What you need to know about international adoption facilitators


Shelley Brownell
Focus on Adoption magazine

Adoptive families exploring international adoption often wonder why "facilitators" are necessary in addition to their licensed adoption agency. This article explains what they do and gives advice to families who may work with a facilitator.

Not all international adoptions involve facilitators, but many do. Their functions vary, depending on the procedures required in the child’s country of origin. The facilitator usually arranges for translation and authentication of documents. They also arrange for the translation of medical and social histories received from the child’s country, and may assist you with transportation and accommodation arrangements. Often their most important task is assisting you to receive your child and to obtain your adoption order if it is being granted in the child’s country. Such tasks are best performed by people with expertise in the procedures specific to the child’s country and who are fluent in the local language. Facilitators may also, where permitted, work directly with orphanages in other countries, presenting dossiers on families seeking to adopt.

Facilitators may be individuals or agencies, operating locally in BC, or in other jurisdictions. They are permitted to charge fees for their services, but, if the facilitator is located within BC, the fees must be collected through the licensed adoption agency. If the facilitator is located outside BC, you should check with the licensed agency to determine appropriate fee collection procedures. Agencies and facilitators do not duplicate their services, but work cooperatively together. The agency maintains contact with the facilitator throughout the referral, proposal, and placement process in order to ensure all goes smoothly, to support you and to answer your questions.

It is very important, in arranging an international adoption, that all information regarding the child being proposed for placement comes through the licensed agency. Agencies cannot meet their obligations in requesting approval for the child to enter the country unless they have all available information on the circumstances surrounding the child’s need for adoption. They also need to have all available medical and social history on the child, to review it with you, and ensure that you have reviewed it with your family doctor. Agencies want to ensure that the child being proposed for you is consistent with the type of child you have requested and for whom you have been approved.

At Family Services of Greater Vancouver, we ensure that any facilitator we work with is competent, qualified, and authorized, or otherwise permitted to carry out their functions in the child’s country, and, if they are from another jurisdiction, that they are licensed if required by that jurisdiction. For example, if they are working with an orphanage, we must be sure that they are permitted by the child’s country to do so.

Some adoptive families locate their own facilitator. Providing such facilitators meet the above requirements, our agency will usually be able to work with them. Families should be wary of facilitators who try to work directly with them without involving the licensed agency, or who are not absolutely clear about how all fees collected are being disbursed.

Adoptive families sometimes ask if they can do the work of the facilitator themselves. This can certainly be done, and it may save you money; however, it is only recommended for those who are fluent in the language of the child’s country and have a good appetite for paper work and bureaucracy. Translations must be done by independent certified translators.

Shelley Brownell works for Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

Want to read more? Subscribe to Focus on Adoption magazine!