Sunday, November 11, 2007

India's Rules on Adoption Fees and Donations

A rule is only as good as it is enforced. What good is an adoption rule that is intended to curb child trafficking when that rule is not followed and when no government takes any action when the rule is regularly broken?

India’s Rules on Adoption Fees and Donations

CARA is the central authority in India that regulates intercountry adoptions from India. Since 2006, CARA’s guidelines contain two specific rules about adoption fees and donations:

(1) CAP ON FEES: In intercountry adoption, an adoption fee of a fixed amount of U.S. $3,500 is payable by prospective adoptive parents to the Indian placement agency through the U.S. agency. See Section 5.17(a) of CARA’s Guidelines.

  • This fee is an “outer limit” of recoverable expenses that may be reviewed for cost of living increases once every five years.

  • The recoverable expenses the fee is supposed to cover include the cost involved in providing quality child care, medical and legal services, passport, visa, payment towards professional staff, monitoring, correspondence, preparation of child study reports, medical reports, etc.

  • (2) NO DONATIONS: CARA’s rules are clear that no donation should be received by an Indian placement agency either from a foreign prospective adopted parent or from a foreign adoption agency. Section Section 5.17(b).

  • CARA’s Guidelines state that if the Indian Placement agency charges excess fees, CARA may suspend or withdraw its license to do intercountry adoption and may recommend the agency for criminal prosecution.

  • If the foreign adoption agency induces an Indian placement agency by offering more money than the prescribed fees, CARA may de-enlist that foreign agency with a recommendation that the agency be prosecuted as per the law of that country.

  • CARA’s guidelines with respect to the maximum permissible adoption fees and donations were derived from the India Supreme Court directives outlined in LK Pandey v. Union of India, 2 S.C.C. 244 (India Supreme Court 1984). The restrictions on fees and donations were formulated expressly to safeguard against the "profiteering and trafficking of children." See LK Pandey, 2 S.C.C. at 264, 270, 273. This objective also lies at the heart of the Hague Convention.

    Earlier this year, CARA issued draft revised guidelines. It is expected that CARA will issue final rules effective January 1, 2008. In anticipation of the rules changing, this post records existing U.S. agency practice regarding fees and donations for India adoption programs.

    U.S. Agency Practice

    Set forth below is each of the U.S. agencies listed on CARA’s website that is currently licensed to place children from India that has information about its India program on its website (even if the India program is on hold). Linked to each agency name is the part of its website that discloses fees and donations for its India program (if any).

    Agencies that do not publish fee information on its websites:

    The following agencies do not publish information about its fees on their websites:

    Love Basket

    Children’s House International

    Alliance for Children, Inc.

    Hope Adoption & Family Services International, Inc.

    Crossroads Adoption Services

    Americans for International Aid and Adoption

    Bal Jagat Children’s World Inc.

    International Families Inc.

    ACCEPT An Adoption and Counselling Centre

    Children of the World, Inc. International Adoption and Relief Agency

    The Barker Foundation

    Commonwealth Adoptions International, Inc.

    International Family Services

    Hope Cottage, Inc.

    Hope for Children

    Wide Horizons for Children, Inc.

    Agencies with published fee information on their websites:

    The following CARA-licensed agencies contain information about fees on their websites:

    Illien Adoptions International, Inc.
  • Lists a country fee of $9,000

  • Children’s Home Society & Family Services
    India Program Fees consist of:
  • $3,500 for child care/maintenance/legal fees

  • $5,000 for “CARA approved and CHSFS approved International Child Welfare Projects”

  • Holt International Children’s Services
  • Adoption Program fee: $8,190.

  • Bay Area Adoption Services International Adoption
  • Lists partnering agency fees as ranging from $6,000-$10,000

  • Holy Cross Child Placement Agency, Inc.
  • India processing fee: $3,000 – $9,000 (varies based on Indian orphanages)

  • MAPS International
  • Indian foreign program fee: $4,500 (includes “orphanage donations”)

  • Journeys of the Heart Adoption Services
  • India Program Maintenance Fee -- $2,000

  • Contributions (Mandatory) -- $5,000. For “humanitarian relief projects which Journeys supports in India (paid to regulated non-profits for child nurturing, vocational training and such, i.e. Care and Share, or Hands to Hearts International.)”

  • Orphanage Fee (varies by orphanage) -- $2,500 - $3,500

  • Families Thru International Adoption
  • International Fees: $9,000. “Fees for child investigations, attorney, legal/court costs, recognized Indian placement agencies (orphanages) as allowed by CARA, passport, staff in India, maintenance of program, licensing, DHL, phone, fax, and assistance when families travel. FTIA provides support for welfare projects so that part of every international fee is a donation.”

  • World Association for Children & Parents (WACAP)
    Lists no separate India program fee. Instead, total costs are:
  • Application fee: $250

  • Initial processing fee: $4,000

  • 2nd processing fee: $4,000

  • Final adoption fee: $4,000

  • Adoptions from the Heart
  • In-country orphanage child maintenance process: $3,500

  • Support of child welfare programs: $3,500 (“This covers the donation to the Child Welfare Programs to support orphanages throughout the country.”). Preet Mandir, an orphanage in Pune India, is the only charity mission listed on this agency’s website.

  • Dillon International, Inc.
  • International Fee -- $3,500

  • Maintenance support fee -- $1,450

  • Children of India, Inc.
  • India Program Fee: Listed as $3,500 for non-resident Indians. Not published for non-NRIs. Website notes that some orphanages accept less than the CARA approved amount of $3,500.

    The fee information described above raises a number of questions:

    Why don't all agencies list fee information on their websites? Is there a “best practices” approach for transparency of fees charged by U.S. agencies?

    Of the amounts of foreign fees in excess of $3,500, how much goes to Indian orphanages contrary to CARA guidelines?

    Regardless of what is listed by a U.S. agency as its international, program or foreign fee, how much does the agency actually remit to its Indian partners (for example, do agencies remit amounts that come out of its own administrative portion of agency fees)?

    Why do some U.S. agencies permit and in most cases require prospective adoptive parents to pay fees and donations that are prohibited by CARA guidelines?

    Why is no action taken against Indian placement agencies or U.S. agencies for routinely violating CARA’s guidelines governing fees and donations?

    Are there any U.S. agencies that can publicly account for the portion of adoption fees it charges that go to India? That go to any country?

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