Take a breath. Let it out. The most important thing to know is this: International adoption will not end on April 1 st when the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption goes into force within the USA . Below are the answers to your most frequently asked questions:
What is the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption?
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption provides a framework for member countries to work together to ensure that children are provided with permanent, loving homes, that adoptions take place in the best interests of a child, and that the abduction, sale or traffic in children is prevented. Hague regulations establish uniform requirements and ensure sound ethical practices designed to protect children, birthparents and adoptive parents.
Part of the Convention's guidelines ensures that one Central Authority is in place in each country so that adoptive parents get the most accurate information regarding adoption. The Department of State is the U.S. Central Authority for the Convention. The United States requires international adoption service providers serving Hague countries to be accredited, supported and monitored.
Are all International Adoptions affected by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption?
No . Adoptions between Hague and non-Hague countries are not prohibited by the Hague Convention. These new Hague regulations apply only to adoptions that take place between two countries that have approved and implemented the Hague Convention. Adoptions from non-Hague countries will continue as they have in the past. In essence this means that there will be two systems of International adoption available to US Citizens. Those who adopt from a Hague country will need to use a Hague Accredited adoption agency. Families adopting from a non-Hague country (a country is has not a part of the Hague Convention) may use a non-accredited adoption agency.
At the time of this writing, about half of all children adopted internationally are from Hague Convention countries, such as China, Guatemala, and India . Other sending countries, such as Russia , Ethiopia , South Korea , and Ukraine are non-Hague Convention countries. Adoption from these countries will continue in the same manner as before. It should be noted, however, that many adoption agencies will be using the same Hague-standards with all of their programs. These standards include pre-adoption education classes and post-adoption services, both positive changes that will benefit families.
What is Adoption Agency Accreditation?
In general, accreditation is a certification or a stamp of approval given by The Council on Accreditation , which reviews and examines several areas of an adoption agency, including standards of operation as an effective non-profit organization, sound financial management, effective personnel practices and training, client services, documented procedures, and of course successful and ethical international adoption practices. Only Accredited adoption agencies will be able to provide adoption services involving the U.S. and another Convention country.
How do I find out if my Adoption Agency is accredited?
On February 29, 2008 , the Department of State announced that 143 adoption service providers had achieved accreditation, temporary accreditation, or approval. The list of these providers was posted on the Department of State website at: http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/convention/convention_4169.html
Another 127 adoption service providers have pending applications and are still in the process of seeking accreditation, temporary accreditation, or approval. As these entities are accredited/approved, their status will be made public and added to the Department of State list on a rolling basis.
What if I am in the process of adopting a child, but my adoption is not finalized by April 1, 2008 ?
From the point of view of the USA, the Convention does not apply if the application for advance processing of an orphan petition (I-600A) or petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative (I-600) has been filed before April 1, 2008 . However it should be noted that families should discuss their individual circumstances with their adoption agency.
Are there other changes that will affect prospective adoptive parents when the Hague Convention enters into force?
U.S. implementation of the Hague Convention offers many highly positive changes for prospective adoptive parents. For example, a new mechanism for investigating and resolving complaints about adoption service providers will be instituted. If a prospective adoptive parent has a Hague-related complaint against its adoption service provider, the accrediting entity will be required to fully investigate. If a violation is found, the accrediting entity will then determine the appropriate disciplinary action based on the seriousness of the incident as well as the extent to which the adoption service provider has taken or failed to take corrective action. Both the Convention and the regulations on accreditation provide a number of safeguards to protect children. This includes a requirement that adoption service providers must provide prospective adoptive parents with at least ten hours of training before they travel to adopt.
But What Does the Hague Convention Really Mean to Me, The Adoptive Family?
Overall the adoption process will remain very similar. The only notable change will be required training prior to completing an adoption. Adoptive parents will be required to complete 10 hours of pre-adoption training. The training is separate from the home study and will be an excellent opportunity for adoptive parents to learn about institutionalization, cultural issues, the health of orphans, attachment, bonding, and many more topics.
The new rules may create delays in finalizing adoptions, especially adoptions from those countries that have also approved the Hague convention. This will likely lengthen the overall adoption time for families.
The Long Term:
All changes bring uncertainties. Though not all changes are for the worse. The Hague Convention offers children and families safe-guards that were unknown to adoptive families and orphaned children in the past. Under the Convention, placing-countries may now confidently report to their citizens that the adoption process is open, structured, and free of corruption. In addition, the Hague Convention and its careful implementation may help keep intercountry adoption open to families for decades to come, allowing children, families and birthparents security, protection and respect. And that's good for everyone.