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Hague Convention Enters Into Force A special Adoptive Families update by Sarah F. Shaffer



On April 1, 2008, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption entered into force for the United States. This treaty recognizes intercountry adoption to be an important way for many children to find loving, permanent families. It also provides increased protections for all those involved in the intercountry adoption process. The United States strongly supports these principles, and is proud to now partner with more than 70 countries worldwide in this Convention. To see the full list of member countries, go to hcch.net.

Implementing the Convention in the United States has led to significant changes in the intercountry adoption process. These changes apply to all adoption cases between the United States and other Convention countries. Some of the most important changes include:

Accreditation/approval of adoption service providers: For the first time, U.S. adoption service providers are subject to federal oversight by the Department of State and its designated accrediting entities, the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services. To be accredited or approved, adoption service providers must meet a broad range of ethical and professional requirements, including fee disclosure, records retention, mandatory training for prospective adoptive families, and professional qualifications.

Tracking complaints against providers: The Department will track any complaints lodged against adoption service providers and maintain a Hague Complaint Registry. Adoptive parents, social workers, state licensing agencies, and others are encouraged to lodge complaints related to intercountry adoption services through the Registry. Information obtained will be used in reviewing provider performance under the accreditation standards.

New procedures and forms: Forms I-600 and I-600A will be replaced by the new Forms I-800 and I-800A for Convention adoption cases. Form I-800A (the prospective adoptive parents’ application for determination of suitability to adopt) incorporates new requirements for home studies designed to protect children and ensure that prospective adoptive parents have the skills and training to parent a child, including, if applicable, a child with any special needs. For example, the home studies must show that prospective adoptive parents have received at least 10 hours of training. Through Form I-800, children adopted from a Convention country must meet a new definition of a "Convention adoptee," which, for example, allows for two parents to relinquish a child if they are incapable of providing proper care. Form I-800A must be filed prior to Form I-800.

A consular officer must determine whether the child appears to meet the criteria for visa eligibility before the adoption is finalized or custody is granted in the country of origin. After the adoption or grant of custody, consular officers in Convention countries will issue a Hague Adoption Certificate (HAC) or Hague Custody Certificate (HCC), and grant a visa in cases where the adoption or grant of custody has met the requirements of the Convention and the U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act. New visa categories, IH-3 and IH-4, will be used in Convention adoption cases.

Records of outgoing adoptions: The Department of State will track both incoming and outgoing cases through an Adoption Tracking Service (ATS). Prior to the Convention’s entry into force, there was no federal role in outgoing cases, and no system for collecting information about the numbers and destinations of American children adopted abroad.

As more Americans expand their families through intercountry adoption, we are pleased that they, and the children they seek to adopt, will receive greater protections during this life-changing experience. To learn more about the Convention and see a list of adoption service providers that have been accredited or approved, please visit the Department of State website, travel.state.gov.

Sarah F. Shaffer is the Hague Adoption Outreach Liaison within the Office of Children’s Issues, a division of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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