For anyone in the international adoption community, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption is something you come across a lot. There are “Hague guidelines” for paperwork and pre-adoption education, and the Hague dictates which accredited adoption service providers you can use to complete intercountry adoptions to the United States. As adoptive families, we know the Hague Convention is in place to protect orphaned and abandoned children. We also know there are certain steps we, as adoptive parents, must take to make sure our adoptions are safe and ethical. But there are a number of things you may not know about this incredible international treaty. For example:
1. It Doesn’t Apply to Everyone
To date, roughly 100 countries have signed the Convention, but there are still popular sending countries, such as South Korea, who have not yet approved the Convention. There are many reasons a country may not choose to sign, including difficulty ratifying the Convention within the country. For a full list of signatories, visit the U.S. Department of State.
2. A Signature Doesn’t Mean a Country Is Actively Sending
Just because a country signed the Hague Convention does not necessarily mean that intercountry adoptions are currently taking place. There are many countries, such as Kazakhstan, who while signatories of the Hague Convention, do not currently allow intercountry adoption with the United States.
3. An Attempt Must Be Made to Place the Child In-Country
One of the stipulations of the Hague Convention is that, per Article 4, every attempt must have been made to place the child in-country before intercountry adoption is considered. This means that for children listed on the intercountry adoption list, their best chance of a forever family is one outside their country of origin.
4. The Process Has Become More Streamlined
When you are staring at stacks and stacks of paper, it is hard to imagine that the Hague Convention actually streamlined the adoption process, but it has. Article 6 implemented a major change within intercountry adoption by establishing the requirement that all Hague Convention countries have one central authority governing all adoptions. For example, in China this is the CCCWA, in India there is CARA, in Columbia there is ICBF, and in the United States we have the Department of State.
5. There’s More Thorough Information
Under Articles 9 and 16 of the Hague Convention, every central authority of the state of origin must provide the most comprehensive social, medical, and family history they can. This means medical files are more up-to-date, family histories are more readily shared, and a more complete overview of the child is in place both at time of referral and placement.
6. You Can’t Make Up Fees
In the past, one of the challenges of intercountry adoption was a discrepancy of fees. Adoption agencies might list one fee then demand another. Or, perhaps more commonly, families would be charged additional fees to complete their adoption while in-country. One of the key elements of the Hague Convention was a transparency of these fees. Now all countries who are signatories of the convention must have adoption service providers (ASPs) disclose and itemize in writing all fees associated with the adoption. Additionally, the ASPs must present a schedule of estimated fees while in-country, including a rough approximation of travel expenses.
7. You Must Wait to Have Contact with Your Prospective Adoptive Child
After you say yes to a referral, the first thing you want to do is contact your child. While from the outside it may seem like your adoption agency is asking you to hold off on contact for no apparent reason, they are just following the Hague Convention. Per Article 29, no contact between the prospective adoptive parents and the child’s caretakers may be initiated until the child has been found fully eligible for adoption. Eligibility must be found both in-country, such through a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from India or Letter of Seeking Approval from Adopter (LOA) from China, and from the U.S. through an I-800.
There is no question intercountry adoption is complex, but thanks to the Hague Convention, it is more streamlined, ethical, and safe. Interested to learn more? Visit the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to read the complete text.