Understanding the Hague Convention
The Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. Concluded on May 29, 1993 in The Hague, the Netherlands, the Convention establishes international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States in April 2008. Read the full text of the Hague Adoption Convention.
The Hague Adoption Convention applies to all adoptions between the United States and the other counties that have joined it (Convention countries). Adopting a child from a Convention country is similar in many ways to adopting a child from a country not party to the Convention. However, there are some key differences. In particular, those seeking to adopt receive greater protections if they adopt from a Convention country. (See our chart comparing the Convention process and the non-Convention process.)
- It requires that countries who are party to the Convention establish a Central Authority to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact in that country. The Department of State is the U.S. Central Authority for the Convention.
- It aims to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children, and it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children.
- It recognizes intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child's country of origin. It enables intercountry adoption to take place when:
- The child has been deemed eligible for adoption by the child's country of birth; and
- Proper effort has been given to the child's adoption in its country of origin.
- It provides a formal international and intergovernmental recognition of intercountry adoption, working to ensure that adoptions under the Convention will generally be recognized and given effect in other party countries.
Keys to the Convention Process
- Accredited Adoption Agencies: Only adoption service providers that have been accredited on a Federal level may offer certain key adoption services for Convention adoptions. When adopting a child from a Convention country, prospective adoptive parents know that their agency has been evaluated by one of the Department of State's designated Accrediting Entities. These Accredited Entities evaluate agencies using uniform standards that work to ensure professional and ethical practices.
- Transparency: When adopting from a Convention country, accredited adoption agencies must itemize and disclose in writing the fees and estimated expenses associated with the adoption ahead of time. The adoption service provider is only permitted to charge for unforeseen expenses under very specific circumstances. There is also an official mechanism for lodging a complaint against an accredited agency to the Department of State.
- Adoption Certificates: Every child adopted from a Convention country receives a Hague Adoption Certificate or a Hague Custody Declaration. The certificate is issued by a U.S. consular officer after determining that the adoption (or grant of custody) has met the requirements of the Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act. In Convention adoptions a U.S. consular officer also determines whether the child appears to meet the criteria for visa eligibility before the adoption is finalized (or custody is granted) in the country of origin. This will allow the parents to know ahead of time whether the child appears to be eligible to enter the United States.
- Updated Forms & Visa Categories: Forms I-800A and I-800 replace Forms I-600A and I-600 for Convention adoption cases. Through Form I-800A, which must be filed prior to Form I-800, prospective adoptive parent(s) gain eligibility to adopt. Prospective adoptive parent(s) will identify the country from which they will adopt on this form. Form I-800 later determines the eligibility of a particular child to be adopted into a U.S. family. Children adopted from a Convention country must meet the definition of a "Convention adoptee." New visa categories, IH-3 and IH-4, will be used in Convention adoption cases.