Each year, thousands of children overseas are adopted by U.S. individuals and families and brought back to America to live. Many of these children are either orphaned or have been abandoned by birth parents that cannot care for them for financial or medical reasons. Because there are thousands of children available for international adoption, the international community has taken proactive steps in recent years to ensure the protection of children and adoptive parents by establishing a set of adoption standards called the Hague Adoption Convention.
The Hague Adoption Convention established a standard of practices for intercountry adoptions to strengthen the rights of children, prospective adoptive parents, and birth parents during the adoption process. The Convention provides a guideline for the more than 75 participating countries to ensure adoptions take place in the best interest of the children, as well as prevent the sale, trafficking or abduction of children involved in international adoptions. The adoption standards set by the Hague Convention only apply to the participating countries that have signed and ratified the treaty.
Before considering international adoption, it is important to understand the specific rules of the Hague Adoption Convention and how they impact the overall adoption process for children and adoptive parents. First, the Hague Convention outlines the need for nationally accredited adoption service providers. In the past, adoption service agencies only had to be licensed by the states in which they operate, but now adoption agencies must be accredited on a federal level if they wish to provide adoption services between the U.S. and other Convention nations. This ensures that all nationally accredited adoption agencies have met adoption agency guidelines, ensuring a smoother and more streamlined adoption process between the U.S. and other Convention nations.
Additionally, the Hague Adoption Convention specifies that for each adoption between Convention nations, the accredited adoption agency must ensure that six fundamental adoption services are provided. These six adoption services help ensure that the adoptive parents receive adequate support and assistance during the adoption process, and protect the best interest of the child. Prior to the Hague Convention, many adoption agencies would not provide all of these services, resulting in delays during the adoption process, legal complications involving parental rights of the birth parents, or putting the child in an unsafe or unreliable environment.
The Hague Adoption Convention defines six primary adoption services that must be provided during an intercountry adoption between Convention nations:
- Identifying a child for adoption and arranging the adoption process.
- Obtaining consent to terminate parental rights for birth parents as well as consent to adopt.
- Conducting a home study and background check of prospective adoptive parents, as well as a report on the child.
- Determining the best interest of the child, and the eligibility and suitability of the adoptive placement.
- Conducting case monitoring from placement until final adoption.
- Evaluating the ability to assume child custody and care due to adoption process complications, pending alternative placements.
Finally, the Hague Adoption Convention also specifies that accredited adoption agencies must provide at least ten hours of adoption training and preparation to parents, which is separate from the required home study. Adoptive parents should complete the training before traveling to adopt the child in their home country, or before the child is placed in their custody. The goal of the adoptive parent training is to ensure a successful Convention adoption by covering such topics as attachment issues, developmental and medical issues, and the overall international adoption process, especially involving countries with more adoption prerequisites and additional post adoption reporting requirements. Prepared adoptive parents are better equipped to handle the cultural and emotional shock the child can often experience after the adoption process.
International adoption is a lengthy and complex process, and although the Hague Adoption Convention works to help promote successful adoptions, adoptive parents still need legal assistance to help them during the process. There is a large amount of legal documentation and paperwork to be filed during the intercountry adoption process, and Christiansen Law Firm can help. The immigration and family law attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have experience helping prospective adoptive parents navigate the international adoption process, working with adoption agencies and family courts to ensure a smooth and successful adoption. Contact Christiansen Law Firm today for more information on their legal services for the adoption process, available in the Houston, San Antonio and Lufkin areas.