Nov 162011

If you have done anything with International Adoption since 2008, you have heard of The Hague Convention. If you are not clear about what is the Convention and its effect on adoption to the US, this post should be some benefit to you. This post is longer than I would prefer but since this is a government program, it’s complicated.

What Does The Name Mean?

Its complete legal name is The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The Hague is a city in the Netherlands. It is home to the International Court and is one of the three United Nation Cities; Geneva Switzerland and New York City being the other two.

A Convention – in this usage – is a treaty or an agreement between like-minded people.


During the ‘80s, UNICEF promoted the belief that international adoption was “creating serious and complex human and legal problems and the absence of existing domestic and international legal instruments indicated the need for a multilateral approach.”

In 1989, UNICEF began work on the Convention. It was approved by the UN in May 1993. President Clinton signed it in 1994. Congress ratified it in 2000 and the law (Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000) implementing it went into effect in April 2008.

Intercountry Adoptions

When an adoption occurs between two countries who have ratified and implementing the mandates of the Convention, they must adhered to the Convention in accord with the laws of the respective countries. A major advantage of a Convention country is that it cannot change the adoption procedures at-will like a non-Convention country. For that aspect alone, I wish the Convention had been in place when we adopted Gemma in 2002.

An important point is that the Convention does not prevent adoptions between the 86 Convention countries and non-Convention countries.

Non-Convention countries Ethiopia, Russia South Korea, and Ukraine accounted for 44% of 2010 adoptions. Convention country China accounted for 31% of the adoption. These five countries sent 75% of the children adoption to America in 2010.

Guatemala and Cambodia are unique Convention countries in relationship to the US. Neither have convinced our Central Authority (more on that later) that they are implementing the mandates of the Convention. For that reason, adoptions cannot occur between the US and those countries.

Convention Text (with commentary)


Recognizing 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

Nothing is more important for a well-formed human child than growing up in this type of family.

Recalling that each State should take, as a matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin

There is no doubt that we develop our identity by our family-of-origin. In a perfect world, a child whose parent can no longer parent would be raised by extended family.

Recognizing that intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin

In addition to a family, we gain identity from our country-of-origin. Again, in a perfect world, it is better for a child to grow up in their country of birth. As we will see later, the Convention demands that every effort must be made to find a home for the child in the sending country before make them available for international adoption.

Convinced of the necessity to take measures 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

These are the basic tenets of the Convention. I completely agree these are important issues. Every human—from conception till natural death—is entitled to fundamental rights. The countries of the world must do all they can to prevent crimes against children such as those listed. Because a few dirtballs have stolen children and placed them for adoption, we have to law these laws to protect who cannot protect themselves.