Monday, October 6, 2014

DOS Alert: The Department of State Strongly Recommends Against Adopting from the DRC at this time

In light of the DRC’s September 26, 2014 announcement that its exit permit suspension for adopted children remains in effect indefinitely, the Department of State has asked all adoption agencies to cease referring new DRC adoption cases for U.S. prospective adoptive parents at this time. The Department of State strongly recommends against initiating an adoption in the DRC at this time, as adoptive children cannot leave the DRC without an exit permit issued by the DRC’s Directorate of General Migration, even with a finalized adoption.  Congolese courts continue to issue adoption decrees under existing Congolese law, despite the exit permit suspension.
We continue to press the DRC government on lifting the suspension so that Congolese children with finalized adoptions waiting for an exit permit can join their adoptive families as soon as possible.We are committed to working with the DRC government to address their concerns and continue to advocate for opportunities to engage on long-term adoption reforms in the DRC. 

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

USDOS Office of Children’s Issues Announces New Chief of the Adoption Division

Welcome Trish Maskew, New Chief of the Adoption Division

The Office of Children’s Issues is pleased to announce the appointment of Trish Maskew as the new Chief of the Adoption Division. 
Trish joins the Department of State from the Department of Justice where she worked in the Civil Division for almost six years.  Before joining the U.S. government, she held several positions in the intercountry adoption field: as a program coordinator for an adoption agency; a board member and interim administrator for the Joint Council on International Children’s Services; the founder and President of Ethica, a non-profit organization dedicated to ethical and transparent adoptions; and as an expert consultant to the Hague Conference on Private International Law.  She is the author of “Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child” and numerous articles on adoption ethics and practice.  She earned her J.D. from American University.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

American Families Caught Attempting Illegal DRC Exit

According to reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo ("DRC"), officials intercepted an attempt by three American adoptive families to remove their children from Congo without proper authorization (  This news story has been reported as "child selling" or trafficking by DRC news outlets (  PEAR understands that the three families in question had legally adopted the seven affected children according to DRC regulations, that they had US visas, and that they were attempting to take the children from the country without the permission of the Congolese government in the form of the mandatory exit letter from Congolese immigration (known by its acronym "DGM").  The seven children are all believed to be in the custody of the Congolese government; the American adoptive parents had all left the country prior to the police operation.  Congolese news has reported that one American, M. Jessy Samuel, was implicated in the scheme.

In September 2013, the Congolese government announced a one-year suspension on the issuance of exit permits.(  In April 2014, the US Embassy stated that the Congolese government was aware that at least five American adoptive families had taken their children out of the country without exit permits (  We have been informed that many more than five adoptive families have taken their adopted children from Congo without the proper authorization during the suspension, which may have happened with agency complicity and/or through the payment of bribes. In the present case, it is not believed that any adoption agencies were involved in the attempted illegal exit. 

Given that the Congolese government has officially stated that no exit letters will be issued until such time as the suspension is lifted, PEAR does not believe that the United States Embassy in Kinshasa should be issuing any entry visas, as this deliberately contravenes current DRC policy and puts prospective parents in the difficult position of having children that are “legally” adopted in DRC and permitted to enter the U.S., but are unable to leave the country under until such time as the suspension is lifted.  

As such, PEAR calls on the US Embassy in Kinshasa to immediately cease the issuance of entry visas until such time as the suspension is lifted.  Continuing to issue visas during the suspension will only encourage adoptive parents to attempt to circumvent Congolese laws to remove their adopted children from the country.  

We also call on members of the adoption lobby, DRC prospective parents, adoption bloggers, and adoption agencies to be truthful in their knowledge of the issued exit letters, of any “underground” routes that may have been used to illegally remove adoptees from DRC, and to advocate for a fully transparent and legitimate adoption process. We would also remind all adoptive parents with legally adopted children in DRC of the risks of attempting an illegal exit from DRC, and that a valid exit letter from DGM in Kinshasa is required in order for your children to legally exit Congo.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

DOS Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Announces End to Exit Permit Exceptions Until New Law is Promulgated

On July 10, Ambassador James Swan met with Director General Beya of the Congolese General Direction of Migration (DGM) to seek clarification on the DGM’s decision to no longer issue exit permits to any adopted Congolese children until a new adoption law is promulgated. DGM Beya stated that his office will not accept any cases for consideration in the interim, even those involving children with medical conditions or those cases that met the DGM’s October 2013 exception criteria.
During the meeting, the DGM stressed that it considers no intercountry adoptions from the DRC to be completely free of fraud. The DGM said it believes all the bordereaux letters it recently reviewed to be falsified or back-dated and therefore invalid for purposes of seeking an exit permit.
Over the July 4 weekend, the Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, raised the exit permit suspension and all the pending cases with Congolese parliamentarians and the Minister of Gender and Family, all of whom emphasized their concerns about problems in the adoption process. The parliamentarians further cautioned that they consider many Congolese judges to be corrupt and that few government officials have confidence in completed adoptions.
The Department of State deeply regrets that families are once again forced to wait indefinitely for exit permits. On July 3, the DGM accepted 8 medical cases from the U.S. Embassy for humanitarian consideration;of which four received exit permits. However, at that meeting, the DGM refused to accept 29 grandfathered cases received from adoptive families in response to our June 13 Adoption Alert.
The Department of State will continue to engage the DRC government on ways we can address its concerns about intercountry adoptions. Our offers to provide technical expertise, and to bring a delegation of Congolese officials to the United States, remain on the table and will be reiterated at every opportunity. We will also continue to strongly emphasize our message that all children whose adoptions were completed in Congolese courts should be allowed to obtain exit permits and join their adoptive families in the United States.
Please direct questions related to this alert or a specific adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DOS Alert: Haiti announces re-registration period for Adoption Service Providers

The Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de Recherche (IBESR), Haiti’s central adoption authority, recently announced updated information related to its Hague Adoption Convention intercountry adoption procedures. The announcement is available, in French, on IBESR’s website. Among other clarifications, IBESR announced that the registration period for re-authorization of international adoption service providers will be from July 14, 2014 until August 14, 2014. The list of supporting documents required is available on IBESR’s website in French. For more information on intercountry adoptions in Haiti you may contact, or contact IBESR directly at

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Riverkids Project - The beautiful lies that broke my heart

I read Somaly Mam’s book cover to cover in a bookstore, holding myself utterly still so I wouldn’t start crying, drowning in the images of violence and suffering she wrote about.
It was that cover picture, a Cambodian woman who had been through hell and survived. That gave me hope when I was the desperately confused new mother to children from Cambodia who had been bought and sold by traffickers, hurt in ways that I could barely comprehend, and deep in grief over all they had lost before coming to these new strangers in Singapore.
We watched and read Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, and something in that story unlocked the first secrets. I told them with stumbling simple Khmer about how I had been hit as a little girl over and over, and promised I would never hit them. Stories, both mine and those we found from other survivors and in novels, helped my children find a way out of their painful pasts.
Stories mattered deeply.
When the Newsweek report broke, I wasn’t surprised. There had been rumours, and I had met donors and journalists who wanted a wonderful saviour story and weren’t interested in the reality of trafficking in Cambodia.
I’m not even angry now, only terribly sad. The pressure to package the right story is immense when you have to raise funds. I have nightmares about running out of funds, about how to decide which program to close – the new kindergarten class or the medical clinic?
If a restaurant closes, a few staff lose their jobs and people have to eat somewhere else. If Riverkids closes, hundreds of children go hungry, drop out of school and have nowhere safe to find shelter or get help. And there is no-one else stepping in.
Compared to that, why not put together a great heartbreaking story? Piece it together from the real stories, where the kids are too traumatised to talk, and get someone photogenic and poised with a happy ever after ending. That’s kinder than what I’ve seen, where a child is forced to talk over and over about their pain to raise funds, selling a little of their soul each time.
But it’s a lie. A beautiful lie.
And in the end, beautiful lies cover up uglier truths. The truth about trafficking in Cambodia is ugly.
Most of the people buying sex are Cambodian, but sex-tourists bring in the money. Boys are sexually assaulted almost as often as girls but they have far fewer people helping them. Parents sell their children because of gambling debts and medical debts. Being sold as a domestic slave can be worse than working in a sex bar.
Trafficking and abuse in Cambodia has become an image of a young girl locked in a cage in a secret brothel, waiting for a hero to burst through the doors and rescue her. Or at least donate to do that.
The truth about trafficking is a teenage girl being inspected by a doctor for her virginity because she’s agreed to sleep with a rich businessman for three nights to pay off her family’s crushing hospital bills. It’s the newborn baby being sold for adoption to a family so there’s money to feed the other children. It’s the boy who falls asleep in class because he’s been collecting recyclable trash before dawn to pay the ‘fees’ the teacher demands. It’s the battered wife who looks away when her new husband gets drunk and calls her daughter to come closer.
There are no easy solutions. There’s no hero who can stage a raid and swooping in to save girls from having their eyes gouged out by brutal pimps, set them up as hairdressers and inspiring role models and smile for the cameras.
There are instead thousands of people in Cambodia working together to train teachers, get clean water, nurse sick babies, create better jobs, all the steps that weave together to build families and communities closer and healthier. People who are ignored because they don’t have a beautiful lie.
The beautiful lies grab all the loving compassion and generous support that good people are moved to give to children in Cambodia and send it to the least effective ways to help them.
That’s what makes me really angry. That so much could have been done, and so little was. That children who really needed help got forgotten because they weren’t the right kind of trafficked and abused.
Stories saved my family and me. Keeping them true will save so many more children.
- Dale Edmonds
P.S. A few years ago, we produced a book called Eight Stories about what we do at Riverkids. With the permission of eight families, we included their true stories about trafficking in Cambodia. We changed people’s names to protect their privacy but we did not “improve” stories to make them more effective. The printed book is US$45 but if you are interested in reading about what we do, just hit reply and I’ll send you the PDF, and you can share it too.
Download pdf copy of Eight Stories here

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

DOS Alert: Benin Announces Temporary Suspension of Intercountry Adoption Applications

Benin informed the State Department that, as of May 22, it has temporarily suspended acceptance of new applications for intercountry adoptions as the Benin government prepares to implement the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention). The suspension applies to both plenary and simple adoptions of Beninese children.  
The U.S. Embassy is in communication with the Benin government concerning transition cases; the government will decide how to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
On February 26, 2014, the National Assembly passed a bill authorizing Benin to become a party to the Convention. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans are in process to deposit its instrument of accession but has not provided a timeline.
The Department of State will provide updated information on as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this notice, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DoS: Invitation to follow-up Conference Call regarding the Exit Permit Suspension in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The Department of State invites adoptive families and prospective adoptive families to participate in a conference call Tuesday, June 11 from 10am-11:30am EST to address families’ concerns regarding the DRC exit permit suspension.  
The call is being held in response to families’ requests for additional time following our May 16 call.  We will also address what we have learned to date regarding the latest developments reported in our May 27 adoption notice.  There will be brief remarks regarding developments followed by a question and answer period.
If you would like to send your questions ahead of the call, please send them to  We will try to address as many questions on the call as we’re able, but will respond to all questions via email.
Conference Call Information:
Tuesday, June 11, 2014
10:00am EST – 11:30am EST
Calling from the United States: (800) 288-8967
Calling from Overseas: (612) 288-0340

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DOS Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo to issue Some Exit Permits; Others Must Wait for New Adoption Laws

On May 26, the Congolese General Direction of Migration (DGM) informed members of the diplomatic corps that it was prepared to issue exit permits to 62 children adopted by foreigners whose cases fully conform to existing Congolese adoption laws. The DGM’s list includes 15 children adopted by U.S. families. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will contact those families via email by May 28.
The DGM cautioned that all other children adopted by foreigners will not be issued exit permits until a new law reforming intercountry adoptions enters into force, even if their cases met the DGM’s previous exception criteria (as outlined in the Department of State’s October 23, 2013 Adoption Alert). This new law has not yet been drafted and Congolese authorities are not able to commit to a particular timeframe in which they expect to develop and implement any new law(s).
The Department of State has reiterated our previous offers of technical consultations and will seek clarification from the DGM on this recent decision’s impact on the remaining cases involving children adopted by U.S. families. Congolese authorities have not yet responded to inquiries from the U.S. Embassy regarding adopted children with life-threatening medical conditions.
NOTE:  Revisions to Congolese adoption laws may include retroactive provisions that could affect cases that have already been completed or are in progress. While the courts may continue processing adoptions, the children adopted during the exit permit suspension will not be able to obtain exit permits to depart the country and are not guaranteed to be eligible for exit permits once any new law is promulgated.

Please direct questions related to this alert or a specific adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DOS Notice - Haiti Expedite Fee Fraud

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti has heard reports from a number of prospective adoptive parents regarding certain adoption service providers requests for substantial additional payments.  These adoption service providers are claiming that these fees are charged by the Haitian authorities to expedite the adoption process.  The Embassy has verified with Haiti’s adoption authority, the Institut du Bien-Être Social et de Recherches (IBESR), that the Government of Haiti does not charge expedite fees in association with adoptions in Haiti.   
Likewise, the U.S. government does not charge expedite fees in any visa cases.  All possible immigrant visa fees are published on  The Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Haiti do not charge fees for additional visas services, including any expedite fees.  All visa processing fees are collected on the U.S. Embassy premises at the time of the visa interview. 
If you are applying for a U.S. immigrant visa for an adopted child, do NOT pay any fees at cybercafés, banks, or to anyone outside the U.S. Embassy claiming to act on behalf of the U.S. government.  Prospective adoptive parents who are asked to make payments for expedited visas fees to an adoption service provider should immediately report such behavior
The U.S. government does not require adoptive parents to travel to Haiti at any point during the adoption process, although the Haitian government may have such requirements.  We also remind prospective adoptive parents that the U.S. government is not involved in the local adoption process. 
Contact information for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti is listed below:
U.S. Embassy in Haiti
Consular Section (Adoptions Unit)
Boulevard du 15 Octobre
Tabarre 41
Tabarre, Haiti
Tel: 509-2229-8000 (within Haiti); 1-866-829-2482 (from the United States)
The Department of State will continue to publish updates on intercountry adoptions in Haiti on  Please direct any questions related to Haitian adoptions to, 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DOS Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo Announces Stricter Scrutiny of U.S. Adoptive Families' Applications for Visas

The Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Washington informed the Department of State on April 24 that applications for visas to travel to the DRC from U.S. adoptive families may be refused “in some cases.”  Congolese officials state that adoptive families should be prepared for increased scrutiny of their visa applications as well as possible refusal of the visa citing the following:
Reports of children adopted by U.S. families being taken without proper documentation out of the DRC: The DRC Embassy informed the Department of State that the DRC government is aware of five U.S. families who removed their adoptive children from the DRC without exit permits issued by the Congolese General Direction of Migration (DGM). The DRC Embassy stated that those cases are raising doubts about U.S. families’ intentions when requesting visas to visit the DRC.
Intercountry adoptions purportedly do not conform with Congolese laws: The DRC Embassy stated that many U.S. families have adopted or attempted to adopt from the DRC even though they already have more than two children in the home and have adopted or sought to adopt more than three Congolese children, contrary to Congolese law. Additionally, Congolese authorities claim that some adoptive parents were attempting to go to the DRC to retrieve their adopted children without first having attended all of the Tribunal pour Enfants (Children’s Court) hearings as required by Congolese law.
Congolese officials have said that the discovery of such irregularities, among others, is part of the reason the suspension must stay in place while they review the adoption process. The Department of State notes that adoption cases are not always required by Congolese authorities, and in particular, the Congolese courts, to meet all Congolese legal standards. As far as the Department of State understands, the requirement to attend all Tribunal pour Enfants hearings is new. The Department of State’s page on adopting from the DRC presents the steps regarding Congolese legal and procedural requirements. Requirements can and do change, so we recommend prospective parents check regularly for updates concerning the legal and procedural requirements for adoption.
The Department of State regrets that U.S. families and their Congolese children are in this predicament. We remain committed to seeking a resolution as quickly as possible so that adopted children can join their families in the United States. However, as noted in the Department of State’s April 16 Adoption Notice, intercountry adoption is a very sensitive subject for the Congolese people and government, and Congolese authorities have reacted negatively when pressured on the subject. We strongly encourage U.S. adoption service providers and adoptive families to adhere to best practices and all aspects of Congolese law. 
Please direct questions related to this notice, or a specific adoption from the DRC, to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DoS Alert - Adoption Scams and Fraud

Actions U.S. citizens can take in Response to Adoption Scams and Fraud
The Department of State is aware of a growing number of adoption scams in which individuals are offering to match prospective adoptive parents with a child who is allegedly available for intercountry adoption. In Hague Adoption Convention countries, matching is done by the Central Authority, another public authority, and in some cases, by accredited bodies, but not by private individuals. U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents should refer to the relevant country information sheet and fully understand that country’s adoption requirements before sending money to any individual in connection with adopting a child, especially if correspondence with that individual is limited to e-mail.   
In addition to contacting law enforcement, families who believe they may have been affected by such a scam have several options for filing complaints with that information, discussed below:  
Contact U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Child’s Country of Origin
First, we strongly encourage families with concerns about their adoption process to share this information with the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate located in the child’s country of origin, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your adoption case. When reporting concerns, you may ask the Embassy or Consulate to keep your name confidential and, to the extent possible, redact the information that would permit your identification. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously.
The best way to contact the Embassy or Consulate is by the email address listed on the Country Information Sheet posted at this link: Country Information. Please include all appropriate information, including your name; the name of the child to be adopted; your adoption service provider; the date of the adoption (month and year); and, if possible, the immigrant visa case number for the child’s case (this number begins with three letters followed by several numbers and can be found on any document sent to you by the National Visa Center).
Register a Complaint in the United States
In addition, if your complaint concerns an adoption service provider, we strongly encourage you to register your complaint in the following ways:
  • File a complaint with the state licensing authority where your adoption agency is licensed and conducts business. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides such a list.
  • You may file a complaint on-line with the state’s Better Business Bureau.
Register a Complaint in the Hague Complaint Registry
  • If your complaint concerns a Hague-accredited or approved adoption service provider, we encourage you to file a complaint in the Hague Complaint Registry located at on the Department of State’s adoption website. Complaints submitted to the Hague Complaint Registry are made available to the accrediting entity, the Council on Accreditation (COA). The accrediting entity reviews the complaint and, where the complaint raises questions of compliance with the federal accreditation standards, investigates the adoption service provider’s conduct for compliance with those standards. When a complaint is substantiated, the accrediting entity takes appropriate action related to the adoption service provider’s accreditation status.
Register an Internet Crime Complaint
The Department continues to work with the governments of countries of origin to ensure that appropriate safeguards exist to protect prospective adoptive children, birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents. Please continue to monitor for updated information.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Friday, March 28, 2014

DoS Adoption Alert: International Families, Inc. Hague Accreditation canceled

March 28, 2014
On March 27, 2014, the Council on Accreditation (COA) canceled the Hague accreditation of International Families, Inc. for failing to maintain substantial compliance with the U.S. accreditation standards at 22 Code of Federal Regulations Part 96 Subpart F. Prior to this date, International Families, Inc. was a Hague accredited adoption service provider authorized to operate in both Hague and non-Hague countries.
As a result of this cancellation, International Families, Inc. must cease to provide all adoption services in connection with cases covered under the Hague Adoption Convention. This adoption service provider currently operates in India and China. Please note that this cancellation will not affect International Families, Inc.’s ability to work in non-Convention countries until the entry into effect of the Universal Accreditation Act on July 14, 2014. Persons with an open case with International Families, Inc. may contact the adoption service provider directly to find out whether and how the cancellation affects your adoption services. 
The cancellation of accreditation for International Families, Inc. is effective on March 27, 2014. International Families, Inc. may submit a petition within 10 days of the cancellation if it wishes to challenge the cancellation as unwarranted. Updated information will be provided on the website as appropriate.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

DOS Notice: Adoptions from Haiti to Begin Under the Hague Adoption Convention on April 1, 2014

On April 1, 2014, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) will enter into force in Haiti.  The United States will be able to process Convention intercountry adoptions from Haiti that are initiated on or after April 1, 2014.  However, please note that delays may occur while Haiti’s adoption authority, the Institut du Bien-Être Social et de Recherches (IBESR), implements a Convention-consistent adoption process, including finalizing the schedule of in-country fees. 
The Government of Haiti has authorized a limited number of U.S. adoption service providers (ASPs) to provide adoption services in Haiti.  However, they may further reduce these numbers to help manage their caseload.  IBESR may revoke the authorization of ASPs that are not currently providing adoption services in Haiti, which could potentially allow those who remain to process a greater number of cases.  ASPs concerned about their authorization status and those interested in seeking authorization may contact IBESR for more information.
In its March 2014 letter, IBESR agreed to process as a transition case, any case in which a Form I-600 or I-600A was filed before April 1, 2014, as long matching occurs by April 1, 2016 and no I-600A extension is required.  We will provide additional information if it becomes available and is confirmed.  Questions about the transition process, and Form I-600A, and Form I-800A filings should be directed to USCIS.    
If you have any questions about this notice, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.  Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

International Adoption Status in Crimea

Given recent events in Ukraine, many parents are understandably concerned about the status of their adoptions from children in the Crimea region of the country.  According to Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the United States Embassy in Kiev is working directly with a number of parents whose adoptions have been affected by this volatile situation.  The Embassy is also working directly with the Ukrainian government to determine how these political changes will impact in-process adoptions.  Because Ukraine is not a signatory to the Convention, the Hague Process does not apply to Ukrainian adoptions.

The Department of State has not yet issued an update on Ukrainian adoptions as it relates to Crimea.  In an email to PEAR, Ambassador Jacobs stated that they will "continue to update as we learn more about how the cases will proceed."  The latest updates on adoptions in Ukraine can be found at  

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

DOS Notice: Authorization of Adoption Service Providers in Croatia

March 7, 2014
The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb has received reports that prospective adoptive parents are receiving misleading information about which children are eligible for intercountry adoption and who is authorized to provide adoption services in Croatia from individuals representing themselves as authorized service providers. The Ministry of Social Policy and Youth (Ministry), which is the Croatian Central Authority has confirmed that it has not authorized any adoption service providers to provide intercountry adoption services in Croatia.
U.S. prospective adoptive parents and adoption service providers are reminded that adoption services in Croatia can only be completed through direct contact with the Ministry.  Please note that all questions about the applicable laws and procedures for intercountry adoptions from Croatia should be directed to the Ministry.
Contact information for the Ministry is listed below:
The Ministry of Social Policy and Youth
Savska cesta 66,
10 000 Zagreb
Tel:  +385 1 555 7111
The Department of State will provide updated information on as it becomes available.  If you have any questions about this notice, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.  Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Four Employees of Adoption Services Provider Charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States in Connection with Ethiopia Operations

Four current and former employees of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption services provider, have been indicted by a grand jury in South Carolina for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with IAG’s adoption services in Ethiopia.   IAG is a South Carolina company that identified children in Ethiopia for adoption and arranged for their adoption by U.S.-based parents.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William N. Nettles of the District of South Carolina and Assistant Secretary Gregory B. Starr of the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security made the announcement.

“The defendants are accused of obtaining adoption decrees and U.S. visas by submitting fraudulent adoption contracts signed by orphanages that never cared for or housed the children, thus undermining the very laws that are designed to protect the children and families involved,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.  “As today’s indictments show, the Justice Department, alongside its partners both here and abroad, will respond vigorously to these criminal schemes and will act to protect the many families and children who rely on the integrity of the adoption process.”

“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security uses its global presence to vigorously investigate any fraud related to the acquisition of U.S. visas,” said Assistant Secretary Starr.  “The Department of State’s Bureaus of Consular Affairs and Diplomatic Security are firmly committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and bring to justice people who victimize children and families by abusing inter-country adoption system and bribe officials to facilitate their actions.”

The international program director and coordinator for IAG, James Harding, 53, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was arrested today in Georgia.  Alisa Bivens, 42, of Gastonia, N.C., who oversaw the Ethiopian operations from the United States, is scheduled to make an appearance at a later date in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C.   The company’s executive director, Mary Mooney, 53, of Belmont, N.C., was apprehended in Belize by Belizean authorities and transported to the United States.  Haile Mekonnen, age unknown, an Ethiopian national who ran IAG’s operations on the ground in Ethiopia, was also charged in the indictment.

According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly engaged in a five-year conspiracy to violate laws relating to the adoption of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents.  The scheme involved, among other things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there.  These orphanages could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption.  In some instances, the children resided with a parent or relative.

As part of the charged conspiracy, the defendants then allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted these fraudulent contracts of adoption to Ethiopian courts in order to secure adoption decrees, and submitted or caused to be submitted the fraudulent contracts of adoption and the fraudulently procured adoption decrees to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia in order to obtain U.S. visas for the children to travel to the United States to be with their new families.  The indictment also charges that the defendants’ scheme involved paying bribes to an Ethiopian government official and agreeing to create counterfeit U.S. Customs and Immigration Service forms that were to be submitted to the Ethiopian government.

The charge of conspiring to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

If you believe you have been a victim of this crime involving the named individuals or International Adoption Guides, please call 1-800-837-2655 and leave your contact information.   If you have questions or concerns about adoptions from Ethiopia in general, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address .  If you have specific questions about an adoption from Ethiopia that IAG facilitated, you should contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address .

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.   The prosecution is being conducted by Assistant United States Attorney Jamie Schoen of the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorney John W. Borchert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.