Doing Right: Acceding to the Hague Adoption Convention

U.S. Embassy Presentation
International Social Services Japan Conference on Intercountry Adoptions
Tokyo, Japan

February 17, 2010

What is the Hague Adoption Convention, and why is it so important?

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption is a multilateral treaty among over 75 countries. As stated in its preamble, it seeks "to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children." The Convention establishes safeguards and procedures to protect children in intercountry adoptions, and to take the interests of birth parents into account.

The Convention states in its preamble that "the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding." Ideally, that family environment is with the child's birth parents or with extended family members. If this is not possible and a suitable domestic adoption is not available, intercountry adoptions should be available for children to ensure that they have an opportunity to grow up in a family environment. The goal of intercountry adoption is to find loving homes for children in need. The United States supports intercountry adoption when adoption is in the best interests of the child and domestic adoption is not available.

The United States supports the Convention because it protects children. The Convention works along with the various child welfare systems to promote better lives for children worldwide. We support the Convention's premise that children and families benefit from transparent and ethical practices in the intercountry adoption process, regardless of their country of origin or country of adoption.

The Convention is for everyone.

How does the Hague Adoption Convention improve the adoption process?

The Hague Adoption Convention establishes safeguards and standards to protect the interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents by establishing a framework for processing intercountry adoption cases. Because the adoption laws of individual countries may differ significantly, the Convention also provides a mechanism for coordination and communication regarding these laws. In particular, the Convention requires member countries to establish a Central Authority, responsible for coordinating and monitoring that country's adoption policies.

Although some countries have sought bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption, the United States believes the most effective way to further ethical, transparent intercountry adoptions is to encourage all countries to become a party to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Prospective adoptive parents who seek an intercountry adoption must comply with the laws and regulations of at least two different countries. In many instances, there are multiple authorities and jurisdictions that have intercountry adoption requirements.

Intercountry adoptions require three interrelated determinations, among other things. The country where the child lives determines that the child is eligible for adoption and that intercountry adoption is an appropriate option for that child. The country where the adoptive parents live determines that the prospective parents are eligible to adopt and able to assume the responsibilities of an adoption. Finally, a third decision determines that it is appropriate for a specific child to be placed with specific parents.

While these decisions must be made thoughtfully, they should also be made efficiently. For children in need, the sooner that they can be placed in a permanent, loving home, the better it is for their growth and development.

How does the Convention work in the United States?

In the United States, the Hague Adoption Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), its implementing legislation, significantly changed the way adoptions between the United States and over 75 Hague Adoption Convention countries are conducted. The most important changes were the creation of a new, standard adoption process for adoptions from partner countries into the United States, a federal adoption tracking and reporting system, and the establishment of an accreditation system for adoption service providers seeking to provide adoption services in connection with adoptions covered by the Hague Adoption Convention.

New rules: U.S. regulations set rigorous nationwide standards for transparency and ethical practice for adoption service providers when they work with American families, children, and foreign authorities. The regulations further outline how consular officers will handle incoming adoptions and maintain Convention records. The Department of Homeland Security also published regulations, which outline the new Convention adoption process and home study requirements for the adoption of children immigrating to the United States.

New standards for adoption service providers: In accordance with the IAA, the Department designated the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) to evaluate and accredit adoption service providers. These "accrediting entities" have already accredited or approved 230 adoption service providers, ensuring that American families have a broad choice of providers with a proven ability to provide transparent, responsible services in Convention adoptions. Each adoption service provider is required to remain in substantial compliance with the standards; failure to do so can negatively impact a provider's accreditation status. An up-to-date list of accredited and approved adoption service providers is available on the Department of State's website.

New federal database: The Adoptions Tracking Service (ATS) allows accrediting entities and adoption service providers to be able to track and monitor pending and closed adoption cases. Since ATS shares data with the immigrant visa computer system that consular officers use overseas for issuing visas in adoption cases, the Department of State can accurately report adoption statistics. Another key component of ATS is the Hague Complaint Registry (HCR), an online mechanism that allows the public, as well as other Hague Adoption Convention Central Authorities, to file complaints about adoption service providers. The accrediting entities are then charged with investigating any complaints filed against the adoption service providers it oversees, and taking adverse action if warranted.

New website The Department launched an adoption-focused website in November 2008 to help prospective adoptive parents, social work professionals, state judges, adoption service providers, and foreign authorities understand the adoption processes with Hague Adoption Convention countries as well as non-Convention countries. In addition to providing information on the processes, the Department has also published guides, country-specific information sheets, and useful links on the website. Any questions about the Convention, the IAA, or intercountry adoptions not answered on the website may be sent to

Who can experts in the field or foreign government officials contact if they have questions about intercountry adoptions?

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy should be the first point of contact. Many questions can be answered by consular officers overseas, who have designated responsibilities as part of the USCA. These officers can facilitate discussions of more complex questions or questions of a broad policy nature with the Office of Children's Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office of Children's Issues welcomes opportunities to participate in exchanges with officials from other governments and with representatives of other countries' Central Authorities, through e-mail, conference calls, video teleconferences, and direct discussions with officials in their home countries.

What is the bottom line?

The Hague Adoption Convention is good for children. Accession to the Hague Convention on Adoptions can improve a nation's ability to ensure intercountry adoptions are legal, safe, and beneficial for children by allowing openness, transparency and oversight. For this reason, the United States encourages all nations to accede to the Convention.