with AnnaMarie Merrill,
International Concerns for Children (ICC)
Editor of Report on Intercountry
By Allison Martin
What is the mission of the International Concerns
for Children (ICC)? How did you become involved in this endeavor?
AnnaMarie Merrill: ICC's mission is several-fold: the Report
on Intercountry Adoption is for prospective adopters to have in hand
lists of reputable agencies, and be able to shop and choose according
to their child-wishes; the Newsletter is an informal gathering of pertinent
articles for folks to add to their collection of information to help make
this whole venture less scary, and more doable; the donations effort is
ongoing collection of clothes, toys, medicine, medical supples, school
supplies, household goods to be sent to agencies to hand carry to their
orphanages for the good of all the kids there. That's sort of the
I began in 1972 to answer letters, etc. for some friends who achieved
the then unheard of third I-600 visa for an adoption from Korea (back
then INS only issued 2 per family), becoming instant experts (Korea was
the only country back then where we could adopt). In 1975 they decided
to get on with life not necessarily having to do with adoption.
I took what I thought were meagre organizational and publishing skills,
got the Report started, and it just grew. We incorporated in 1979.
At that time, having 3 babies under 3, I needed something "sane"
to do ("sane" is a 4-letter word), putting it together as an
eminently interruptable effort which it is, yet, today.
What did you wish to accomplish in the Report?
AnnaMarie Merrill: It became quite obvious, in 1975, that this
wonderful thing of intercountry adoption was only going to expand, and
had already begun doing so (Latin America was beginning by then), and
folks really needed a well-researched and checked-out list of agencies
and information to start from.
How should prospective adoptive parents select
an agency for international adoption?
AnnaMarie Merrill: You can read about selecting an agency on page
55 in the Report.
We get calls all the time about agencies that aren't in the Report: usually
they're either ones we've not heard of, or we did send off a request for
information and none was forthcoming. I advise people to call the
attorney general's office in the state where the agency's located, also
the licensing office and the consumer protection office to check on the
agency's track record, whether they're in fact actually licensed, whether
they have a major complaint on their books (fraud suits, class-action
suits, etc.). We do insist that any agencies we publish on are at
least 2 years old, and that their programs are at least 1 year old (that's
in the Report also). We suggest that folks "shop" agencies
they're interested in using, becoming informed consumers as well as they
can. For some this means getting info from 3-4 agencies, for others
a dozen or more. Some people's comfort level extends only to agencies
in their own state, others can take advantage of more opportunities.
How can people help you in your efforts?
AnnaMarie Merrill: People can help by collecting donations for
agencies in their area (we don't ship directly to the orphanage, because
so much can "get lost" in customs. If traveling parents and
agency personnel take stuff directly this doesn't seem to happen. Of course,
all donations MUST be perfect: on clothes all buttons present, zippers
working, no stains, holes, rips, etc.; toys must have all parts and not
be shabby-looking; shoes must not be much worn, and must be clean (denatured
alcohol does a great job on what the washing machine can't get out); medicines
must have an expiration date at least 3 and preferably 6 months away (foreign
doctors won't use "expired" stuff).
People can also help by talking to us: "What was your experience
like with this agency - good, bad, edgewise? Would you use them again?,"
etc. We usually hear when someone is unhappy (and it's often not
the agenciy's fault at all), but rarely when they're happy. Well,
happy people don't make noise, anyway.
What are your plans for the future?
AnnaMarie Merrill: It used to be that information was very difficult
to find on agencies. Now, with the internet, there's almost too much information,
and a lot of it is highly suspect. I look at sites once in a while,
and see outfits that I know are not licensed agencies, and, of course,
since anyone can get on the net and say anything, it's very hard to separate
the wheat fom the chaff. Many wonderful agencies have good, attractive
sites, and many sleazoids do too. I see ICC as becoming even more important
in the future to vet agencies, letting people know who's really on the
up and up, and who should be avoided. Of course, I have a
penchant for licensed agencies, as opposed to liaisons, etc. Even though
there are 3 liaisons in the Report, they've been working well for a l-o-n-g
time, and we're not accepting any new ones. Also with the Hague
treaty, there will be more emphasis on organizations becoming licensed
in order to be in compliance (I don't know why they don't go the distance
and get licensed, anyway, just to give themselves more credibility).