International Adoption

Hands holding globe iStock_000017379073small copyIntercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME)   has approved the Law Office of Steffas & Associates, P.C. as an Approved Person to act as a Primary Provider for incoming and outgoing Hague adoptions governed by the Intercountry Adoptions Act and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children & Co-operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption. The certification is valid through September 30, 2020. IAAME has approved us for Hague Convention Adoptions: our firm is only one of the three law firms in the entire United States with such a distinguished rating. Another way we help families grow is through domestic and international surrogacy. Because of our experience in two different bodies of law – adoption, and immigration, we have the tools to solve the most complex cases.

With the ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention, US procedures dramatically changed.  On a global level, families, attorneys, and courts are still learning how to navigate through the precise procedures of this convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act, the US federal legislation that implemented this convention. The purpose of this convention is to protect the best interests of children and prevent the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children. The U.S. Department of State has overall responsibility for implementing the Hague Convention and it is the official central authority.  Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) administers many important procedures.

For a current list of countries that are parties to this convention, see the State Department’s website: https://travel.state.gov

HAGUE CONVENTION ADOPTION: applies to Incoming Cases, where U.S. citizens adopt a child from another convention country and Outgoing Cases, when citizens of other countries wish to adopt a child from the US.

A number of countries have not ratified the Hague Adoption Convention. When a family seeks to adopt from a non-convention country, different regulations, procedure and laws apply.

UNIVERSAL ACCREDITATION ACT – UAA: Due to the Universal Accreditation Act (UAA), effective July 14, 2014, all prospective adoptive parents adopting internationally must work with a primary provider. The primary provider is responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided and for supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used. Beginning in July 14, 2014, every intercountry orphan adoption case, will need an accredited or approved primary provider to ensure the adoption services are delivered appropriately.

The Six adoption services:

1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
2. Securing the necessary consent for termination of parental rights and to adoption;
3. Performing a home study and reporting on prospective adoptive parents or a background study and report on a child;
4. Making non-judicial determinations of a child’s best interests and of the appropriateness of an adoptive placement;
5. Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parents until final adoption; and
6. Assuming custody of a child and providing childcare or any other social service, when necessary, because of a disruption pending alternative placement.

Read more on the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012- UAA

ADOPTING A RELATIVE FROM OVERSEAS: When a family wishes to adopt a relative, they must also comply with the US laws and the laws of the child’s country.  For children who are citizens of convention countries, the law requires strict adherence to the Hague Adoption Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act.  For children who are citizens of countries that have not ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, the child must satisfy the orphan definition of US regulations.

PROGRAMS: Steffas & Associates, P.C. does not have any formal programs where the firm is working directly with a country to bring children to the United States.  However, often times, families seek to adopt a relative that qualifies as an eligible convention adoptee in countries where only a few have a program or where no child has come to the United States.  Our office handled the first case since 2004 of a child leaving Turkey to be adopted by her aunt and uncle.  Countries with such informal programs include the following:

Belize – Incoming Cases

Canada – Incoming and Outgoing Cases

Mexico – Outgoing Cases

Turkey – Incoming Cases for Relatives

United Kingdom – Incoming (children in foster care & relatives) and Outgoing Cases


Primary Providers must be accredited or approved by the Council on Accreditation.  To become approved by the Council on Accreditation, Steffas & Associates, P.C. went through a rigorous process developing policies, procedures, and agreements that comply with the Intercountry Adoption Act and the Hague Adoption Convention.  As a primary provider, Steffas & Associates, P.C. does not conduct home studies, child studies, or post-placement reports. Instead, our office works with accredited agencies and attorneys throughout the US and convention countries.  We supervise accredited agencies and attorneys to provide necessary services. Steffas & Associates, P.C. is not an Accredited Agency; we are an Approved Person that is for-profit.

Supervised Providers may be agencies, organizations, or individuals including facilitators or attorneys in the United States or foreign countries. They must meet, some but not all of the Hague Adoption Convention requirements. Supervised providers work closely with our office to ensure that all necessary and appropriate adoption services are provided to the biological family, the child, and the adoptive parents.

Exempt Providers only provide one adoption service.  Our office supervises them. However their function is minimal.

Accredited Agencies must be licensed in the state where they are domiciled and be accredited.  Accredited agencies are not-for-profit corporations.  Some countries, usually in Central and South America will only work with an accredited agency. Steffas & Associates, P.C. is not an Accredited Agency; we are an Approved Person that is for-profit.

Approved Persons are not the same as accredited agencies. They may be licensed attorneys, social workers, or agencies that are for-profit.  Extensive experience and accreditation are required for one to be an approved person. Steffas & Associates, P.C. is not an Accredited Agency; we are an Approved Person that is for-profit.

Certified to work in a foreign country: Some countries limit the number of Adoption Service Providers. For example, China, Colombia, India Mexico, and the Philippines require adoption service providers to be accredited in the US and be certified by that country’s central authority.  Steffas & Associates P.C. is not authorized to administer Incoming Cases from these countries.

For more information, see the U.S. Department of State website at: