file complaints. Such forms will be designed to ensure that each complaint complies with the requirements of §96.69.

(d) Accrediting entities will have access to, and the capacity to enter data into, the Complaint Registry as the Secretary deems appropriate.

(e) Nothing in this part shall be construed to limit the Secretary's authority to take such action as the Secretary deems appropriate with respect to complaints.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.71   Review by the accrediting entity of complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.

(a) The accrediting entity must establish written procedures, including deadlines, for recording, investigating, and acting upon complaints it receives pursuant to §§96.69 and 96.70(b)(1). The procedures must be consistent with this section and be approved by the Secretary. The accrediting entity must make written information about its complaint procedures available upon request.

(b) If the accrediting entity determines that a complaint implicates the Convention, the IAA, the UAA, or the regulations implementing the IAA or UAA:

(1) The accrediting entity must verify that the complainant has already attempted to resolve the complaint as described in §96.69(b) and, if not, may refer the complaint to the agency or person, or to the primary provider, for attempted resolution through its internal complaint procedures;

(2) The accrediting entity may conduct whatever investigative activity (including site visits) it considers necessary to determine whether any relevant accredited agency or approved person may maintain accreditation or approval as provided in §96.27. The provisions of §§96.25 and 96.26 govern requests for and use of information. The accrediting entity must give priority to complaints submitted pursuant to §96.69(d);

(3) If the accrediting entity determines that the agency or person may not maintain accreditation or approval, it must take adverse action pursuant to subpart K of this part.

(c) When the accrediting entity has completed its complaint review process, it must provide written notification of the outcome of its investigation, and any actions taken, to the complainant, or to any other entity that referred the information.

(d) The accrediting entity will enter information about the outcomes of its investigations and its actions on complaints into the Complaint Registry as provided in its agreement with the Secretary.

(e) The accrediting entity may not take any action to discourage an individual from, or retaliate against an individual for, making a complaint, expressing a grievance, questioning the conduct of, or expressing an opinion about the performance of an accredited agency, an approved person, or the accrediting entity.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.72   Referral of complaints to the Secretary and other authorities.

(a) An accrediting entity must report promptly to the Secretary any substantiated complaint that:

(1) Reveals that an accredited agency or approved person has engaged in a pattern of serious, willful, grossly negligent, or repeated failures to comply with the standards in subpart F of this part; or

(2) Indicates that continued accreditation or approval would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned.

(b) An accrediting entity must, after consultation with the Secretary, refer, as appropriate, to a State licensing authority, the Attorney General, or other law enforcement authorities any substantiated complaints that involve conduct that is:

(1) Subject to the civil or criminal penalties imposed by section 404 of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14944);

(2) In violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.); or

(3) Otherwise in violation of Federal, State, or local law.

(c) When an accrediting entity makes a report pursuant to paragraphs (a) or (b) of this section, it must indicate whether it is recommending that the Secretary take action to debar the agency or person, either temporarily or permanently.

§96.73   [Reserved]

Subpart K—Adverse Action by the Accrediting Entity

§96.74   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures governing adverse action by an accrediting entity against accredited agencies and approved persons.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.75   Adverse action against accredited agencies or approved persons not in substantial compliance.

The accrediting entity must take adverse action when it determines that an accredited agency or approved person may not maintain accreditation or approval as provided in §96.27. The accrediting entity is authorized to take any of the following actions against an accredited agency or approved person whose compliance the entity oversees. Each of these actions by an accrediting entity is considered an adverse action for purposes of the IAA, the UAA, and the regulations in this part:

(a) Suspending accreditation or approval;

(b) Canceling accreditation or approval;

(c) Refusing to renew accreditation or approval;

(d) Requiring an accredited agency or approved person to take a specific corrective action to bring itself into compliance; and

(e) Imposing other sanctions including, but not limited to, requiring an accredited agency or approved person to cease providing adoption services in a particular case or in a specific foreign country.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.76   Procedures governing adverse action by the accrediting entity.

(a) The accrediting entity must decide which adverse action to take based on the seriousness and type of violation and on the extent to which the accredited agency or approved person has corrected or failed to correct deficiencies of which it has been previously informed. The accrediting entity must notify an accredited agency or approved person in writing of its decision to take an adverse action against the agency or person. The accrediting entity's written notice must identify the deficiencies prompting imposition of the adverse action.

(b) Before taking adverse action, the accrediting entity may, in its discretion, advise an accredited agency or approved person in writing of any deficiencies in its performance that may warrant an adverse action and provide it with an opportunity to demonstrate that an adverse action would be unwarranted before the adverse action is imposed. If the accrediting entity takes the adverse action without such prior notice, it must provide a similar opportunity to demonstrate that the adverse action was unwarranted after the adverse action is imposed, and may withdraw the adverse action based on the information provided.

(c) The provisions in §§96.25 and 96.26 govern requests for and use of information.

§96.77   Responsibilities of the accredited agency, approved person, and accrediting entity following adverse action by the accrediting entity.

(a) If the accrediting entity takes an adverse action against an agency or person, the action will take effect immediately unless the accrediting entity agrees to a later effective date.

(b) If the accrediting entity suspends or cancels the accreditation or approval of an agency or person, the agency or person must immediately, or by any later effective date set by the accrediting entity, cease to provide adoption services in all intercountry adoption cases. In the case of suspension, it must consult with the accrediting entity about whether to transfer its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records. In the case of cancellation, it must execute the plans required by §§96.33(e) and 96.42(d) under the oversight of the accrediting entity, and transfer its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records to other accredited agencies, approved persons, or a State archive, as appropriate. When the agency or person is unable to transfer such intercountry adoption cases or adoption records in accordance with the plans or as otherwise agreed by the accrediting entity, the accrediting entity will so advise the Secretary who, with the assistance of the accrediting entity, will coordinate efforts to identify other accredited agencies or approved persons to assume responsibility for the cases, and to transfer the records to other accredited agencies or approved persons, or to public domestic authorities, as appropriate.

(c) If the accrediting entity refuses to renew the accreditation or approval of an agency or person, the agency or person must cease to provide adoption services in all intercountry adoption cases upon expiration of its existing accreditation or approval. It must take all necessary steps to complete its intercountry adoption cases before its accreditation or approval expires. It must also execute the plans required by §§96.33(e) and 96.42(d) under the oversight of the accrediting entity, and transfer its pending intercountry adoption cases and adoption records to other accredited agencies, approved persons, or a State archive, as appropriate. When the agency or person is unable to transfer such intercountry adoption cases or adoption records in accordance with the plans or as otherwise agreed by the accrediting entity, the accrediting entity will so advise the Secretary who, with the assistance of the accrediting entity, will coordinate efforts to identify other accredited agencies or approved persons to assume responsibility for the cases and to transfer the records to other accredited agencies or approved persons, or to public domestic authorities, as appropriate.

(d) The accrediting entity must notify the Secretary, in accordance with procedures established in its agreement with the Secretary, when it takes an adverse action that changes the accreditation or approval status of an agency or person. The accrediting entity must also notify the relevant State licensing authority as provided in the agreement.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.78   Accrediting entity procedures to terminate adverse action.

(a) The accrediting entity must maintain internal petition procedures, approved by the Secretary, to give accredited agencies and approved persons an opportunity to terminate adverse actions on the grounds that the deficiencies necessitating the adverse action have been corrected. The accrediting entity must inform the agency or person of these procedures when it informs them of the adverse action pursuant to §96.76(a). An accrediting entity is not required to maintain procedures to terminate adverse actions on any other grounds, or to maintain procedures to review its adverse actions, and must obtain the consent of the Secretary if it wishes to make such procedures available.

(b) An accrediting entity may terminate an adverse action it has taken only if the agency or person demonstrates to the satisfaction of the accrediting entity that the deficiencies that led to the adverse action have been corrected. The accrediting entity must notify an agency or person in writing of its decision on the petition to terminate the adverse action.

(c) If the accrediting entity described in paragraph (b) of this section is no longer providing accreditation or approval services, the agency or person may petition any accrediting entity with jurisdiction over its application.

(d) If the accrediting entity cancels or refuses to renew an agency's or person's accreditation or approval, and does not terminate the adverse action pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, the agency or person may reapply for accreditation or approval. Before doing so, the agency or person must request and obtain permission to make a new application from the accrediting entity that cancelled or refused to renew its accreditation or approval or, if such entity is no longer designated as an accrediting entity, from any alternate accrediting entity designated by the Secretary to give such permission. The accrediting entity may grant such permission only if the agency or person demonstrates to the satisfaction of the accrediting entity that the specific deficiencies that led to the cancellation or refusal to renew have been corrected.

(e) If the accrediting entity grants the agency or person permission to reapply, the agency or person may file an application with that accrediting entity in accordance with subpart D of this part.

(f) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent an accrediting entity from withdrawing an adverse action if it concludes that the action was based on a mistake of fact or was otherwise in error. Upon taking such action, the accrediting entity will take appropriate steps to notify the Secretary and the Secretary will take appropriate steps to notify the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

§96.79   Administrative or judicial review of adverse action by the accrediting entity.

(a) Except to the extent provided by the procedures in §96.78, an adverse action by an accrediting entity shall not be subject to administrative review.

(b) Section 202(c)(3) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14922(c)(3)) provides for judicial review in Federal court of adverse actions by an accrediting entity, regardless of whether the entity is described in §96.5(a) or (b). When any petition brought under section 202(c)(3) raises as an issue whether the deficiencies necessitating the adverse action have been corrected, the procedures maintained by the accrediting entity pursuant to §96.78 must first be exhausted. Adverse actions are only those actions listed in §96.75. There is no judicial review of an accrediting entity's decision to deny accreditation or approval, including:

(1) A denial of an initial application;

(2) A denial of an application made after cancellation or refusal to renew by the accrediting entity; and

(3) A denial of an application made after cancellation or debarment by the Secretary.

(c) In accordance with section 202(c)(3) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14922(c)(3)), an accredited agency or approved person that is the subject of an adverse action by an accrediting entity may petition the United States district court in the judicial district in which the agency is located or the person resides to set aside the adverse action imposed by the accrediting entity. The United States district court shall review the adverse action in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 706. When an accredited agency or approved person petitions a United States district court to review the adverse action of an accrediting entity, the accrediting entity will be considered an agency as defined in 5 U.S.C. 701 for the purpose of judicial review of the adverse action.

§96.80   [Reserved]

Subpart L—Oversight of Accredited Agencies and Approved Persons by the Secretary

§96.81   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart establish the procedures governing adverse action by the Secretary against accredited agencies and approved persons.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.82   The Secretary's response to actions by the accrediting entity.

(a) There is no administrative review by the Secretary of an accrediting entity's decision to deny accreditation or approval, nor of any decision by an accrediting entity to take an adverse action.

(b) When informed by an accrediting entity that an agency has been accredited or a person has been approved, the Secretary will take appropriate steps to ensure that relevant information about the accredited agency or approved person is provided to the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. When informed by an accrediting entity that it has taken an adverse action that impacts an agency's or person's accreditation or approval status, the Secretary will take appropriate steps to inform the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

§96.83   Suspension or cancellation of accreditation or approval by the Secretary.

(a) The Secretary must suspend or cancel the accreditation or approval granted by an accrediting entity when the Secretary finds, in the Secretary's discretion, that the agency or person is substantially out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part and that the accrediting entity has failed or refused, after consultation with the Secretary, to take action.

(b) The Secretary may suspend or cancel the accreditation or approval granted by an accrediting entity if the Secretary finds that such action:

(1) Will protect the interests of children;

(2) Will further U.S. foreign policy or national security interests; or

(3) Will protect the ability of U.S. citizens to adopt children.

(c) If the Secretary suspends or cancels the accreditation or approval of an agency or person, the Secretary will take appropriate steps to notify both the accrediting entity and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.84   Reinstatement of accreditation or approval after suspension or cancellation by the Secretary.

(a) An agency or person may petition the Secretary for relief from the Secretary's suspension or cancellation of its accreditation or approval on the grounds that the deficiencies necessitating the suspension or cancellation have been corrected. If the Secretary is satisfied that the deficiencies that led to the suspension or cancellation have been corrected, the Secretary shall, in the case of a suspension, terminate the suspension or, in the case of a cancellation, notify the agency or person that it may reapply for accreditation or approval to the same accrediting entity that handled its prior application for accreditation or approval. If that accrediting entity is no longer providing accreditation or approval services, the agency or person may reapply to any accrediting entity with jurisdiction over its application. If the Secretary terminates a suspension or permits an agency or person to reapply for accreditation or approval, the Secretary will so notify the appropriate accrediting entity. If the Secretary terminates a suspension, the Secretary will also take appropriate steps to notify the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law of the reinstatement.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the Secretary from withdrawing a cancellation or suspension if the Secretary concludes that the action was based on a mistake of fact or was otherwise in error. Upon taking such action, the Secretary will take appropriate steps to notify the accrediting entity and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

§96.85   Temporary and permanent debarment by the Secretary.

(a) The Secretary may temporarily or permanently debar an agency from accreditation or a person from approval on the Secretary's own initiative, at the request of DHS, or at the request of an accrediting entity. A debarment of an accredited agency or approved person will automatically result in the cancellation of accreditation or approval by the Secretary, and the accrediting entity shall deny any pending request for renewal of accreditation or approval.

(b) The Secretary may issue a debarment order only if the Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, determines that:

(1) There is substantial evidence that the agency or person is out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of this part; and

(2) There has been a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failures to comply, or other aggravating circumstances indicating that continued accreditation or approval would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned. For purposes of this paragraph:

(i) “The children and families concerned” include any children and any families whose interests have been or may be affected by the agency's or person's actions;

(ii) A failure to comply with §96.47 (home study requirements) shall constitute a “serious failure to comply” unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that such noncompliance had neither the purpose nor the effect of determining the outcome of a decision or proceeding by a court or other competent authority in the United States or the child's country of origin; and

(iii) Repeated serious, willful, or grossly negligent failures to comply with §96.47 (home study requirements) by an agency or person after consultation between the Secretary and the accrediting entity with respect to previous noncompliance by such agency or person shall constitute a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failures to comply.

§96.86   Length of debarment period and reapplication after temporary debarment.

(a) In the case of a temporary debarment order, the order will take effect on the date specified in the order and will specify a date, not earlier than three years later, on or after which the agency or person may petition the Secretary for withdrawal of the temporary debarment. If the Secretary withdraws the temporary debarment, the agency or person may then reapply for accreditation or approval to the same accrediting entity that handled its prior application for accreditation or approval. If that accrediting entity is no longer providing accreditation or approval services, the agency or person may apply to any accrediting entity with jurisdiction over its application.

(b) In the case of a permanent debarment order, the order will take effect on the date specified in the order. The agency or person will not be permitted to apply again to an accrediting entity for accreditation or approval, or to the Secretary for termination of the debarment.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the Secretary from withdrawing a debarment if the Secretary concludes that the action was based on a mistake of fact or was otherwise in error. Upon taking such action, the Secretary will take appropriate steps to notify the accrediting entity and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

§96.87   Responsibilities of the accredited agency, approved person, and accrediting entity following suspension, cancellation, or debarment by the Secretary.

If the Secretary suspends or cancels the accreditation or approval of an agency or person, or debars an agency or person, the agency or person must cease to provide adoption services in all intercountry adoption cases. In the case of suspension, it must consult with the accrediting entity about whether to transfer its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records. In the case of cancellation or debarment, it must execute the plans required by §§96.33(e) and 96.42(d) under the oversight of the accrediting entity, and transfer its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records to other accredited agencies, approved persons, or a State archive, as appropriate. When the agency or person is unable to transfer such intercountry adoption cases or adoption records in accordance with the plans or as otherwise agreed by the accrediting entity, the accrediting entity will so advise the Secretary who, with the assistance of the accrediting entity, will coordinate efforts to identify other accredited agencies or approved persons to assume responsibility for the cases, and to transfer the records to other accredited agencies or approved persons, or to public domestic authorities, as appropriate.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.88   Review of suspension, cancellation, or debarment by the Secretary.

(a) Except to the extent provided by the procedures in §96.84, an adverse action by the Secretary shall not be subject to administrative review.

(b) Section 204(d) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14924(d)) provides for judicial review of final actions by the Secretary. When any petition brought under section 204(d) raises as an issue whether the deficiencies necessitating a suspension or cancellation of accreditation or approval have been corrected, procedures maintained by the Secretary pursuant to §96.84(a) must first be exhausted. A suspension or cancellation of accreditation or approval, and a debarment (whether temporary or permanent) by the Secretary are final actions subject to judicial review. Other actions by the Secretary are not final actions and are not subject to judicial review.

(c) In accordance with section 204(d) of the IAA (42 U.S.C. 14924(d)), an agency or person that has been suspended, cancelled, or temporarily or permanently debarred by the Secretary may petition the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, or the United States district court in the judicial district in which the person resides or the agency is located, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 706, to set aside the action.

§96.89   [Reserved]

Subpart M—Dissemination and Reporting of Information by Accrediting Entities

§96.90   Scope.

The provisions in this subpart govern the dissemination and reporting of information on accredited agencies and approved persons by accrediting entities.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.91   Dissemination of information to the public about accreditation and approval status.

(a) The accrediting entity must maintain and make available to the public on a quarterly basis the following information:

(1) The name, address, and contact information for each agency and person it has accredited or approved;

(2) The names of agencies and persons to which it has denied accreditation or approval that have not subsequently been accredited or approved;

(3) The names of agencies and persons that have been subject to suspension, cancellation, refusal to renew accreditation or approval, or debarment by the accrediting entity or the Secretary; and

(4) Other information specifically authorized in writing by the accredited agency or approved person to be disclosed to the public.

(b) Each accrediting entity must make the following information available to individual members of the public upon specific request:

(1) Confirmation of whether or not a specific agency or person has a pending application for accreditation or approval, and, if so, the date of the application and whether it is under active consideration or whether a decision on the application has been deferred; and

(2) If an agency or person has been subject to suspension, cancellation, refusal to renew accreditation or approval, or debarment, a brief statement of the reasons for the action.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.92   Dissemination of information to the public about complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons.

Each accrediting entity must maintain a written record documenting each complaint received and the steps taken in response to it. This information may be disclosed to the public as follows:

(a) The accrediting entity must verify, upon inquiry from a member of the public, whether there have been any substantiated complaints against an accredited agency or approved person, and if so, provide information about the status and nature of any such complaints.

(b) The accrediting entity must have procedures for disclosing information about complaints that are substantiated.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.93   Reports to the Secretary about accredited agencies and approved persons and their activities.

(a) The accrediting entity must make annual reports to the Secretary on the information it collects from accredited agencies and approved persons pursuant to §96.43. The accrediting entity must make semi-annual reports to the Secretary that summarize for the preceding six-month period the following information:

(1) The accreditation and approval status of applicants, accredited agencies, and approved persons;

(2) Any instances where it has denied accreditation or approval;

(3) Any adverse actions taken against an accredited agency or approved person;

(4) All substantiated complaints against accredited agencies and approved persons and the impact of such complaints on their accreditation or approval status;

(5) The number, nature, and outcome of complaint investigations carried out by the accrediting entity as well as the shortest, longest, average, and median length of time expended to complete complaint investigations; and

(6) Any discernible patterns in complaints received about specific agencies or persons, as well as any discernible patterns of complaints in the aggregate.

(b) The accrediting entity must report to the Secretary within thirty days of the time it learns that an accredited agency or approved person:

(1) Has ceased to provide adoption services; or

(2) Has transferred its intercountry adoption cases and adoption records.

(c) In addition to the reporting requirements contained in §96.72, an accrediting entity must immediately notify the Secretary in writing:

(1) When it accredits an agency or approves a person;

(2) When it renews the accreditation or approval of an agency or person; or

(3) When it takes an adverse action against an accredited agency or approved person that impacts its accreditation or approval status.

[71 FR 8131, Feb. 15, 2006, as amended at 79 FR 40636, July 14, 2014]

§96.94   [Reserved]



For questions or comments regarding e-CFR editorial content, features, or design, email ecfr@nara.gov.
For questions concerning e-CFR programming and delivery issues, email webteam@gpo.gov.