What does a Hague adoption mean?
When you hear the word "Hague" in connection with adoptions, it refers to Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the treaty signed by 88 countries governing international adoption. "The Hague Convention really provides a safe, ethical, and transparent adoption process, to help protect children and parents and biological parents," says Ambassador Janice Jacobs, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs for the U.S State Department.
Adoptions between countries that follow the Hague Adoption Convention treaty must meet stricter guidelines:
- The adoption agency or facilitator must be approved by the U.S. State Department to manage adoptions in that country. The agency or facilitator must fully disclose fees and expenses up front—and has limited opportunities to change fees down the line.
- The child's country must ensure that the child is indeed an "orphan," with no one available to adopt and care for her in her home country.
- The adoptive parents must complete several hours of training to help prepare them for potential issues their child may face, such as developmental delays due to less than optimal orphanage care.
- The paperwork required changes slightly, to include a new Hague adoption certificate and a new type of visa that's issued in these cases.
Some countries, including Haiti and Uganda, still haven't implemented the Hague Convention, and adoptions from those countries don't have all of these requirements, such as the training and the additional paperwork—or the accreditation of the adoption agency or facilitator.
Should we be worried about corruption?
Most international adoptions are conducted ethically, but there have been documented instances of corruption within some adoption programs, occurring before the Hague Convention treaty was signed. "In some of the countries—especially in the poorer countries—we've seen instances of government officials and adoption service providers engaging in unethical practices," Ambassador Jacobs says. "There's a lot of money involved in international adoption and sometimes that amount of money can corrupt."
In China, several people were convicted in 2005 for trafficking children into orphanages in Hunan province, and concerns surfaced last year about children being forcibly taken from their families and sold to the orphanages; in Vietnam, the adoption program was closed because of instances of trafficking and even kidnapping."If we suspect any kind of fraud or bribery or inappropriate financial gains, we will investigate very carefully," Ambassador Jacobs says. "When it happens, we put a stop to it as quickly as we can." That can lead to restrictions on adoptions from a particular country, delays in finalizing your adoption, or, in severe instances, closing the program altogether. But in Hague-compliant countries, there is less room for corruption to take place.
What should we be looking for in an adoption agency or facilitator?
If you're planning to adopt from a country that is governed by the Hague Convention treaty, there's a list of adoption service providers on the State Department website that are authorized to guide you through adoptions from that country. In non-Hague countries, you don't have that central authority reviewing each agency's practices. But here's what you should consider when you're looking for the right agency. Be sure your adoption service provider:
- Has approval to facilitate adoptions in your state.
- Provides clear and specific information about all fees and procedures surrounding your adoption, including a sample contract.
- Allows you to contact several families who have adopted through their program to obtain references.
- Gives you information about your options, should the adoption program you choose change their requirements or close to new adoptions before you complete yours.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.