How the Hague treaty works

May 11, 2007

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption protects the children and families involved in foreign adoptions by preventing the trafficking, sale, exploitation and abduction of children among other things, according to the U.S. State Department's Consular Affairs Bureau.

Participating countries establish standards for foreign adoptions that require certain counseling and education for parents, including making sure birth mothers understand they are giving up their child forever, said Katherine Monahan, unit chief for Hague implementation for the bureau.

Also, adoptive parents are to receive counseling about cultural issues, how to tell a child he or she is adopted and developmental issues some adopted children might have due to long stays in institutions such as orphanages, Monahan said.

The U.S. is expected to complete the ratification process for the treaty by the end of the year. U.S. adoption agencies that work in Hague countries are working to get accredited by Hague standards so they can continue to work with those countries.


Monahan said the standards might make the adoption process a little longer in most participating countries, but the additional steps are there to protect the children.

Some standards that will help adoptive parents include: Accurate medical information about the child must be shared with them, and the families' domestic and foreign adoption agencies must provide the parents with receipts for adoption fees.

"If anything, I think the cost would come down because the cost is more regulated and transparent," Monahan said.

U.S. families can still adopt children from non-Hague countries under previous rules set up by the particular country and the U.S., Monahan said.

But 90 days after the U.S. ratifies the treaty - when the standards go into effect for the U.S. - American families are going to have problems with any country that is within the Hague convention but hasn't reached Hague standards.

For instance, U.S. families will not be able to start procedures to adopt children from Guatemala if that country still has not complied with Hague standards by then, Monahan said. Adoptions already in progress should be OK.

To find out a country's status regarding the Hague treaty, go to

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