The U.S. State Department is now reviewing how a Florida adoption agency handles intercountry adoptions, including to families here in Manitoba.

Their review comes as a result of a CBC investigation into the agency which revealed it charges reduced fees to Canadians if they adopt black children versus white.

"It does raise a lot of ethical questions," said Jayne Schmidt, a director with the U.S. Council on Accreditation, which accredited this agency. "We'd like to know more about it," she added.

USA adoption options

(Adoption Options)

The story focused on Adoption by Shepherd Care, a Florida-based agency that's mired in controversy, because of the fees it charges its Canadian clients. According to its information package, the costs attached to adopt a white baby are up to $44,000 US. A biracial child? A bit cheaper.

But for black babies? Even less. On average, no more than $35,000 US.

'That's called racism'

"I mean when you see 'biracial' versus full African American differentials? The only difference there is that child is 'whiter,' quote unquote," said Beth Hall, director of Pact, a U-S Adoption Alliance. "And therein is exactly the racial hierarchy I'm talking about. That's called racism. That is racism."

Despite that, a private agency here in Winnipeg is partnered with Adoption by Shepherd Care. And the province has approved adoptions through them, because they're legally licensed and Hague-accredited.

But while that accreditation is supposed to mean the agency adheres to standards drawn out  in the UN Convention on the Protection of Children, the man who helped author those standards has doubts about whether they're being properly regulated. 

"I would like to know," said Nigel Cantwell. "I do know there are concerns about the way or the criteria that are used for accrediting some agencies in the U.S."

Which is why, despite the fact that Adoption By Shepherd Care is accredited, Cantwell thinks other agencies, including those here in Manitoba, should stop doing business with them.

Accreditation agency asks for review

Meanwhile the Council on Accreditation, which issues the Hague accreditations to agencies that qualify, has now asked their governing body, the Department of State, to review the case; specifically, to make sure they have "appropriate guidance relating to the fee standards," Jayne Schmidt said.

"We have contacted [them] to share with them the concerns (the CBC) raised ... about the practice of charging different fees for adoption of African American children," Schmidt said, adding she cannot disclose more detail than that. 

A spokesperson for the province also confirmed that because of the CBC investigation, they are conducting their own review of the agency.

In the meantime, the agency itself is not accepting new applications from prospective Canadian adoptive families until the new year, because they already have too many families on the waiting list.