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International adoption: Hague Convention vs. 'Orphan' p2

In 2014, 186 children from foreign countries were adopted by Minnesota residents. Those adoptions followed one of two processes: Hague Convention or non-Convention ("orphan"). As we said in our June 19, 2015, post, the adoption must follow Minnesota law, federal law and the laws of the child's home country, but whether the home country is a party to the Hague Convention will affect each step along the way.

The Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption established standards of practice for international adoptions. The standards are based on the "best interests of the child" doctrine, the same doctrine that informs custody and visitation decisions in Minnesota. With the best interests at its core, the Convention works to prevent child abduction, trafficking and sale of children around the world.

If the country of origin is a "Convention Country," the process will include additional steps, a more rigorous system of safeguards. If the child's country is a "non-Convention Country," the adoption will follow a less complicated -- and somewhat riskier -- process. With intercountry adoptions, there is no third option.

The differences between the two are not minor. In an orphan adoption, the adoption service provider must be licensed in the adoptive parents' state. The Hague Convention adds a layer to that: The provider must also be accredited (or approved) by an approved accreditation entity. The Hague Convention requires adoptive parents to attend 10 hours of parent education, while orphan adoptions require education if the state requires it or if the agency voluntarily provides it.

The Convention also strives for transparency in the process. Orphan adoptions need not include adoption fees in the adoption services contract, but Hague Convention adoptions must. More significantly, there is no requirement that the adoptive parents receive the child's medical records. Under the Convention, that the records must be prepared and provided by "competent authorities" of the child's home country. Moreover, the adoptive parents will have two weeks to review the records before the adoption moves forward.

These are just a few of the differences, but they do illustrate the general intent of the Convention and the types of safeguards that Convention Countries agree to provide. Understanding these differences is often the first step in an international adoption. Remember, though, that the choice is in the hands of the prospective parents.

Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, "Intercountry Adoption," accessed June 18, 2015

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