Thinking about adopting a child from outside the United States? Learn about the Hague Convention, process and pitfalls one might encounter.

The decision to adopt a child from a foreign country can be both a joyous and nerve-wracking process. Preparing your family mentally while ensuring that you follow all the necessary procedures can take a toll, and stress can run high. Understanding some of the rationale behind the process ensures that you enter into the process well-informed, and with an appreciation for the life-changing process that you are about to undertake.

There are two processes by which a prospective parent may adopt a child from another country: Convention adoptions, and non-Convention adoptions. The word “Convention” refers to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. It is possible to adopt a child from a country that has not signed onto the Convention agreement, but conducting an inter-country adoption with a Convention country comes with distinct advantages. This article focuses on the inter-country adoption under The Hague Convention or, Convention adoptions.

The Hague Convention Guidelines

In 1993, countries from around the world agreed to abide by certain rules and standards when engaging in inter-country adoption (the current total stands at 92 countries). The United States agreed to the Convention terms, and signed the agreement in 1994. The terms of the agreement took effect in the United States in 2008.

The overriding goal of the Convention is to make sure the safety of children being adopted and sent to foreign countries in protected. The Convention agreement protects against child abduction and ensures that children are sent to suitable and safe homes. By holding all the countries that have entered into the agreement accountable, the agreement assures that certain standards are maintained.

Under the terms of the Convention, each country must have a single agency that acts as an authority for handling inter-country adoptions. Before a child is sent to another country, it must be determined that the family receiving the child is fit to receive custody. Similar to instances of domestic adoption, home visits must be conducted by an authorized agency. This central agency then licenses the agencies that are allowed to conduct home inspections prior to a family receiving approval for adoption. This agency works with the country from which the child is being adopted, ensuring that guidelines are being followed on both ends.

Convention Guidelines and International Adoption in the US

In order to comply with the Convention guidelines, the United States focuses on the following elements during inter-country adoptions:

Accreditation: As mentioned above, the Convention requires that each Convention member assign one central agency to serve as a point of contact regarding inter-country adoption. In the U.S., this agency is the Department of State’s Council on Accreditation. This Council determines which agencies may participate in the inter-country adoption process, including the pre-adoption home inspections.

Certification: The U.S. provides a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate to each child that is adopted from a Convention country. This guarantees that the adoption has followed the guidelines of the Convention agreement, and allows the adopting parents to rest assured that their child is eligible to enter the United States as a Convention adoptee.

Transparency: The costs associated with the adoption must be disclosed upfront. Deviation from the fees agreed upon before the adoption begins are only allowed for unforeseen costs under extraordinary circumstances.

How do I Start the Process?

To begin the process of applying for an international adoption in the US from a Convention country, prospective adoptive parents must fill out and file two forms: I-800A, which is the Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and Form I-800, which is the Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. These forms must both be filed with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.

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