International Adoption Laws Have Loopholes

Filed under: Adoption, In The News

adoption is a gift

Not all adoption agencies are accredited, which is creating an inequity in the adoption world. Credit: shutterblog, Flickr


An international treaty signed by the United States in 1993 was supposed to safeguard international adoptions, but some American adoption agencies may be skirting the treaty due to a loophole in the law.

Dubbed the Hague Adoption Convention, the U.S. State Department describes the treaty as a means to "prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children." State Department officials say "it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children." To keep them honest, the State Department accredits American adoption agencies to handle adoptions from other countries which have signed onto the treaty.

But not every country has signed on. And a recent article in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis highlighted the resulting double standard this has created. Adoption agencies that work to bring children from countries which haven't signed on aren't under the same scrutiny by the State Department.

There are some 75 countries who have signed on, including popular go-to destinations for Americans adopting abroad, such as China and Ecuador. The remainder are termed "non-convention countries," and that's a list that includes other popular destinations for American parents-to-be; countries such as Ethiopia and Vietnam.

An adoption from a country that has signed on is more rigorous and thorough. Among the added requirements from the State Department is a stipulation that says it must be proven that the child is an orphan (which includes not only children whose biological parents have died but those whose parents have signed off on the adoption).

It would seem to be a safeguard for parents, but the Star Tribune article points out there is no mechanism for lodging complaints against an agency working outside the boundaries of the treaty. If they're not accredited, there is nothing holding them to the higher standards that prevent illegal trafficking of kids. Nor do the non-accredited agencies have to disclose their adoption fees up front.

According to the Star Tribune, there are 213 American agencies that have passed accreditation, with an additional 48 under review.

Related: More on Adoption

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