In October of this year, MLJ Adoptions introduced its fourth international adoption program from a Hague Convention Country. Burkina Faso is now an option for prospective adoptive families who are interested in both adopting from Africa and adopting from a Hague Convention Country. But as prospective adoptive parents, why might you select a Hague Convention Country for your adoption?
The landscape of international adoption continues to change. There has been a movement towards greater transparency and greater availability of information to the adoptive parents. These changes have benefited not only the adoptive parent, but also the child and the birth family. A large reason for this shift is the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (the Hague Convention). Established in 1993 in the Netherlands, the Hague Convention “ is an international agreement to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child.” Countries that were not original signatories have the option to accede to the Hague Convention, and, to date, 88 countries are parties to the Hague Convention, including the United States.
The Hague Convention requires that sending countries establish a Central Authority to match children with prospective adoptive parents. The Central Authority determines the requirements for adoptive parents, documents that must be included in the dossier, and also oversees the procedure by which children in need of families are matched with the prospective adoptive parents. Having a Central Authority removes adoption agencies and orphanages from the matching process. Part of the procedure in matching a child with prospective adoptive parents involves determining that the child qualifies as an orphan under the Hague Convention’s definition.
One of the goals of the Hague Convention is to promote the best interests of the child throughout the entire adoption process. Countries party to the Hague Convention must demonstrate that a suitable family has not been found in the child’s country or origin before intercountry adoption is an option for the child. The country’s method of assessing this varies, but it is part of the process. When it is a viable option, the child will remain in their birth country through kinship or domestic adoption, but, when resources are limited or domestic options are not available, the child will have the opportunity for a permanent home through international or intercountry adoption.
Hague Convention Countries tend to be more stable and predictable in processing adoptions and are less likely to be reactionary and make quick decisions that negatively impact the adoption process. Furthermore, Hague Convention Countries are more likely to have a process and procedure in place in the event the country elects to make any changes to its adoption process. These changes will usually occur through the Central Authority in the country.
Having adoptive parents who are knowledgeable on how to parent children who have been adopted is in the best interests of the children. There is a required ten hours of pre-adoption education necessary for all families adopting from Hague Convention Countries (with the implementation of the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, all families adopting internationally are required to complete at least ten hours of Hague compliant education). This education is designed to prepare parents to continue on their adoption journey, but also educate them on how to parent a child who has experienced trauma and may have additional needs. The referral information also helps families prepare for the needs of the child once they come home. Families who adopt from a Hague Convention Country receive medical and any available social information on the child at time of referral and are given two weeks to examine this information, seek advice from an international adoption doctor, and make a decision on how to proceed. The information provided at time of referral and the time given to make a decision are two benefits to families who choose to adopt from Hague Convention countries.
While the Hague Convention seeks to limit some of the risks in international adoption, there will still be unknowns throughout the process, and an agency can never guarantee the accuracy of medical and social information given throughout the process and at time of referral. Despite the risks, families are drawn to the stability, predictability and transparency of adopting from Hague Convention Countries.