The complaint policy is the page of an adoption agency contract you do not want to have to understand. I read the Lifeline complaint policy in our contract and I distinctly remember thinking “…hope we never need this page…” as I initialed the bottom. The page seemed to make sense. If there was a problem I should bring it to Lifeline first and if they could not solve the issue I could go to the State Department website.
Well, that is the idea, anyway.
There are two types of complaint against an adoption agency. A non-Convention complaint involves the clients’ feelings about the agency – if they do not like their social worker or feel they were treated unfairly by a translator. A Convention complaint is any complaint that calls into question the agency’s compliance with the standards outlined in the Hague Convention.
According to our understanding of the policy, we were supposed to submit our complaint in writing directly to Lifeline and then it would be categorized Convention or non-Convention and handled appropriately. “Upon determination of the categorization of the complaint; the complaint will be handled pursuant to the procedures for responding to complaints in accordance with the Hague Treaty Standards.”
Seems straightforward, right?
Here’s the catch. We did not have to complain directly to Lifeline. It is not a required part of the process and they are not the authority to determine the category of our complaint. In fact, with the serious nature of our allegations we should have gone directly to the Hague Complaint Registry (HCR) on the State Department’s website.
On the HCR website, patrons are encouraged to resolve the issue with the agency first. “Individuals must first try to resolve a complaint through their Adoption Service Provider before submitting a complaint to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions Complaint Registry.” But in our experience, this does not mean you must submit your official complaint to the agency and wait the allotted thirty days for a response.
It means something much simpler … did you try?
Did you try to get the agency to handle this? Did you try to point out any ethical issues?
If you can answer yes, then filing an HCR complaint is absolutely an option for you. In fact it is only by filing complaints with the State Department through HCR that the patterns of ethical abuses can be established. The accrediting authority is careful about which complaints they pursue to the investigation level, but we do not need to make this determination for them. They need to see what you and I see when we notice fraud or when we experience a pattern of unethical behavior. Even if they do not raise every complaint to the investigation level, at least they know the stories and they can ask their own questions.
So my encouragement to you today, friends, is twofold: read the complaint policy when you begin your adoption and please file a complaint through the Hague Complaint Registry if you believe articles of the Hague Treaty have been broken. We can make a difference and protect children from trafficking, but more of us will have to raise our voices…to the appropriate people.
Have you filed an official complaint? I would love to hear your story. Let’s chat!